Since the reshuffle of Cabinet Ministers, I have been receiving calls from past players and Football lovers alleging corruption and mismanagement within the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) and its affiliated Leagues, and appealing to me to take these matters with the incumbent Minister of Sports (MoS) Faiszer Musthapha. As I felt their requests [...]


We have talented players and coaches but not administrators


In spite of all ups and downs, football is still a popular game in Sri Lanka

Since the reshuffle of Cabinet Ministers, I have been receiving calls from past players and Football lovers alleging corruption and mismanagement within the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) and its affiliated Leagues, and appealing to me to take these matters with the incumbent Minister of Sports (MoS) Faiszer Musthapha. As I felt their requests to be just and fair, I thought I must first write to the Sunday Times, and thereafter, if possible, meet with the MoS, to explain in detail, the present situation and fate of Sri Lanka Football- the most popular sport among the common man, played across the length and breadth of our country.

I have written volumes on the same subject through newspapers, during the last two decades, for which we did not receive a positive response, either from the FFSL or from the MoS.

Without any prejudice whatsoever, against any individual or group, not only have I expressed my views freely and exposed the magnitude of abuse and corruption of power and position so rampant within the FFSL in particular, and its affiliated Leagues in general, I have unfailingly given the necessary solutions and remedies, to technically develop the sport.

Though some don’t agree that in the recent Cabinet reshuffle that Sports and Local Govt. (LG) Authorities should come under one Ministry, we, as Football lovers, feel that it is a good move for the 72 Leagues to be under the purview of this Ministry. It is important that the FFSL officials make use of this opportunity and work closely and cordially with the LG Authorities, as well as with the Ministry of Education.

The crux of the matter is that, top officials of the FFSL are only interested in tours abroad and sadly, would leave no stone unturned in their pursuit to wrangle pre-paid air tickets. Tour mania has become the bane of local Football and the cause of the downfall of its technical standards. It is an eyeopener that only 20% of the 72 Football Leagues in the country engage in annual domestic tournaments. During the past two years, both the Senior and Youth National teams have been placed even behind unrated and unheard of Bhutan, at international encounters. In the 78-year history of Association Football in this country, this is the lowest level ever reached. Yet, the FFSL officials continue to give a false appearance to the Football loving public, with appropriate newsflashes that we are on the right track to achieve international standards.

Football is one sport that has suffered immeasurably at the hands of officials blissfully ignorant of the game.

We do not see any top sportsmen serving in the MoS who could advice and guide the Minister. One can’t expect a MoS to be knowledgeable in all Sports disciplines. He should have a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of past National sportsmen and sportswomen who are technically knowledgeable to advise and guide the Minister. Further, the TAC should closely work with the Controlling Bodies and other Ministries for the development of Sports in the country.

The TAC appointed by the MoS should plan, promote and produce technical excellence in our Football, to come into force immediately. TAC should go into all technical aspects of Collegiate, Club, League, National Football, and its recommendations put into effect by the FFSL as a matter of urgency. In this way, there is hope for the sport in the years ahead, or else it will grind to a halt as we all see now.

If we are to achieve at least a semblance of honour and popularity we received in the 1950s and 1960s of Sri Lanka Football, our aim should be to immediately implement a proper and sensible Youth Football Development programme without further delay.

We certainly have sufficient talented young players all over the country, to give a good run to other Asian Countries. It is only a matter of scouting for such players who are skilled and technically gifted. Train them under knowledgeable and experienced coaches, by giving them the necessary facilities and assistance. As a Youth National Coach, I had the opportunity to prove that the above aspects were true. When I was appointed as the National Under (U)-19 Youth Coach by the FFSL in 1995, I toured Badulla, Kandy, Gampola, Matale, N’Eliya, Ratnapura, Anuradapura, Galle, Kalutara, Colombo and its suburbs. Due to the LTTE conflict, I could not go to the North and East, where there was suficient talented players as well. However, I was able to select talented players of the calibre of Tilakaratne, Mahinda Galagedara, Anees, Fuard, Rafie, Inoka, Channa, Kasun and Fauzan from the outstations. From Colombo and its suburbs, Prabath, Chathura, Anura Sampath, Nalinda, Chrishantha, Imbran, Raumy, Aliyar to name a few. Glad to mention that most of these players were offered employment to play for the Hatton National Bank who were Mercantile ‘A’ Division Champion for a number of years. They also represented the Senior National team for a number of years at international competitions, with distinction.

Since 2013, the National coaches and the FFSL officials limited their scouting, selection and training of the National teams, to Colombo. Thereby, denying and depriving talented outstation players from proving their prowess and capabilities at National level. The FFSL Administrators even curtailed and neglected their activities with the affiliated outstation Leagues, which was one of the main reason for the downfall of Sri Lanka Football. This concept will have to be changed immediately, for the development of Football in the country. Further, to delete the Sri Lanka name from the Asian map by withdrawing our Junior Youth team from the competitions, is another stupid and ignorant move by the FFSL. This not only brought disgrace to our country, it deprived our talented youngsters from gaining experience at international level. Winning and losing is part and parcel of sport. Trying to cover up the technical nakedness of the sport by officials is something else.

Sri Lanka Youth National teams, handled by foreign and local coaches, have been playing in the Asian Youth championship since 1960. On various occasions we got beaten by big margins, but never requested to delete our country’s name. At times, we have performed reasonably well. The best record to date has been when our U-19 Youth National team beat Bangladesh 2-1, drew with Tajikistan 1-1 and narrowly lost to Kazakhstan 0-1 at the Asian Youth Tournament held in Kandy in 1995. Both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, before arriving in Sri Lanka, were playing in European Competitions under the Russian Flag. I had the privilege of coaching the Sri Lanka Youth Team which did extremely well on our own soil and in front of our own crowd. Most of these players represented our Senior National Team for a long period as well.

Though our Football standard is not so healthy now, it is not totally hopeless, if only the incumbent MoS could demand the FFSL to get the right men who are knowledgeable and technically qualified, to handle its affairs, and to reactivate its 72 affiliated Leagues as a top priority.

Ever since the MoS was introduced in 1965, it has changed hands 13 times, now given to the incumbent Faiszer Musthapha. If one goes through its history since 1965, up to date, most MoSs were appointed from Football playing areas such as Colombo, Anuradhapura, Kandy Nawalapitiya, N’Eliya, Kurunegala to name a few. Except for a few, most of them did not do much technically, to develop Football. Football defined correctly is a technical subject and not necessarily an administrative one. Hence, there is a need to have technical expertise at every level of the game, particularly, in the thinking and planning stages. Unfortunately, the FFSL is riddled with persons without these requirements. We certainly have sufficient talented players and coaches in the country, it is only a matter for the incumbent MoS to get the right men to focus on this subject.

It is my sincere hope that Minister Faiszer Musthapha will take into account the facts I have highlighted in this article and not be misled by a few FFSL officials who have miserably failed to resurrect our Football, and who may paint a totally wrong picture.

My humble request, Sir, please invite a few past experienced and knowledgeable National players and coaches for a discussion, before you take a final decision on the matter.

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