Football: The sad plight of DCL 2014 champs, Solid SC

23 February 2015 - 74   - 0

Barely after two years upon reaching the top league of domestic football in Sri Lanka, a small club from the North Central Province, with a well-executed plan and above all with great ambition and determination, goes on to win the biggest plum of local football, the Dialog Champions League (DCL) 2014.   Solid Sports Club, coming from the sacred city of Anuradhapura, despite going through the greatest difficulties became the champions of the DCL 2014, a competition which features the top 22 football clubs of the country.   For Lead   Last season they made their debut and after being forced to go through grave logistical mishaps Solid SC finished as the third best in the country.   However, currently the newly-crowned champions are contemplating on calling it quits totally, mainly because they find it hard to sustain at the top level sans the assistance from potential sponsors.   But their path to the top never was a cruise.   For a lesser-known sports club, heavily involved in softball cricket for over 15 years football was never hindsight of success.   Since the late 1980s Solid SC was a well-known and strong unit in the softball cricketing arena.   For the next 15 years since 1988 they go on to reach two All-Island Softball Cricket Championship finals and have won over 50 titles competing at different parts of Sri Lanka.   “When our players became more engaged with their professions we faced trouble in maintaining our stronghold in softball cricket. Most of the players opted to devote their time for their jobs and families and there were a handful of them remaining, still wanting to go ahead. They too found it difficult to adjust with their busy schedules after a hard day’s work and gradually we took up football as a leisure activity because the time we had to spend on a game was less. Unknowingly all of us developed a passion for football, despite being total strangers to it,” explained Sagara Piyathilake, the general secretary of Solid SC, who has been with the club since its inception.   In 2004, the bunch of sports lovers converted themselves into a unit competing at tournaments, conducted by the Anuradhapura Football League.   Just after four years, in 2008, they got to taste their first pinch salt by reaching the Premier League Division III level.   After contesting for couple of seasons, Solid SC reaches the next level, the Division II, where they end up by becoming the champions in 2011.   From 2012 they get to compete alongside top and well renowned football clubs, withholding the competitiveness before qualifying for the DCL 2013 version.   “During the whole of ten years, we never got a single outside player representing our club. They were from Anuradhapura, the North or from the neighboring areas. To be precise we never had the luxury to afford any of our players, attractive monetary returns. Since we felt like there was a chance of winning the DCL 2014, we had no other option but to recruit a national player and three foreign players from Nigeria. But the cost we had to meet in the recent three seasons is totally unbearable for a small club like us,” Piyathilake grieved.   Since the beginning of the 2012 season, up to date Solid SC had spent over Rs. 15million.   They have managed to meet this staggering amount without any sponsorship, solely from the personal wealth of a few club officials and some well-wishers of the club from the area.   This was an extra worry for them, especially being stakeholders of football at unprofessional level.   “Solid SC never experienced this amount of pressure when we were competing at regional or low levels. It’s wonderful to be on top of the world. But what’s the use when, football overall, is treated like an unwanted kid by the top officials concerned. There are wonderful and exemplary stories of rags to riches but in our case we have now felt that we don’t belong here, at all,” a dejected Piyathilake stated.   On Sunday (22), at their home ground, the Prison ground in Anuradhapura, Solid SC plays an exhibition game against Colombo FC, another club that joined the top league alongside them, at 3.00pm.   Whatever the outcome maybe, Solid SC will be crowned as the champions of DCL 2014 at a post-match ceremony where Colombo FC too receive their trophy as the runner-up.   The young outfit is captained by Amith Kumara and has the services of two national players.   They have a blend of all ethnic groups with three Northerners donning the Solid jersey with the center forward and national player Saba Malainayagam Gnanaruban, Yogarajah Sindujan and also the midfielder from Mannar Edison Figarado.   The three Nigerian players Olayami, Danial and goal scoring Schola, added colour and muscular to the team to become a champion outfit.   The former Sri Lanka skipper and national player Surinda Bandara holds the main defense with Fazeel Ayrideen keeping the nets.   The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) License ‘A’ Coach Mohamed Jesmin is the head coach of Solid SC with Piyathilake playing a versatile role, as manager and club secretary.   Solid SC will Rs. 750,000 as cash award for their untiring effort of becoming the DCL 2014 champions, which is a great morale booster for a unit that is disheartened.   Their future however will be uncertain at top level, unless otherwise, Solid SC receives the monetary assistance they look forward for.   “Our players have been with us right throughout from the beginning right up to now. It’s their loyalty to the club that took us all the way to the top. They are still here with the club and now as officials, we feel that they too deserve to be treated as professionals. Some of us immensely have doled out the club during the past three seasons and we find it difficult to move on this way. We still are committed to play in the Champion of Champions and FA Cup tournaments and as present DCL 2014 champions, we have qualified for the AFC President’s Cup this season. But we sincerely know that we cannot move further, this way. We will try our best to find sponsors with the intention of preserving the brand of football we have adopted, and if we fail to secure any support, we will make a public announcement and withdraw. I think it is better being remembered as champions, rather than having a sad ending,” Piyathilake pointed out.   Under the captaincy of Amith Kumara, Danoj Wijethunghe, A.O. Shola, Iresh Delantha, Deepal Karunaratne, A. Daniel, Angelo Manel, S.Gnanaruban, Afeez Olayami, M. Premakumara, L.A.T.S. Bandara, Anton Ranjan, Fazeel Ayurideen, Edison Figarado, T.L.A. Liyanage, Charith Priyadarshan, Prabath Jayasiri and D. Kujakopan took Solid SC towards the DCL 2014 title.

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