By Subhani Hassimdeen Several Football Leagues spread throughout the country form the base of the Controlling Body. Leagues are sources that provide the national basic structure in football apart from providing new talent for national exposure. Some of these football Leagues have a history much longer than that of the National Body. For instance the [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The declining curves of the city football anatomy?


By Subhani Hassimdeen

Several Football Leagues spread throughout the country form the base of the Controlling Body. Leagues are sources that provide the national basic structure in football apart from providing new talent for national exposure.

Some of these football Leagues have a history much longer than that of the National Body. For instance the Colombo Football League under its original name Colombo Association Football League was formed in 1911 by M.H. French as the first President, with Mr. H.K. Crosskey as the first Honourary Secretary. The efforts of these pioneers however were off – set as a result of the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, which held to a period of forced inactivity. In 1920 the Colombo Football League was revived with Sir Herbert Dowbiggen as President and M.H. French as Chairman.

In 1922 the City Football League was formed for clubs-playing the game bare–foot, with Mr. James Lochore (Later Sir James) was elected as its first President. The City League grounds were opened in February 1928, thus satisfying a long felt need for the bare – footed soccer players in Colombo. The same year witnessed a momentous development in the history of soccer in Ceylon, when a team of bare – footers toured Singapore. The team was H.M. Dharmadasa, Edward Henry, Sundarajah, A.M. Dias, H.A. Perera, V. Fernando, I. Marshall Fernando, R. Dias S.C.M. Buhari, S.P. Rasiah, D.A. Miskin, K.M. Haniffa and M. Vadood, P.G. De Silva; Chief playground Instructor accompanied the team as manager. In the same year the Sir Edwin Hayward Memorial Pavilion on the City League Ground was opened by His Excellency the Governor Sir Edwin was the President of the City Football League from 1925 to 1929. At this time Col. Stanley Fernando was President of the Colombo Football League.

Since 1920 up to mid 1970 these two vibrant and active leagues played a very important role in the growth and development of the sport. They not only efficiently and systematically organized various tournaments, produced brilliant soccerites to don the National Jersey. In 1935 for the first time a tournament was organized for the clubs of both Leagues to participate in the “Times Cup” which was the real plum of Ceylon Soccer in those days. Considerable interest was aroused among the clubs, encouraged these two leagues to organized various tournaments namely The Silver Cup, The Gold Cup, The Ranpandu Cup, The Knockout and League tournaments organized by the Colombo Football League. The City football League conducted their tournaments such as The Mayor Cup, Abdul Rahuman Cup, knockout and League tournaments. Less prominent clubs too were given opportunities to participate in 2nd division and 3rd division competitions. Hundreds of clubs from all part of the City participated in these tournaments with much interest and enthusiasm. These annual tournaments attracted a wide public patronage, apart from affording the players a fairly tight season of competitive football.

Following were the efficient administrators who spend their time, wealth and energy during the period 1945 to 1970 for the growth and development of football. From the Colombo Football League – M.H. Yusuf , J.J. Sarangapany, Sam Vargees, S.K. Gunawardane , M.S.M. Sally , T.W. Perera , G.A.K. Abayasekara and M.D. Fernando. From the City Football League – Tom Laxana , T.K. Buhar , David Nanayakkara , M.D. Kitchilan , Mahinda Balasuriya ,W.K. Somapala , and to name a few.

I had the privilege of representing the City Football League in 1963, at the Inter – League Football Championship conducted by the Ceylon Football Association. The I Coached the City Football League Senior team in 1998 who became the champion for the first time at the Inter- League competition conducted by the FFSL. I also represented the Colombo Football League in 1969 at the DCM Cup competition held in New Dehli – India.

In technical excellence, in fact a cursory glance at our National Squad between 1945 and 1970 would show a strong representation from these two leagues in both the Senior and Youth National teams. Such was the quality and character of football produced by these two leagues then.

What then is the position today? Gone are those active footballs League, which once served the sport so assiduously. While it is literally dead or ineffective. Although the Colombo Football League do not possess a playing ground of their own it has very efficiently organized various football tournaments which was witness and enjoyed by thousands of spectators. The Colombo League team toured Russia, Multan and West Pakistan in the early 1960’s. The City Football League, was blessed with two fields which was once “chokkerful” every evening with hundreds of talented young soccerites, is but today far from what it was, say 20 years ago. Great clubs like , Harlequins , Wekanda united , Java Lane, Winners , Victory , Eleven Youngsters, Bl– former national captain and national coach ack square, Sunny mount which dominated Sri Lanka football for many years are in fact, non – existing or virtually playing in low gear. Tams in the calibre of Saunders, Colpetty United, Ratnam, Renown, Old Bens, Old Joes, York, Wanathamulla Youths, Maligawatha Youths and Cooray concentrated in playing tournaments conducted by the Colombo Football League.

How did this slump come our way? What are reasons or causes for these great clubs either to fold up or be less effect?

In 2010 when No 1 ground of City Football League was uplifted will a pavilion funded by FIFA. An agreement was signed by FFSL and the officials of the City Football League with an understanding that the no1 ground to be used by the FFSL for 180 days in a year to conduct their tournament and to allow the balance period of the year to be utilize by the City Football League to conduct their tournaments and provide the grounds for training purposes for the soccerites in the locality. The caretaker who is appointed by the FFSL only to look after the newly built pavilion complex has no authority to stop the young footballers to train and learn the basic skills of football as agreed in the contract. However very often we see a few veteran players sponsored by a money – men holding a top position in the City Football League use this ground freely, thereby deny and deprived the young up – coming footballers with the important facility such a playing ground which was traditionally used for nearly a century. Is this the way you guys develop the common man’s sport – Football?

Sport, depend correctly, is a technical subject and not necessarily and administration one. However the present day officials of these two Leagues lack both these pre –requites. Un fortunately these leagues are riddled with persons without these requirements have ruined our football from the grass – root level.

This unfortunate phenomenon started in the mid seventies, with the quality of leadership and competence diminishing conspicuously in the two Leagues. Persons with vested interests, eager to fan their ego, and through this great sport go up the social ladder, totally ruined the game of football in the Colombo City.

- The writer is a Former National Football Captain and National Coach.

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