The game of football for me has been a way of life since my formative years as a lad in school and that has given me much pleasure and achievement, watching, playing and coaching. Football is one of the truly international sports and its popularity and glamour is reflected in the enormous appeal it has [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

On the reverse at break-neck speed

A scrutiny of modern Lankan soccer

The game of football for me has been a way of life since my formative years as a lad in school and that has given me much pleasure and achievement, watching, playing and coaching. Football is one of the truly international sports and its popularity and glamour is reflected in the enormous appeal it has amongst the common people in particular. It is therefore vital to analyse where Sri Lanka as a football nation stands in international arena.

The origin of football in Sri Lanka in its undiluted form has a history of over a hundred years. Its beginning has been in the form of a leisurely recreational sport, it has a history of Association Football of over 74 years, which we can take immense pride in being able to organise , conduct and promote the sport for seventy four uninterrupted years, which in itself, is an inspiring achievement by any human standards.

However, it is rather disappointing to note in recent times, that not much headway has been made technically or organisationally, to improve the playing standards of the game or its promotion as a truly national sport. The zest and zeal years between 1890′s and the 1960′s gradually weaned, leaving the sport almost not played in some parts of the country. Today at the end of 74 years of Association football, we are in the midst of the unfortunate phenomenon. This unfortunate situation started during the late 1970′s with the quality of leadership and competence diminishing conspicuously in the controlling body.

September 1, 2013 could be considered the darkest day in the history of Sri Lanka Football. The defeat of our National team with a big margin of ten goals to nil by the Republic of Maldives at the South Asia Football Federation tournament held in Nepal – did not come as a surprise! However, since the writing was clear on the wall when the newly appointed Brazilian Coach took an untrained team to an International Competition within a short period of his assignment.

As I said in an article, football is not judged in debate or surrounding decor, but only in undiluted display on the field. However much, a few interested persons may try to boast or prop up an equally few officials of the Controlling Body. In the long run such attempts

Maldives striker Ali Ashfaq (7) struck six goals to hand Sri Lanka a 10-0 thrashing at the SAFF Cup in Nepal. - File pic

would naturally turn futile. Unless and until a proper football development programme is drawn and implemented from the grass-root level and men with technical expertise with genuine football administrative experience are called to fashion the cores of the sports , the result would be disastrous with all Brazilian magic as we see it happening now. It is clear to any simple minded person that with all the Brazilian expertise our soccer has in fact gone down in standards and certainly not the other way about.

After the pathetic performance of our team the Brazilian coach who appeared in a T.V interview, correctly mentioned, that he was not provided with quality players, and not given enough time to train the team. In fact, this confirms my article appeared on the Sunday Times Sport dated March 24. 2013, under the caption: “The blue print for soccer excellence”. Hardly before the Brazilian coach shed much sweat to train the players with the basic techniques and skills, to send a team for an international competition shows the short sighted thinking and planning of the administrators.

In the first place, it was very foolish for the Football Federation to have approved and arranged a football tour of this nature without adequate training and proper coaching. It is clear by the way the Football Federation is administrating the game, they do not know even the basics. This type of situation arises due to two causes – such as when the officials are ignorant of norms and technicalities and secondly, their interest in tours, personal glorification and climbing the social ladder for publicity and prestige.

It is up to the Ministry of Sports to call for an explanation from the people concerned who brought disgrace for the sport and the country.

Certainly, the grant of a colossal sum of money received if correctly channeled and utilised could transform our football into a reckoning force in Asia. When we and many others of the older vintage played international football and won international praise for our country, there was not a rupee as a grant or a cent in sponsorship. Yet, those who ran the affairs of the Controlling Body were far sighted men with immense soccer experience, who reached and received technical advice and guidance from those who mattered.
It is a pity for all those who have played the game at national level and for thousands of fans and supporters of this common man’s sport to see the great nation humiliated in this way. Losing is one thing but getting humiliated at the hands of unheard of, unknown and unrated outfits is something else. The football public in this country is sick of hearing vague excuses for the past ten years. When are you going to show us good result? In the name of this country and its people, we beg the Minister of Sport to intervene and stop this deterioration of the sport by going into every aspect of this debacle.

There is no secret our football standards have reached the last layer of the base and there is no more to go below. To have got beaten badly by Maldives, is the final nail in the coffin. When the incumbent President of the FFSL occupied the top seat of the Controlling Body, the soccer loving crowd of this country had some hope that the standard of football will improve. Unfortunately this has not happened. Now we have no option but to appeal to the Hon. Minister to take appropriate action in this regard without further delay from the abyss our soccer has fallen in to. There are two simple measures he has to take immediately

Firstly re-organising, re- structuring and re-constituting the Sri Lanka Football Federation in a proper and meaningful manner to be managed by knowledgeable and competent administrators who have played the game at a higher level.

Secondly, to draw up a sensible plan and a programme to develop football from the grass-root level. For the sake of football and the country I am in a position to submit a comprehensive plan and programme to the Hon. Minister of Sports if he is keen in improving and developing the common man’s sport – Football.

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