It is a natural phenomenon that politics the world over creates ripples on the otherwise placid and calm water thus eroding into accepted norms in every field of human activity. Perhaps amongst many other victims of this social scourge, sports too have not escaped from its ravaging influence. One of the conspicuous characteristics of [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Changing league system to knock-out competition is unfair!



It is a natural phenomenon that politics the world over creates ripples on the otherwise placid and calm water thus eroding into accepted norms in every field of human activity. Perhaps amongst many other victims of this social scourge, sports too have not escaped from its ravaging influence. One of the conspicuous characteristics of politics is to grant favours or give a kind of recognition to people not on the basis of merit or performance but on very personal or political affiliation.

This unfortunate symptom has grown into a malignant cancer resulting in the deterioration or decadence of performing standards on the one hand and the dissent and division on its own people on the other end of the scale. Similarly sports while essentially looks non controversial and comparatively non aggressive turns highly controversial and volatile, as a result of politics creeping into this

Is local football at a crossroad? - File pic

feathery soft arena.

To prove this point the recently concluded Premier League Football Tournament conducted by the Football Federation of Sri Lanka is a good example. The change over of the National League tournament to a knock-out competition at the end of the league system not only makes a mockery of the league tournament where each participating club plays the other on a points system based on a win, draw and loss but also totally unjust and unfair by the club which at the end of the competition of all the league matches has in fact secured the highest number of points and unquestionably is the winner of the league tournament.

The tournament committee of the Federation made a mockery by selecting eight clubs that have scored the highest number of points at the conclusion of the league tournament and make them play in the cross quarter-final and then a final on knock-out basis, thus creating a cocktail with both a league and knockout phase, titled the National League tagged as an Invitation Tournament. This happened in December 2013 in which either Army Sports Club or Colombo Football Club who scored the highest number of points at the conclusion of the league matches and thereby right fully was the National League Champion ended in the fifth and six place, due to the stupidity and absurdity of a queer knock-out phase to an already completed league Tournament.

I had the privilege of coaching and guiding Pettah United Sports Club in 1995, from the lowest position to the highest division, in consecutive years and finally become the unbeaten first division champion at the National League Championships, pushing aside favourite and fancied clubs such as Saunders, Renown, Ratnams, Old Bens, York to name a few. This was achieved without any support or favours from politicians money – men or from the officials of the Controlling Body.

The crave for finances to run the affairs of the Football Federation supersedes all other priorities. No doubt finances are necessary to keep a sports organization afloat, however, it must not be at the expense of the technical needs of the sport.

It is evident from what we witnessed at the Knock-out Cup Final held in Kalutara recently that the standard of football has deteriorated in quality. The spectators who had the opportunity to witness the annual school football big match between St. Benedicts and Zahira in the early 1960’s will agree with me that the playing standard at that time was at a higher level compared with the cup-finals played now, either at school club or league level.

The ceremonial grandeur laid before politicians at the closing ceremony of a limited stereo type annual exercise offers a perfect camouflage for the absence of a sensible broad based country-wide football promotional programme. School football is the biggest bluff perpetrated in the name of sport. Hence there is no need for trained coaches as the field is barren, save the tamashas and publicity stunts to please the unsuspecting politicians.

Another blunder made by the Tournament committee is to promote few new comers to football, to play in the first division league tournament, leaving aside few pioneer clubs which are still existing.

In such a scenario it is indeed, commendable that a microscopic few, with a sheer love for the sport sacrifices their time and money to help keep the sport alive. The only reward for their sweat and toil is the occasional success in the competitive field that comes their way and deny the champion position at the Premier League Competition simply switching the league system to knock-out competition, just to satisfy powerful politicians and well to do money-men.

Further the FFSL has failed to complete the prestigious F.A. Cup knock-out competition for the year 2013 up to now, which shows the inability and the inefficiency of the officials who are paid high salaries to perform their duties properly in time.

Organising few cup finals, senseless training programmers here and there and sending league officials for two day’s inadequate administrative programme abroad is only a bluff and tomfoolery, simply to strengthen the voter base for the upcoming Annual general meeting this year. It is crystal clear to us that nothings constructively or promotionally implemented to develop football from the grass root level.

This shows the technical aspects of the game has not received due attention by the officials of the Controlling Body. Also they have forgotten to understand that well organized national competitions not only produce quality players who in turn represent our country at international competitions, further it deprives the opportunity for the soccer loving crowd to witness and enjoy quality football.

It is common knowledge that in the game of football appointment the criteria has certainly not been technical, in fact, top positions as chairman or director are held by persons without the basic technical qualification, some even not kick a ball properly. A couple of past footballers brought into the caucus is only camouflage to cover up their technical nakedness. A Technical Directors position in any football controlling body including FIFA is considered to be an important position and such appointments are given to those who have played the game at a highest level, in addition to their knowledge and experience in the technical aspect of the sport, but in Sri Lanka a technical Committee has been appointed to overrule and guide the Technical Director. In other words he is used as a “yes-man” to approve whatever the technical committee forwards or presents to him.

Football training in competitive football today is a vast field of vex-ties, Complexities and intricacies particularly of conditioning training skill, training, technique training, tactical training, runs into numerous branches, that taken as a whole the coaches awareness and competence in these subjects is not only important but imperative .

My rather limited comments on the subject was only to draw the attention to the vital importance of knowing and understanding the wide and varied field of training and the need to select persons for training as coaches with the requisite background, so that eventually the sport at school, clubs and national level would greatly benefit. It is sad the Football Federation has made it a habit the selection of coaches to handle our national teams without pertinent, prudent and proper screening. The worst part is the Controlling Body to re-appoint the same coaches who has miserably failed in the international competitions thereby brought humiliations and disgrace to our country by getting beaten with double figure scores in international matches it is very unfortunate that the Ministry of sports too don’t have technically qualified people to advice and take appropriate steps in this matter. Selecting coaches not on merit but on other consideration is a despicable act – a damning crime.

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