While the two warring factions of local football has split asunder as in the battle field, to capture power at the up-coming AGM of the FFSL, the soccer loving crowd has raised serious questions – firstly, what sort of steps the Minister of Sports is going to take to resurrect our football which has been [...]


The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Interim body for football is the only solution


While the two warring factions of local football has split asunder as in the battle field, to capture power at the up-coming AGM of the FFSL, the soccer loving crowd has raised serious questions – firstly, what sort of steps the Minister of Sports is going to take to resurrect our football which has been ruined by both these factions during the last two decades? Secondly are these two groups fighting for supremacy, truly with the aim of developing football or for personal glory, fame and other benefits?

Where is our football heading?

Amidst such incompetent men of technical knowledge, without adequate playing experience, shuffling from place to place, camp to camp, meeting and discussing divergent views, finally has ended up in the court for the decision. However, the plain and simple truth is that football in Sri Lanka is at rock bottom level. This was clearly seen at the last SAFF Cup tournament held in Nepal.

Three or four decades ago, our local soccer structure had at its apex and round it, brilliant men who were matchless in knowledge of the sport, peerless in commitment and integrity and selflessness in service. All these virtues and attributes woven together made them as priceless silk upon which they left an indelible imprint that the relentless march of time could not erase. During that period football was not only occupied the No 1 slot in the sport disciplines of our country, even the players were lucky and fortunate to be under their leadership and guidance, who became famous and household names here and abroad.

Widespread criticism by football lovers had made the Minister of Sports all but annul the FFSL, and bring in an Interim Administration. Football sympathisers may come out with an excuse that if an Interim Administration is introduced, the Asian and World Controlling Body may ban us from playing football.

This is only a move to hood wink high ranking officials of the government and the Sports Ministry. When our Controlling Body is in a mess and our teams are not fit to play in international tournaments, all what the Sports Ministry has to do, is to write an official letter to the Asian and World Governing Body and say that because of the poor administration lapses in the FFSL and also due to poor standard of the teams that we have appointed an Interim Body for a short period to put things in order and subsequently appoint suitable people to the Controlling Body. No Governing Body would penalise any nation on this issue, surely.

It is common knowledge that in many a public appointment that criteria has certainly not been, academic, experience or competence, in fact top positions as chairmen or directors, are held by persons without the basic educational qualification, which beside has been an eyesore in the social fabric of this country has justifiably given rise to our educated youth to rebel and revolt against both the state and the system. It is this treacherous feature that is creeping, nay crawling to our National Sports particularly football. It is this puerile piece of conjure that has systematically driven away our genuine soccerites of repute and giving way to mediocrities if not totally gifted pretenders. Even if one concedes that these men of wit are basically honest and with a degree of social stature, their blissful ignorance of the technicalities of the sport makes them totally ineffective in terms of direction and guidance to achieve technical excellence in the sport.

Many past soccerites who were close friends of mine and many other stalwarts who doubtless believe that a person who has excelled in the sport could do a better job than an illustrious personality sans any playing experience. Not only do I go the whole hog with them on this issue, but a step further in saying that no man who has no technical knowledge of the sport could ever be a genuine promoter of the sport, however much of integrity, honesty and social dignity he may possess. While a non-technical person necessarily has to experiment or dabble with the issues for long uncertain periods, the person with technical experience and expertise would, with the correct diagnosis and therapy, succeed in just a flash of time. I am tempted to quote an old proverb “The best carpenters make the fewest chips”

In the light of the norms and prerequisites for effective sports administration the Ministry of Sports must ensure the use of ex-footballers or persons with technical competence of an infinitely higher grade. To see that no usurper or pretender twists or cheat the existing sports law relating to the qualification to hold office, is the salient duty of the Ministry. Mischievous and utterly selfish interpretation of the particular law should never be entertained. If the Ministry goes only by a certificate to establish that a person has played the sport, the very purpose of the qualifying law will be defeated. Certificates are in fact the cheapest commodity in this country – be it medical, legal, social, education or religious, it’s not only an open secret but a practicing norm in our society. What the Ministry should do is to appoint a National Technical Sports Committee and amongst many other functions it could perform, screening of candidates for position in the National Governing Sports Bodies could be one. For Example – if a person has initially played for his school or club his or her name should appear in the at least a college or club magazine or in a souvenir write up or still better, in some newspaper or a team photograph. If he or she had represented the national team the proof would be much easier. This is the only way that we can keep the wolves from the sheep literally.

It would be indeed tragic for both the Country and the sport if the Ministry of Sports, under various pressure or other limitations and restraints cannot identify the truth from the lie — the fact from fiction – the erect from the slant – the straight from the crooked and the genuine from the pretentious. What we expect is a prudent Ministry who can see things truly as they are, and act without fear or favour.
Technical expertise of the high quality must necessarily lead us from the front. T hose who say that the field is for the technocrat and the hall for the administrator, is talking poppy cock. I am not saying that all those who have played the sport at the highest level will make good administrators. Far from it! However, an ex-international sportsman who in addition has administrative experience could undoubtedly be the ideal choice, far ahead of the officials with hardly any technical experience or knowledge of the sport. It is not the social stature and standing that matter, but in depth knowledge and experience in the subject that count.

The present system has to change. The sports law will have to be strictly implemented, so that a suitable person could occupy the top seat in the Football Controlling Body, to remove Sri Lanka Football from the abyss it has fallen into due to incompetence of administration. Here the Ministry of Sports will have to play an important role and take appropriate steps to completely change the administrators who have failed miserably during the last three decades.

As I have mentioned in the past we have enough talented players and coaches in our country who are capable of producing fruitful results. Also men of quality, playing experience and integrity, who can guide the destiny of the sport and keep the game and administration on the right track. It is only a matter to the Minister of Sports to identify and call them to do the job, for the sake of our motherland and the sport.

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