Being a mundane voter who is rather interested in the pie charts and line graphs that depict the destinies and the impending fortunes of politicians who sought the sympathy vote, I was watching the developments. Yet, in their journey to that moment — I mean the vote seeker — would give Hans Christian Anderson enough [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Waiting for low intensity sports Godot


Being a mundane voter who is rather interested in the pie charts and line graphs that depict the destinies and the impending fortunes of politicians who sought the sympathy vote, I was watching the developments.

Yet, in their journey to that moment — I mean the vote seeker — would give Hans Christian Anderson enough ammunition and matter to hard cover several more volumes of his fairy tales if he was among the living today. But, gullible we sit and discuss, argue and even see the discarding of the odd stopper or two and finally use our ballot.

No wonder they call it the suffrage? Anyhow the final result is we suffer – even continue to live with a sense of regret that keeps reminding you of your folly until you commit that same mistake again.

Last Monday I waited for Godot. They said that the swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet of ministers was going to be done at the President’s Secretariat.

Being a man who makes my world swirl around sports I waited for former Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to replace Mahindananda Aluthgamage though I had some insight to the news that the former had his sights above the sports portfolio. Yet, I believed that Arjuna being a man who yelled his throat hoarse about the shortcomings in the sports arena in parliament, he should be there to plug the leaks and put the team together. Yet, he chose to row the boat.

Then as the names were called up one by one I looked to see an honest sports face and there were not any and likewise they held the ball back to deliver the bouncer later.

I brushed through my contacts – sports or otherwise and finally heard the chirp that the Government honestly has the intention of appointing a Sports Minister, but that would be in the nature of non-cabinet.

First I was a bit annoyed. Why not a Cabinet post for sports? In reality, sports at times could be as powerful as politics itself and one of the main differences between a sports star and a politician being – a sportsman becomes an apostle for what he has achieved and delivered, a politician is believed for what he has said and promised. At the same time sports have churned out more world figures than politicians Sri Lanka has ever produced and even Arjuna Ranatunga as a world statesman lives in the sports camp.

Duncan White – Hurdles Silver at the Olympics; Susanthika Jayasinghe an Olympics Silver at the Olympics, M.J.M.. Lafir Sri Lanka’s first World Title in Billiards; Arjuna Ranatunga the World Cup winning captain, Kumar Sangakkara – his Cowdrey oration at Lord’s, Sidath Wettimuny century at Lord’s; Michael Tissera the only man to lead a Lankan team to beat India even at unofficial level almost fifty years ago. They keep living in a hearts of the people with no division, here and abroad. They are proud mementoes of Sri Lanka worldwide.

Got a bit swayed away in my own thoughts. Coming back to the former puzzle of no sports minister and the promised non-cabinet Sports minister, in hindsight I thought why not.

Sports by being under powerful ministers in the government – sometimes we wonder the subject brought fame and power to them or they brought power and fame to the subject – have become politicised to the very core and nothing in the way has missed its wrath.

Then in the past decade things went from bad to worse. Sports politics went up to the first citizen of the country. Once when Sanath Jayasuriya was dropped from the England touring squad – a move mooted by the then National coach Tom Moody — the Lankan champion opener got the first citizen of the country to intervene and send him to Old Blighty. Whatever happened there was history, yet it created a bad precedent.Thereafter Arjuna Ranatunga as the Chairman of the SLC Interim Committee faced a similar fate when some players concerned about their IPL contracts complained to the President and scuttled the England tour which Ranatunga was promoting. Then the most recent is a few sports stars having to act the goat on the political platform, for services rendered. The reason the players saw a benevolent man who would heed to their grievances while at the top there was this shrewd politician who saw far beyond the horizon when it came to opportunities at one point of the day.

Now we feel good of having a sports minister with low intensity. We feel the sports minister should keep away from the inner rooms of the sports administrations and let the sports people work out their destiny.

Maybe he could maintain a high profile team – true to its sense – to advise him on certain aspects of governance, but at large he should keep politics within the precincts of the Reid Avenue compound.

But even at low intensity can the sports minister do that? Right now it is a cauldron full of poses. The minister in his possession has the famous or infamous Sports Law which puts him right in the middle of the proceedings of any given sport.

Hypothetically we could argue Mr. X – the good honest politician is placed as the low intensity Sports Minister. Yet, like you and me he is not an authority of a given sport leave alone all. However, it is he who appoints all selectors. Say it is a Table Tennis team, the selectors do the selecting, but the team cannot proceed without the stamp of approval of the Sports Minister. Yet, the minister’s knowledge of Table Tennis is as good as my knowledge of French.

Yet, in recent times I have seen the sports minister being as competent as I mentioned above making changes in certain sports teams, appointing hacked nobodies as interim committee chairmen.

This is the exact culture that we seek to change. First the Sports Law should be done away with. It gives a nobody too many powers on a subject that he has not mastered. The Sports Minister could seek and act upon the advice that is given to him by a competent committee that comprises experts and not mere favour-seeking middlemen who know even less than the minister himself.

Any minister coming in and looking through the glass will know there is not a single sport in Sri Lanka which is in the upward trend. This has come to this position as a result of politicians trying to play a game they can’t and sports is trying to shelter them under a political parasol which has no cover.

PS: Just imagine a government with the former World Cup winning cricket captain looking after the ships and ports and the rest are still running blind looking for someone to bat next in this crucial big match.

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