Soccer experts over the years have discussed ways and means to improve the game in our country. Unfortunately due to misunderstandings and power struggles between factions in the recent past, retarded the progress of the game. As a result the zest and zeal the game which was planned and promoted, particularly in the era between [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

It’s time to change strategies and think of tomorrow


Soccer experts over the years have discussed ways and means to improve the game in our country. Unfortunately due to misunderstandings and power struggles between factions in the recent past, retarded the progress of the game. As a result the zest and zeal the game which was planned and promoted, particularly in the era between 1950s’ to 1970s gradually waned off, leaving the sport almost dead in some parts of the country.
Schools which had football as their principal sport gave way to other disciplines. Private and public sector who were seriously involved in soccer gradually moved to cricket, rugby, hockey and basketball.

Though the situation is grave it is not totally hopeless. It will certainly not, be a task beyond our reach to revive and resurrect the sport if those who are called upon now co-operate and work with honesty and commitment with the Incumbent President of the Controlling Body. They could sit around the table shedding petty differences and diversions, uniting with resolve so that every genuine effort be made to bring football back to its pristine glory and fame.

Initially, the revival of dormant, dying or dead outstation and Colombo based leagues will have to be made the nucleus and nursery of the game of soccer in Sri Lanka. To accomplish that task a uniformed calendar of domestic competitions through respective leagues for the schools and clubs to be implemented without delay.

The Ministry of Sports could demand from the National Body, the reactivation of its Football Leagues as a top priority. Secondly a National Technical Committee appointed by the Ministry of Sports, to plan, promote and produce technical excellence in our football should come into force immediately. This Committee should go into all technical aspect of collegiate, club, leagues and international football, and its recommendations put into effect by the National Body as a matter of urgency. In this way, there is hope for football in the years ahead. Reactivation of all football leagues in their full glory and splendor is mandatory on the Controlling Body and this is the first step in the right direction.

Senior coaches and few knowledgeable international players should be invited to form an Advisory Body under a Technical Advisor to propose and implement a broad – base national technical development program for the promotion, development and raising the standard of the game.
What is necessary at the moment is to introduce a develop football amongst the youth. No sport could ever blossom to national or international standards unless we concentrate more on youth.

They have to be taught basic skills at the tender age and tactics instilled in their formative years. The growth of a player to national or international standards depends primarily on the degree of skills he has mastered in his boyhood. It is therefore very vital that a well drawn scheme be introduced to promote football among the youth. If the players do not have the skills and technique, they could never be able to put into motion what his coach has in his mind. If one looks at the present day players both at club and national levels it will not be surprising that the majority of them cannot kick with both feet effectively leave alone controlling the ball at speed. Heading the ball is a lost art, reading the game of the opponent is non –existent. Planning an attack or a counter move is also absent. What we see in the field is instant action and not planned reaction. This is what we actually saw at the F.A Cup Final

It is these aspects make play entertaining, interesting, richer and meaningful in quality. Remember! spectators pack the stadium and pay without any reservations not to witness pedestrian performance but quality football. Coaches are the sole people who could instill these finer points to the players. When a player is not properly handled when they are young, not taught their basic skills and individual responsibilities things become difficult when they are matured. It is very easy to impart these lessons into the mind of the young and youthful players whose mind and muscle are both fresh and free from all disturbances and distractions. There it is vital importance that the young ones are trained and handled by the correct teachers who knows their subject. Let me emphasize that the Football Federation must get the right men to handle the job. Until and unless we improve the quality of our club and league football standards, our National team will never be able to perform well at international competition.One thing I always believe is that we have enough talented players in our country either or better than some of the star players in the Asian region. What is lacking is a sensible and meaningful longterm training programme under knowledgeable and hard working coaches with commitment.

Having said that, it also must me mentioned that the greatest asset to a team is a good coach. Merely being a former international or a reputed star does not mean one is a good coach. Coaching is a science and it should be learnt that way. If you expect a learner player under your charge to perform what you want him to perform, then perform it yourself in front of him. Learning is based on demonstration. Only demonstrations that increase the interest of the student can help him to improve in techniques and other skills. We have enough coaches in our country. Some are with paper qualifications and experience, but there are less than a handful of coaches who could be classed as exemplary and effective teachers.

Knowledge alone does not and will not make a success of a coach’s task. For teaching to get lodged in the mind of a student, exemplary conduct on the part of the teacher himself is absolutely necessary. Where there is bad conduct and example by the coach nothing could hold or grow in the mind of a pupil however brilliantly presented. He must be thorough with the interpretation and application of the laws of the game. When one is a national coach he must absolutely think nationally and shed his club, school and native loyalties. They also must not consider the player’s family back-ground, political afflation, to what community, religion or cast he belongs. Please look at his talent and discipline nothing else for selection. It is not a secret that most of our National Coaches have miserably and continuously failed and faced humiliating defeats in international competitions due the reasons mentioned.

Such coaches must either step down or the Controlling Body should ask them to pack their bags. The rule adopted by any football playing nation says either you produce or perish. Why our Controlling Body implement this rule only for foreign coaches not for the locals?

The National coaches for the respective teams must be appointed after careful study of knowledge capabilities and experience of coaches. Paper qualifications alone should not be a criteria for appointing them while it is important to be a trained coach. It is also important that such a coach should have playing experience at a higher level and above all the ability to import his knowledge to the trainees.

Coaches too like players begin their career with the nurseries, senior school teams, club teams, district and leagues team and finally the national youth and senior squads. Their coaching abilities and performance must be accessed and gradually promote them in stages to handle the national squads. These coaches must periodically undergo training under competent coaching instructors. They must also sit and get through the license courses conducted by the AFC and FIFA. If they can show good results at school, club and leagues level, they could be considered for further training abroad. Once when they are sent abroad for advance training they must serve the Football Federation at least for two years. Seminars, workshop and training programmes must be conducted regularly to give the coaches advance knowledge under the guidance of qualified professional coaches from AFC and FIFA.

Each schools and club should have a trained coach. Then only, will technical excellence is the sport will reach high standards.

There are a host of locally trained coaches in the virtual coal storage today, due to lack opportunities. It is here that the Controlling Body can directly intervene and assist the coaches to achieve better and a higher standard of performances.

As mentioned in my last article all these coaches must be registered by the Controlling Body and assign them with responsibilities to handle schools and clubs in their respective towns and village. And a serious study of school football is an urgent must. The FFSL should seek the assistance of the Ministry of education and persuade the latter to make football a compulsory sport in every school in the country.

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