Reorganising and reconstituting the Football Federation of Sri Lanka in a proper and meaningful manner is the duty and responsibility of its incumbent president which is being watched by the soccer loving public at large, with great interest. Changing positions for the sake of changing or changing the top seats to cure the sickness will [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

A humble request to football chief

Reorganise and reconstitute the football house

Reorganising and reconstituting the Football Federation of Sri Lanka in a proper and meaningful manner is the duty and responsibility of its incumbent president which is being watched by the soccer loving public at large, with great interest.
Changing positions for the sake of changing or changing the top seats to cure the sickness will not pay in the long run. If football is to make substantial progress, it should take into account the mistakes and blunders made in the past by the so called soccer maestro, god father, iron fist and those who contributed to these mistakes.

Do you know the remedy to football woes -- seems to be the question former Sports Minister Naveen Dissanayake and former FFSL chief Ranjith Rodrigo asking each other - Pic by Amila Gamage

Since a repetition of the same lapses and the acceptance of the person who contributed to the lapses and blunders are certainly going to be damaging once again in the future as well. In fact, seeking advice, guidance and try to follow their footsteps will never take you in the right direction to develop and promote our football.

There is a category even now in the Football House who have blindly followed the blunders of the past and offered their approval only to survive and sail with the rest. There is also another category that has made football their living. It is this category of persons who will bite through flesh and bone like maggots on a carcass. We say fearlessly “beware of such tailcoat hangers” for they could align with the new forces and destroy them as they have destroyed others in the past.

When everything is said and done what should remain at the base for a steady and sure growth is men of knowledge and men of character. Without technical expertise and that too, from those who posses such knowledge and stand high in the public esteem, the game will not progress to the height that we aspire to and hope for.

There are supposed to be hordes of technocrats in this country, produced by both local and foreign pundits, but when it comes to the question of raising the standards of the game, they not only stand clueless but fail miserably. For us who have played the game at the highest level, we are sure in our minds, that only through the services of the right persons that football could be brought upto Asian Standards initially.

We already see a cluster of these avoidable personalities making desperate attempts to join the band wagon by winning the confidence of a few who matter. We also see some old administrative hats in circulation once again, bringing sad memories of an unfortunate past. In the name of god and in the name of his great game, we appeal to the authorities not to fall prey to these old hands who in some cases, have outlived their purpose, but still yearns for the position or to go places with it.

The need of the hour is to put our domestic football on the right path and to this, we must make a concrete effort to get the football leagues in action without any delay and the local tournaments too, off the ground. Gone are those vibrant football leagues in the calibre of the Colombo Football League, City Football League and the Mercantile League which once served the sport so assiduously. These major leagues based in the Colombo city have a history much longer than that of the Controlling Body, which was managed by legislators with knowledge and commitment. Their analytical minds, decisive directives, sharp and witty retorts, and the trust and parry made council meetings almost a seat of learning. But, what of today? My guess is as good as yours, indeed. We may never see these men of destiny any longer, but if selfish interests are cast aside, we may yet find enough quality men to guide the destiny of this sport, both at league football and in the National Body.

These three powerful leagues based in the Colombo city not only produced more than 70 % of the players to represent our country in this common man’s sport, they were able to conduct domestic club and private sector football tournaments from division “E” upto division “A” efficiently and meaningfully , thereby helped and encourage young soccerites to reach international standards.
It is only natural that the capital city had the lion’s share of the game, in its formative years. Even to this day Colombo’s hold on football is heavily loaded in its favour. Understandably, it is so due to the facilities and the technical know-how it is blessed with.

However the contribution made for the promotion and development of the game by the outstation football league have been indeed significant. If not for these leagues and clubs, the game would never have received the impetus it needed and the popular mass support for the very existence of the sport in the provinces. Football leagues like Kandy, Badulla , Bandarawela, Galle, Kurunegala, Ratnapura, Hatton, Jaffna , Trincomalee and Negombo to name a few, did not play second fiddle to Colombo, in technical excellence. In fact a cursory glance at our National Squads between the years 1945 to 1970 would show a strong representation from the outstation in both the senior and youth national teams. Such was the quality and character of football in our leagues then.

What then is the position today? None of this leagues all over the island conducting their domestic tournaments properly and produced quality and skillful players to the country as in the past are existance. It is not a surprise that we are now getting disgraced and humiliated in international competitions either at youth level or senior level.

Most of the playgrounds then maintained by the Colombo Municipal Council, popular fields like the City Football League, the Echelon Square grounds (where hotel Galadari and Hilton now stands), The Government Services Ground (where the Cinnamon Lake Side hotel is situated), Sports Ground (where Taj Hotel was built) The Navy Ground in Galle Face (where Shangri-La Hotel is being built) and the Saracens Ground (now occupied by the Sri Lanka Air Force), once were full every evening with hundreds of talented young soccerites.

Great clubs like Harlequins, Saunders, Java Lane, Old Joes, Victory, Black Square, Old Bens, Eleven Youngsters, Colpetty United, Ratnam, Sunny mount, York, to name a few dominated Sri Lanka football for many years are in fact not in existence or virtually playing in low gear. Private establishments in the calibre of Rowland’s Ltd, Cargills , Nestles, Lipton, Cold stores, Browns, Walkers, Wellawatte Spinning & Weaving Mills and Dimo. Reputed Banks like Grindlays Commercial, H.N.B, Hong Kong & Shanghai and State Bank of India too are not in existence or are not playing serious football.

How did this slump come our way? What are the reasons or causes for these famous clubs and establishments either fold up or be less effective. Reasons or causes are many! However, I will elaborate few:

  • Prominent football fields in the Capital City which held a lion share in developing and promoting football was acquired by the successive government for other development purposes without substituting suitable play grounds to train and conduct tournaments.
  • Neglecting football grounds and parks all over the island by the Local Authorities.
  • School Football Association not conducting their tournaments in the meaningful manner and not focusing to improve the standards from the grassroots level.
  • The Controlling Body not concentrating and work cordially with the Education Ministry and with the School Football Association.
  • Controlling Body has failed to re-activate the affiliated leagues and monitor their progress.
  • Officials of the Controlling Body wasting their valuable time and energy only on organizing Cup Finals and other activities, without focusing and concentrating on developing the technical aspects of the sport.
  • n Sending National teams to international competitions without selecting the correct coaches and players. Not providing adequate proper training and nourishment to players.
  • Soccer loving Public being deprived of witnessing our own National teams in action, playing in our own soil against foreign counterparts to gauge the playing standards of our team and make relevant and useful comments.
  • The Controlling Body under many Presidents during the last decade failed to introduce and implement a sensible and constructive football plan and programme to uplift the standards of our football

My humble request from the incumbent president Anura De Silva is to take necessary steps to resurrect our football without further delay. Action must be taken immediately to popularize football which has lost its glamour and glory. Re-activation of all football leagues in their full splendor is mandatory and this is the first step in the right direction.
Mr. President! Excusable are wrong done through ignorance but woe be unto those who willingly err for personal and selfish ends.

Finally for the sake of this wonderful sport and our beloved country’s emerge, please get rid of those rotten ones around you who do not care for the game. With your playing and administrative experience you must be able to guide the destiny of our football both at League and National level which has drastically deteriorated during the last two decades.
It is not impossible to achieve your objectives provided you draw and implement a proper and sensible plan and programme to develop the game without further delay. Make it sure, that you get the right men with knowledge, integrity and commitments to serve the cause.

Well, if you fail to do so, you too will sooner or later, vacate the top seat like your predecessors with empty hands as far as the game of football is concerned.

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