Let me first of all congratulate the sportsmen and the sportswoman who won medals and those who performed extremely well to bring fame and glory to Sri Lanka at the South Asian Games held recently in India. However when our football team beat the host nation India by one goal to nil in the qualifying [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Root-cause for the downfall of Sri Lanka Football


Let me first of all congratulate the sportsmen and the sportswoman who won medals and those who performed extremely well to bring fame and glory to Sri Lanka at the South Asian Games held recently in India. However when our football team beat the host nation India by one goal to nil in the qualifying round , we had some hope that our footballers too will bring a medal which end-up as a day dream when they lost to Maldives 3-0. Winning and losing is part and parcel of sport, but three straight defeats in the hands of Maldives in the recent past is something else. Questions are raised by the soccer loving crowd as to what is wrong with our football? The answer is obviously, there is nothing wrong with our football, its administration which is weak and ineffective.

When the game of football started to grow during the period 1950s to 1970s the administrators were not ready for the intake. They simply did not have the technical knowledge and the wherewithal to absorb it. This is the root cause for the downfall of our football. Since the late 1970s we have nothing but square pegs in round holes at the top, centre and bottom of the Administrations. The deterioration of Sri Lanka football actually started in 1982, when the Football Federation was dissolved and in its place, Board of Control for the sport was appointed by the Minister of Sports. The Board of control came into being not as an alternative but as an Interim Body to put the house in order.

The Board of Control has had five years to make the necessary infrastructure and a stable foundation for an elected Controlling Body to take over the reins. Evidently it was not been successful in this task. At the end of five years the Hon. Minister re-convened the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, dissolving the Board of Control for Football , which did not measure up to the needs and aspiration. It could not resurrect the game on a board based representative scale.
From 1987, the one man dictatorial rule commenced at the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, and went on till 2013. It was like the pied piper of Hamlin, one single man played the tune and the rest follow dancing to it.

When the so called godfather of them, was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Asian Football Federation , he created an inefficient an inactive Exco in the place of broadly representative council , was a piece of cleverly orchestrated change. The Council was relegated to a mere rubber stamp. It was totally ineffective like a man with a broken spin. He further appointed his faithful and scratch backs to the top position in the Local Controlling Body according to his will and fancy, who in return were comforted with foreign tours, media appearances and much more. They blindly sang the praises of these without any say or power and became beneficiaries running and ruining the common man sport football.

How can you take a step in the right direction when the people around the god father swallowed down what is said like faithful pets lapping up milk? To be frank the period 1987-2013, we got a golden opportunity to develop and promote the game on par or better than some of the Asian Countries who qualified to play in the World Cup Qualifying Rounds. We had abundance of knowledgeable and experience national players whose services would have been utilized to the development of football. This was the period some of our Administrators were occupying seats in the SAARC, Asian and World Controling Body, built up good relationship with top giants of Asian Football Confederation and FIFA.

In addition we received enough funds and technical assistance from Japan, South Korea and Middle East countries. If we have used these resources properly Sri Lanka football would have reached great heights. However due to ignorance of the technical aspect of the sport , intentions to go up in the social ladder, eager to become millionaires by few selfish individuals in the name of sport pushed the common game to be poorer of the poorest in the world map. Then we faced the worse period between 2013 – 2015 in our football history where we got hammered left right and centre in the International competitions conceded 116 goals and scored 22 against our opponents.

Won 2, drew 3 and lost 25 in the encounters played during that period. As a result we were dropped to the 194th position in the world ranking out of 209 countries affiliated to FIFA. From the 122nd position in 1998 we gradually went down the ladder where there is no more to fall. When the so called iron fist ruler occupied the top seat in the Controlling Body in 2013 he appeared in the media and boasted about a short term and a long term programme he is going to introduce and implement with the aim of taking our football to great heights, gave some sort of hope that our football is going to prosper.

Instead of doing so he wasted his, two year term in office, touring the FIFA headquarters on number of occasions and attended court cases, spending millions of rupees, which would have been utilized for the development of our football. From the above facts and figures does one require further evidence to confirm our putrid standards of football!  Having served the office for the last eleven months even the Incumbent President of the FFSL too has failed to make headway to promote and develop the sport. Reasons and drawbacks are many but the remedies and actions are either slow or Zero.  To Hoodwink the Sports Ministry and the soccer loving crowd, competitions are carried out like never before in the past just before the next AGM to showcase that everything is in order, but these competitions have no proper planning or build up designed to achieve national standards and aspirations.

If the Sport Ministry refuses to accept these facts or show a Nelsonian eye, well, let us say good bye to our hopes and for international reckoning. At best we will play football as a recreational sport we played at the inception 135 years ago. Certainly no harm and disgrace we will face in this exercise. Since mid 1970s upto date those who were at the helm of Controlling Body failed to draw and implement a sensible plan and programme to develop the game from the grass-root level. Constant bickering with the Sri Lanka School Association has ruined school football. A carnival invitation tournament backed by Cargills showcased what can be done, but it did not present the enormous potential of schools football in the provinces.

For the last decade or more football in schools were mismanaged by an opportunist few. We should with the help of the Ministry of Educations and promote in a serious way, as is being done in school athletics.  It is my sincere request and hope that the Incumbent Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera will take into account these facts and not be misled by the officials of the Controlling Body who paint a totally wrong picture. We know like others you too are highly disappointed by the poor performance of our National Football Teams at international competitions. Excusable are wrong done through ignorance but woe be unto these who wittingly err for personal and selfish ends

For the sake of the sport and the country please get rid of these rotten ones who do not care for the sport and the country. Get the right men to handle its affairs without the sport to further deteriorate. With no prejudice whatsoever it is my humble view that football is sadly lacking in men of calibre, competence, commitment and integrity at the base of the Controlling Body. Certainly we have enough talented young players all over the island, quality coaches and knowledgeable administrators in our country to guide and develop the game from the grass – root level. A competent outlook is the only way out. Mr. Minister this is over to you.

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