Since the change of government I have been receiving some statements, telephone calls and sms messages complaining of mismanagement and abuse of power by officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Football Association and the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, appealing to me to take up these matters with the new authorities.  But I am extremely [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Concentrate on school and playground football for a better future


School level is where players are shaped up for national duty - Pic by Amila Gamage

Since the change of government I have been receiving some statements, telephone calls and sms messages complaining of mismanagement and abuse of power by officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Football Association and the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, appealing to me to take up these matters with the new authorities.  But I am extremely sorry I cannot represent others in spite the complaints being just and fair. But I advice them to address same to the present incumbent Minister of Sports and to the Minister of Education. I am sure they will take necessary action. In fact, I had an opportunity to meet the incumbent president of FFSL and its top officials recently, had a cordial and useful discussion to develop our football from the grass-root level which is indeed a good sign.

I have carried a lone crusade against mismanagement and abuse of power in the football administration in this country for a number of years, both within and without National Association. I have both expressed my views freely without any fear or favour and have exposed the magnitude of abuse and mismanagement of power and position so rampant in our football administration to rid the game of this social malaise.  Few queer scribe finds fault with me for being critical of football administration all the time. I have applauded the good work on many occasions and criticized short comings in the same breadth. While doing so I have not failed to give the solutions and remedies to resurrect the sport which unfortunately did not reach the deaf ears of the past administrators.

In the final analysis isn’t it they miserably failed to develop and promote football in this country. On the other hand they not only got a public whacking and have to leave the Football House empty hands as far as the game of football is concerned.
It is always good for the sport. when its performance is evaluated and commented upon. It is vital for the sport to be criticized particularly when its playing standards are poor. Only then will the sport improve provided of course the administrators are humble enough to admit the drawbacks and take comments and criticism as a mode of assistance, advice and solutions rather than as a challenge or confrontation.

To be frank, I carry no anger, wrath , remorse, revenge or the remotest ill felling against any individual or body. I don’t belong to any political party or football opposition group, but my only concern and consideration the sport I love and the country I represented, that cannot be left for its exploitation by a few.  Let us remember whatever said and done except for athletics, swimming, boxing, weightlifting, to name a few, football is woefully behind regional standards, leave alone Asian or Olympic Standards. Our rate of growth at football has been dismally slow with all the finances, facilities, grants, Sponsorship etc that we backed with.

However it is encouraging with all the drawbacks and problems, the Incumbent President of the FFSL is confident that he can improve the standard of our football in due course, provided he gets the fullest co–operation and support particularly from the School Football Association and the affiliated leagues.  The current issue that needs immediate attention by both the Ministry of Sports and Ministry of Education is to build a cordial relationship between the Sri Lanka Football Association and the FFSL which has become a stumbling block for the development of football in the country from the grass-root level. Here both Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam has an important role to play for the sake of the common man’s sport and the country.

Though they represent two different political parties, they must understand that they are Ministers for the whole nation. The past national players and the soccer loving crowd humbly request both young and energetic ministers to intervene and sort matters between the two factions. Make them realize that it should be an obligation, if not duty for those who are called upon to guide its destiny, to sit around the table, shedding petty differences and diversions, uniting in the resolve that every effort should be made to bring football back to its pristine fame and glory. Let them therefore, rededicate themselves to the promotion and prosperity of this glorious sport , in the years ahead.

A serious study of school football should be done immediately. The target should be to introduce football to at least 75% of our school. We have over 4000 schools in the island, but not more than 10% of them play competitive football. If the nurseries are not created how are we going to produce our future national caps.  In the year 2000 a plan and programme was introduced by the Ex–President of the FFSL, Senior DIG Bodhi Liyanage along with me as Youth Development Director. A long term programme was implemented with the blessing of the Minister of Sports and the Minister of the Education involving 600 schools around the country to improve football from the grass root level.

This programme was highly commented by the Technical Director – FIFA and General Secretary – AFC. Unfortunately both of us were forced to resign due to lack of financial support and co–operation from the officials of the FFSL. Of course colossal sum of funds were received from FIFA and AFC for this project. If this project was implemented properly we would has produce quality national players who would have given a good run to some of the Asian countries.  Each successive administration in the Controlling Body failed to appreciate the important of promoting school football. Our school football is yet to be tapped to its full potential.

Arrange tournaments according to age groups sensibly and properly for schools district wise, with the finals being held in rotation at major towns so that the game will be popularised. Periodical coaching clinics districts or provincial wise will have to be conducted to ensure that collegiate football is on a technically higher pedestal. Football workshops will have to be conducted regularly in the capital city and in outstation schools for the coaches to gain adequate knowledge and experience. Get the school Principals and League Secretaries to seriously get involved in the sport which will exert powerful hold on our imagination.

Only then football will take root and grow at grass root level in the schools. Most our priorities in promoting and developing football for decades remained in a jumble, if not totally upset down. Neither the Ministry of Education nor the Ministry of Sports has cared to study schools football development seriously nor it has been viewed in its correct perspective.
It is time that the authorities see things truly as they are and do everything possible to enhance our performance standards via schools, playgrounds and clubs for there lies the road to permanent success.  Neglecting football ground and parks all over the island by the local authorities is another setback.

These play grounds once were full every evening with hundreds of talented young soccerities, are now heaven for the drug–addicts and other illegal activities. It is an obligation on the part of the league officials to approach the local authorities to re–develop these grounds and see that our youths get involve in sport. I am sure the local authorities will come forward to help you on this worthy endeavour. On the other hand the FFSL must implement a coaching programme to the Park Instructors to increase their knowledge.  Another important aspect is the revival of dormant, dying or dead outstation leagues, which have to be made the nucleus or nursery of soccer.

There is an urgent need to have technical expertise at every level in the thinking and planning stages. For this a uniform calendar of domestic competition for all leagues (club and school) had to be implemented without delay.  Finally Senior international and Junior international teams must be invited to our country regularly to give our players the necessary exposure and experience, also given an opportunity to our soccer loving crowd to witness our own National teams in action, playing in our own soil against foreign counterparts, to gauge the playing standards of our teams and make relevant and useful comments.

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