Reference to an article that appeared in the Sunday Times of 16th of October 2016 with a picture of the Immediate Past President, Ranjith Rodrigo (who is the current chairman of the Finance/Media/ International relation Committees of the FFSL) with the present FIFA President Gianni Infantino taken at a luncheon of the AFC in May [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

The hour to save our Football has arrived

Letter to the Sports Editor

The Sunday Times has decided to dedicate this column to its readers so that they can comment about contents in our sports columns and features and also write their own thoughts on various sports with letters to the editor. Their views however are not necessarily those of the newspaper.

Reference to an article that appeared in the Sunday Times of 16th of October 2016 with a picture of the Immediate Past President, Ranjith Rodrigo (who is the current chairman of the Finance/Media/ International relation Committees of the FFSL) with the present FIFA President Gianni Infantino taken at a luncheon of the AFC in May 2016  in the City of Mexico. The FIFA president in an exemplary manner had displayed his sportsmanship by obliging to force in this picture despite knowing that the very man is not the President of the FFSL and the one, who showed his allegiance to AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa at the FIFA’s special congress held a few moons ago.

Back at home the photo show for some are like the sugar coated pill to cover up their failures in office they hold and to fool their fellow countrymen. But in the social media, one can see top ranks of the FFSL trotting the globe even much faster than a Jaguar or a cheetah could do. Surprisingly, I beg your pardon, it’s nothing strategic to do with Football. To add injury to insult, the present CEO we learn is serving as a Match Commissioner for the AFC while running the affairs of the FFSL like a dual sim phone. The poor Secretary General is powerlessly warming his chair at the citadel in Torrington, with the Treasurer Fazlan being kept out of the affairs of FFSL and his opportunities being robbed by the power broker to do the international honours. The Ex. Co is oblivious it seems with not a grunt from anyone, patiently waiting in the queue for their turn to board the next flight, for keeping mum.

Meanwhile Cambodia ranked 178 thrashed Sri Lanka in a not so friendly encounter with Sri Lanka travelling all the way to play just one game in Phnong Peng. With that we descended to the bottom of the FIFA ranking, happily residing in a statistical 193. Despite this thrashing, Ranjith Rodrigo wanted to play at least 10 Internationals before December 2017. The question arises as to what was he doing since 2013?  If the present leeches that have foolish thoughts are to continue, we will certainly dive off the bottom of the international heap. The thinking of the pundit as written in the article appears so amateurish trying to put up the roof without pillars and the pillars without a foundation in place. The IPP’s remarks also cover a large canvas blaming everyone else except him. He laments lack of grounds, indifference of the schools attributed to higher officials in the Education Ministry, past players, hidden hands and etc. He also claims that the annual grant from FIFA is being deferred due to a  legal snag blaming unnamed individuals for legal battles. He forgets his mind that none can challenge legally or otherwise if one runs a public entity according to approved rules/norms that are in place. If you are a good administrator, if you have played the game, not a selfish soul, not a tyrant, one could have overcome all the hurdles that he talks about. Lack of knowledge of articles that governs football and due to the despotic attitude of the power broker, the FFSL had to spend over 10 million in litigation alone.

The other classic statement he makes is that the FFSL President and Secretary did not have a place to sit inside Football House forgetting that he too was a key official who made it happen. Laudably now, that the seats are in place but regrettably, everyone obviously knows that the shots are fired not from the seats that he is boasting but from Negombo. Unfortunately, the President, Secretary and Treasurer willingly or unwillingly are mere pawns in the decadent local game. The Treasurer is simply expected to sign cheques, grin and bear and get brow beaten if he dares to protest. Having anticipated a change for over four years the football followers are of the view that the past was better than the present. The only silver lining is the sponsorship from two leading companies, Dialog and Cargills. Sadly, this money too is ill-spent and not effectively used to develop the sport. The Clubs, Players and the game are yet to benefit from this largesse.

What more will happen when FIFA/AFC coughs up more than Rs.100 million in anticipated grants is mind-blowing. Using funds to bankroll the leagues is a smart play to buy votes for the benefit of those holding Football House. Those in the game asserts that, without knowledgeable administrators / qualified technical souls / a productive competition structure (for both senior and junior) / active men holding the leagues and a proper national players selection process in place / the money will go down the drain to keep a selected few big guns in power to enjoy the fascinating world that belongs to FIFA.  Blatter of course, has gone dubiously into history as the Ali Baba of world football. Now it is Infantino’s turn to correct the pitch but, I hear that our dribblers in office have switched allegiance much better than Mourinho does from the Manchester United bench.

Sadly, we hear that our National team after two straight defeats at the hands of Laos (ranked 175) to 2 goals to 1 and Mongolia (ranked 202) to 2 goals to 0, held Macau ( ranked 196 ) to a 01 all draw in their final game of the  AFC Solidarity Cup 2016. This competition is presently being played in Malaysia. Macau has apparently beaten Laos by 4 goals to 1, Mongolia 2 goals to one and qualified as the first team to get into the semi finals. In the finals scheduled for the week Macau will face Nepal.

If one takes the trouble to check the Passports of the President and IPP, they will see how much travel is undertaken without any prior notice or approval of the Ex.Co and no reports being submitted either. So it’s obvious that the best way for those who want to tour the world with an all paid package is to join the present football chakravarthi and tour the world at the cost of the game that once thrived in this beautiful Island. This attitude had been the perennial death knell for football in Sri Lanka for many years. The secret in this hullabaloo is the underlying fact that lowly Sri Lanka at rank 195 and mighty Germany at 01, have one vote in the FIFA stake. This makes FIFA to entertain lavishly the people who carry this valuable vote to and from our shores. If FIFA and AFC could decide to limit the vote to the top half of the ranking of the National Associations we will see an about turn in our cavalier champions in office who will have very little reason to engage in Football overseas than they do so sadly in our little island.

Those who are apprehensive about the plight that has befallen our game, wishes to ask the Minister of Sports as to who is going to take the blame for this never ending episode. Since, it is the name of our Country that is getting tarnished on and on? Can the National Selectors explain their hand in the selection of the team and the reason on their putrid performance? Can they also tell the country what is going on in between the Minister, Selectors, National Coach and the FFSL in this process? It is learnt there were disagreements among the selectors on the selection made at the will of the coach and the Minister’s directive not adhered to. Do not forget that each of these men has to answer to the people of this country. The game of football is not a private property. It reflects our Nation. The Hon. Minister must examine this situation clinically perhaps with the support of FIFA in order to ensure that the administration is all inclusive and not hostage to  vested interest. Tourism thrives with Touts it seems in the world of Football. The hour to save the game for the sake of our Nation has come mister Minister; this is over to you if you are genuine and keen to resurrect the game!


A.H.S.M. Uvais  Former:  Football Referee/Coach/Administrator; Chairman  Media Committee FFSL; Secretary, Ref.Com. FFSL/SLFRA/CDFRA/COL. F.L.  Former:  AFC Match Commissioner/Referees Assessor

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