The origins of Football in Sri Lanka, in its undiluted form, have a history of over a 135 years. However, it is rather disappointing to note that, in recent times, not much headway has been made technically or, organizationally, to improve the playing standards of the game or, its promotion as a truly National sport. [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Football – No more a glamour sport in our country


It's evident that administrative failures has reached the Football field of late - File pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

The origins of Football in Sri Lanka, in its undiluted form, have a history of over a 135 years. However, it is rather disappointing to note that, in recent times, not much headway has been made technically or, organizationally, to improve the playing standards of the game or, its promotion as a truly National sport. The zest and zeal with which the game was initially planned and promoted, particularly, in the period between 1950 and 1970, gradually waned off, leaving the sport almost ‘extinct’ in most parts of the country. Schools too, which had Football has their principal sport, gave way to other disciplines, for want of initiative and promotion. Today, after 76 years of association Football, we are in the midst of this unfortunate phenomenon. This situation started in the mid 1970’s, with the quality of leadership and competence diminishing conspicuously from within the National Body. Things became worse during the last four years. Persons with vested interests, eager to fan their ego and, through this great sport, go up the social ladder, totally ruined Football beyond salvation.

To understand and appreciate the growth and development of Football in Sri Lanka, it is a necessary that, the present Administrators know and learn the history of the game.

When Association Football started in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1939, with small beginnings and limited resources at its command, with determination, it was possible to advance the cause of Football in Ceylon to what it is today. In the indefatigable efforts of the officials, soccer lovers in this country saw a great future before this Association.

The Ceylon Football Association (CFA) has thus, not only raised the standard of the game but, has also been able to produce players of International standard. As we perhaps know, people of this country posses submerged talent which, unless tapped, would ‘waste its sweetness in the desert air’. Fortunately, the CFA had been able to organise itself and carry on its good work with such courage, that it has been able to unearth these hidden talents and hold them up for public adoration.

With my own experience as a Footballer, all that I can say is that, those eagerly awaiting to occupy the top seats at the forthcoming AGM, must make their intentions clear and prepare to take necessary steps to resurrect our Football and completely raise its standard to the heights it reached during the golden era of Sri Lanka Football.

Football has, for some considerable time, been the most popular sport in this country, just as it is one of the most popular sports in other parts of the world. It has the particular virtue of being able to arouse a great deal of enthusiasm, not only among the players but, among the spectators as well. As a country, it has not only helped to improve the physical wellbeing of our people but, also served to weld the different communities together and therefore, has made a significant contribution to the task of nation building.

Mainly due to the efforts of the CFA, which also had the assistance of many devoted persons who voluntarily gave of their time, energy and wealth to this cause, it had been possible to raise the standard of this game considerably, then. They were brilliant administrators who lacked nothing, be it knowledge or expertise. Their integrity was beyond question and were thoroughly independent in outlook. They served without fear or favour. All these administrators were of exceptional grain. The Footballers who played the game under such Administrators, were fortunate to display their talents and prowess. We are indebted to them for their selfless commitment to the common man’s game. I have no doubt, seeing the enthusiasm of all concerned, that with proper coaching, our players should, in the not too distant future, be a force to reckon with, if not among the global elite, at least in the Asian region.

In the life of Association Football, 76 years is a fairly long period, and it is, I feel, an opportune moment for a new set of officials to take stock of the past, on the basics of experience already gained, and lay down plans for the future. In making such an appraisal, I am sure the Controlling Body has no cause to be despondent about past achievements. The Football loving public of Sri Lanka are aware of their vital role in popularising the game, whilst at the same time, laying down standards and ensuring they are enforced.

Much remains to be done in the future, to ensure that the highest standards are achieved and are maintained, so that, we could be on equal footing with other advanced Football-playing countries. This is the goal that the FFSL must place before themselves in future, which I feel, is a challenge worthy of not only foster the game but also, to improve its standard in Sri Lanka. A task, I am sure, the FFSL is well able to accomplish, provided they get the right men to do the job.

The right use of Football is important to all, particularly to the youth of a country, while the officials of the FFSL, if they are dedicated to the sport, should be enthusiastic to provide the best possible facilities, equipment, coaches, films, literature and all other aids to attract and encourage those who wish to play. Success in Football is not to be measured only by the results on the field of play. The real value of the game is seen in the spirit in which it is played. The initial function of a school, club or league must be to offer young people the opportunity to play regular organiszed Football. It must also offer entertainment to the spectators. But perhaps, most important of all, it must create a strong social spirit among all its members- playing or non-playing. Matches at international level bring together as they do the best players of the countries hence, competing must remain the top priority, because of the wide impact it has on the nation.

National Association must also guard against abuses. A memorandum must be issued to all Leagues, urging them to encourage their players to make sportsmanship an everyday affair, so that, the highest ideals and best tradition of the sport will influence everything they undertake throughout their life.

The absence of a National tournament for at least two age groups in the youth category, is most unfortunate. If this lapse is rectified, it will ensure a methodical improvement in our Senior National Squad in the not too distant future.

An exercise of such national dimension can never be carried through without adequate financial assistance. Hence, sponsorship is of utmost importance. However, it would be prudent for the FFSL to generate their own finances and utilize the grants and aids received from FIFA, AFC and other friendly countries, in a meaningful manner, for the development and promotion of our country’s Football, so that, in case there appear any cracks in future sponsorships, the FFSL and its affiliated Leagues would not suffer discontinuance.

By the early 1950’s, Football in the outstations was on a strong footing, with the game having a stable base. Kandy, Badulla, Trincomalee, Ratnapura, Jaffna, Galle, Bandarawela, Kurunegala, Gampola, Nawalapitiya and Batticaloa were strongholds of the game, and offered the elite of Colombo a good run, whenever they met on the field. What is the position now? Gone are those vibrant Football Leagues which once served the sport so assiduously. While some are literally dead, many others are ineffective. However, they suddenly come to life, annually, to cast their votes to the wrong ones at the AGM. All this was taking place while sadly, most of the prominent Clubs and Leagues, particularly, from outstation, were, for all intentions and purposes, dead. To this day, the situation has not changed. The damaged caused in the last three decades cannot be repaired overnight. It will take at least two years of hard work, with commitment and proper planning, to achieve the lost glory, glamour and popularity of the sport.

If only the men elected to the top seats at the AGM, firstly, re-activate its Football Leagues; secondly, appoint a Technical Committee of competent men to plan, promote and produce technical excellence in our Football. Finally, focus on promoting Football in playgrounds and schools. In this way, there is hope for the sport in the years ahead.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.