I was amused to see remarks made by the FFSL President, my good friend Anura De Silva in the ST of the 24 Sept. He very rightly questioned the recent failures and goes on to point out in his wisdom that there is no proper school or domestic football structure. Coming from the boss himself [...]


Football boss kicking own goals!


I was amused to see remarks made by the FFSL President, my good friend Anura De Silva in the ST of the 24 Sept. He very rightly questioned the recent failures and goes on to point out in his wisdom that there is no proper school or domestic football structure. Coming from the boss himself this is a classic example of kicking the ball into your own net, albeit with a measure of raw honesty.

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Anura outlines some of the ills which all football administrators are well aware of except that most of them did nothing to uplift the game except feather their own nests! Sri Lanka is at the bottom of the heap, ranked 44 out of 46 in Asia. So he proceeds to lecture all and sundry about what needs to be done. But that is why he was given a mandate of four years to go on and do the kicking for which he is quite famous. Having been around for donkeys years in the football firmament, let me remind him and those at the helm today about a few things they must consider:

1. The FFSL President speaks of Football Centers built on leased lands. Can he at least now put together a volunteer team to resurrect these centers which are not properly owned or managed by FFSL? The Ministry of Sports (MOS) must assist FFSL. We need these centers under FFSL control. FIFA should review the agreements and insist on this. If that is done, FFSL will have at least seven well organised centers where gate matches can be played.

2. That school is the cradle has been a constant lament, so why cry anymore! Here too, cannot the MOS collaborate with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and sort out this tug-o-war once and for all. The National Schools U12, 14, 16 and 18 Championships are a must. The conflict created by the MOE and FFSL running parallel tournaments benefits no one!

3. The FFSL President speaks of Player Development and Poor Coaches. What is the Technical Department doing about this? Cannot they identify 20 Top Coaches and assign them to the Top Seeded 20 Schools (based on the U18 Championship) and give them a programme of work. This will mean that about top 500 school players emerging to form a national pool to which wild cards can be attached. Drilling down to a national squad of 30 from there cannot be so difficult a task from where a FIFA qualified coach can formulate a national youth team who will go on to be a feeder for the senior squads.

4. The Football Training Centers or Academies the President speaks about is fine but he says in the same breath that there are no funds. Here is where the Marketing and Finance Chairmen of FFSL, two young businessmen must do the job instead of passing the buck.

5. The poor President talks of dependence on FIFA and AFC. But he must tell them that the funds they give will go where it is most needed, not tamely follow their dictates. And a well meaning President will cut down on jaunts and focus on the work in hand. He can start by recovering the Rs.28M that has been spirited away under his nose.

6. Sponsors will support those who perform and not those who merely produce glamour without substance. Many sponsors who came into the game deserted FFSL when they noticed what was going on. Dialog keeps the Champions League going to prevent competition taking over. It is here that a professional marketing team must go to play but FFSL has discarded key playmakers. The new kids on the block must take up that challenge!

7. The President claims that FIFA has increased the funding. He must now ensure that is not wasted or slowly spirited away. Past records do not demonstrate the integrity of FFSL. He alone is responsible to the football family to make doubly sure that these funds are not wasted or stolen,

8. Interesting that KPMG has been called up. This is not a cheap exercise, so I hope FFSL can afford it. But if an affidavit is secured from the culprit what is the need for forensic audit. KPMG did an audit before for FIFA on the Tsunami expenses, but where is that report? FIFA and AFC must stop pussyfooting and assign someone to overlook FFSL performance and submit monthly reports so that constant transparency is ensured!

9. The President says that he has called upon the MOS to support the junior programme. But as I said before, unless the MOE cooperates, the FFSL will only expend energy with no tangible results. The MOS must first assist to recover the stolen funds; why is it silent?

10.Finally, Anura hits the nail on the head by identifying why youth don’t gravitate to football. Without reward, why would anyone come into a sport that is each day going backwards than forward? Not all the funds one gets can change what all of us know is an absolute lack of management and vision to transform this sport.

So my humble opinion is for the FFSL President to put his house in order first. He must nail the culprits who put their fingers into the till, call his Ex Co to be accountable or depart and bring into the fold the kind of talent who can at least do a job of work without waiting for the next air ticket! And he can start by setting the right example.

 M T Fernando   Former FIFA Referee   

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