The New Year seems to have seen a lot of action at the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL). It concluded the Dialog Champions League 2017 rolling into 2018 a week ago, announced the arrival of the World Cup replica to Sri Lanka courtesy of Coca Cola, made the usual jaunt to the FIFA summit [...]


Football Arbudaya ; Sports Ministry’s stepchild


FIFA boss with FFSL's Treasurer

The New Year seems to have seen a lot of action at the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL). It concluded the Dialog Champions League 2017 rolling into 2018 a week ago, announced the arrival of the World Cup replica to Sri Lanka courtesy of Coca Cola, made the usual jaunt to the FIFA summit in Amsterdam and for good measure have its former Finance Director in remand for the colossal fraud of FFSL funds. So much so that the Minister of Sports exclaimed in a Media Conference, the ‘Arbudaya’ that is plaguing Football House and his intent to finally do something about it.

The media has been full of comment for a long time about corruption in sport. May we add that the politicisation of sport has now reached endemic proportions? Virtually nothing gets done without a nicely concealed political gundu or slick intervention with the Minister himself, the arbiter of all evil. To him goes the gauntlet of putting right shot selection in cricket, bad mauls in rugby, poor line calls in badminton and often enough the penury state of some of our national stars. To him and him alone go all these woes as if there is no one else in the Ministry of Sports (MOS) capable of resolving the major or minor vices that beset our sporting arenas.

So much so that the normally suave Minister said that he will appoint an interim committee if the current SLC administration did not get its act together. In the case of badminton, he took it upon himself to fly and mediate with the World Body to let our shuttlers make the trip south of the planet and compete in the Commonwealth Games. And so he steps in as genially as possible, whenever and wherever he is needed; the one man show goes on!

Recent media has been awash of a top drawer NOC candidate who claims he will address corruption in sport. Tall order and a mandate that will be difficult to deliver, given the Machiavellian state of our sports affairs! This is indeed an opportunity for the MOS to converge and push for a clean-up of all sports; go back to the drawing board, rewrite the sports law if necessary, introduce a code-of-conduct and work with other government and non government agencies (such as the Auditor General Dept) to work in unison to facilitate a homogeneous approach to a national discipline we all yearn for so desperately. This may also be an opportunity to open-up a direct dialogue with IOC and other world bodies such as IAAF, FIFA, ICC and others to delineate how the MOS intends to work with these international sports organisations and remove the areas of conflict that arise due to divergent constitutional structures. The fact that MOS funds our sports federations must not be the over-riding criteria for governmental interference. Most of the elite sports bodies do not necessarily require government funds; what it requires is careful supervision and close rapport with the international bodies. To do this effectively, the MOS must move from its archaic predisposition and acquire a modern management approach to how sports is administered.

The digression from football was deliberate, because it serves to describe the national mindset. Having left football to stew in its own misery for a long time, the MOS will resort to a better late than never somewhat sympathetic response to what has been a ambivalent attitude to a popular well endowed international sport. But the football community will take that; anything that would let the MOS address the Arbudakari thatwaya that prevails in football.

Merely hiding behind majority votes (in the guise of democracy) is an outdated paradigm. Everyone in football knows how for more than 30 years an illusionary grand leadership ran Football House. Its successors have been no better, simply following the pied piper and attempting to outdo the jingoistic of the past. The leagues are mere pawns in this charade that goes on and on. FIFA will play ball because it is driven by a system that perpetuates power at the apex. What the MOS can do is threefold;

A) appoint an Advisory Committee (as it did for cricket) to study FFSL performance and recommend steps that can be taken to achieve certain goals; i.e. finalists at SAFF Championships in 2018, etc!

B) Appoint a special team to monitor the status of the recent fraud which it is understood is now being investigated by the proper authorities, as well as the subject of a forensic audit. The MOS should post up-to-date information on its website so that the football public is kept regularly informed.

C) The MOS representative who sits (or should sit) on the FFSL Ex Co must report monthly to the Minister and the MOS hierarchy of what transpires at FFSL. A copy of this report can be shared with FIFA so that transparency prevails and anyone can see whether the FFSL conforms to its declared goals and monthly targets. The eye-wash at AGM’s and stage managed functions to impress dignitaries is where we must now say, enough is enough!

Very soon the World Cup replica will come our way. Let us thank Coca Cola for that even if we they have not done anything of value for football in Sri Lanka so far! The Minister will no doubt hand over the trophy to HE the President in a blasé of glory (some might think we won the cup!) and the media will sound the bugle. That’s nice and we will celebrate too but it would be nicer if we can coyly suggest to Coca Cola that they undertake a serious programme for Football in Sri Lanka. That will make much more sense or the arbudaya in Football will be something the Minister of Sports will have on his head for a long time to come!


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