In our KornerKick feature in November 2018, we made a plea for resurgence in Youth Football without which we thought the future of Football in Sri Lanka will be destined to a bleak future. It is apparent from recent reports that Youth Football is the last thing on the minds of our FFSL big wigs [...]


Sri Lanka Football – Fat Cheques for some but no hope for poor kids!


It's become a strange affair of love and hate for the two FFSL heads -- former head Rodrigo (L) and the incumbent De Silva

In our KornerKick feature in November 2018, we made a plea for resurgence in Youth Football without which we thought the future of Football in Sri Lanka will be destined to a bleak future. It is apparent from recent reports that Youth Football is the last thing on the minds of our FFSL big wigs whose preoccupation appears to be globetrotting, periodic tamashas and lining one’s pockets, if the grim exposure in the ST column last weekend was anything to go by. The largesse this time around had official sanction by its Ex Co. Very convenient indeed to keep that halo of approval in place when there is a need to put the finger into the till. In a previous column, we made reference to a similar sleight of hand by the then CEO which a VP at the time reported to the Ministry of Sports (MOS) as well as the FFSL Ex Co, but like many other rigmaroles, the rank chicanery was swept under the carpet.

What was mind-blowing however, were the remarks attributed to the immediate Past President of FFSL, Ranjith Rodrigo. This potentate has held the reins of the FFSL treasury for a long time. If anyone should know the fate of the FFSL fund flows, it should be Rodrigo who held sway until his chosen successor took over the fortunes of FFSL. He has correctly and boldly stated that a Forensic Audit will lay bare what has transpired over the last several years. But what is obvious to many is the fact that the mismanagement funds that flow from FIFA and AFC is entirely overlooked and not probed. Neither is FIFA and AFC nor the MOS interested in ensuring that a robust fiscal management is put in place and a cost efficient financial structure introduced at all levels. Though it is claimed that Sub Committees and the Ex Co supervise these processes, those in the know will tell you that many who sit in these committees, do not know what they are talking about. The man who holds the aces simply plays the cards he wishes to use!

Which brings us to the convoluted effect is has on the National Youth Program. FFSL has miserably failed so far to bring the two Ministries of Sports and Education together to formulate an effective National Junior Program. Various school based tournaments are conducted at various times by OBU’s such as Zahira, Hameedia Al Husseina and St. Josephs, which are more popular than anything the MOS puts together. And so the carnival goes on. What many do not realise is that without a cogent hierarchical structure from U13 – U19 dovetailing into academies that feed top talent into the Junior and Senior National Pools, the sport is bereft of the critical resource to mould champion teams that can compete with the best in Asia let alone the world.

A lot of fanfare accompanied the advent of National Coach Packeer Ali who it is expected will produce the miracle of transforming our national squads into winning teams. But to do that he must have the raw material to work with! Everyone knows that this is no quick fix. Without a reservoir of young talent, that should flow from the schools, where will any national coach find the players to build teams of the future? Therefore it is here that the funds must be channeled into within a systematic process that is linked to results. Certainly not into the pockets of persons who come into office under the guise of honourary officials, but gravitate to the honey pot and deprive all those hundreds of poor kids who should be beneficiaries of well funded youth football programmes.

As it is, most of the better sportsmen from the schools are attracted to cricket and rugby while only a residual few are drawn to football. Parents do not encourage their children to take up football because they simply do not see a future for their children in that sport. This is to suggest, hard though it is to digest, that only those who do not find a place in cricket and rugby, end up in football. This may be somewhat different in rural areas but that brings to the surface, the economic challenge in theory at least, that only the poorer classes will be left playing football, underlining its perennial status as the poor man’s sport!

Last week we saw the romp of the Minister of Sport playing football on the First Artificial Turf (AT) in Sri Lanka. How very sweet! This facility was offered by FIFA somewhere in 2014 during the previous regime and planned to be laid at Pedris Park under a JV with the CMC. But that experiment did not materialise and the FFSL had no option but to place the AT four years later at the Baddegana Complex. Hopefully the refurbished facilities will help the national squads prepare better. While the Minister was there in his football boots and all, the FFSL top dogs should have told him about the other Football Centers languishing in different parts of the country which are a burden to FFSL. Funds are allocated to help maintain these white elephants, when these centers should be treated as profit centers generating much needed revenue.

And so the bandwagon roles on! It was politically correct for the Ministry team to win the match of course. No one would question the standard of the FFSL team in this cat and mouse fiesta displayed for public consumption. The football public waits with bated breath for the day Coach Packeer Ali’s national team takes the field. The poor kids of this island nation will have to wait until the uncles at Football House get their fat checks and fancy perks first. Only after that will they have any hope of a place in the sun and a ball to kick or a goal to score!

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