After tasting just one win, from a forfeit, and five draws in 24 international games, giving away 65 goals and scoring seven and losing seven slots, from 200 to joint 205 in FIFA rankings, the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) replaced the self-proclaimed expert Nizam Packeer Ali with UEFA Professional Coaching License holder Amir [...]


Sri Lanka football desperately needs a Pro League – Alagic

Former Werder Bremen coach has a rich track record coaching elite clubs in Europe and Asia

From now on Sri Lanka is my team, said Alagic kissing the Lion Flag on the national jersey last Tuesday

After tasting just one win, from a forfeit, and five draws in 24 international games, giving away 65 goals and scoring seven and losing seven slots, from 200 to joint 205 in FIFA rankings, the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) replaced the self-proclaimed expert Nizam Packeer Ali with UEFA Professional Coaching License holder Amir Alagic.

An Australian citizen born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alagic has a rich track record as a coach spanning a career of over a quarter decade, but taking over the bottom-placed Sri Lanka side would be one of the toughest challenges he has undertaken.

After spending seven days with the members of the national football squad, getting orientated with the surroundings of the Sri Lankan methods followed, and learning deep on how the players are prepared for the upcoming three international challenges, Alagic was officially unveiled to the local media last Tuesday.

“Even if the president (of FFSL) is my father, if I don’t produce results, I will be out. To produce results, with the present available resources, I will not need much time, but the players do. We have a serious problem with football in this country. What I’m saying is Sri Lanka badly and desperately needs a professional league to elevate the standards of the players. Honestly, this national team (of Sri Lanka) is not a competitive unit at all. Rather than talking about results of the national team, the top priority is to create a professional league as soon as possible,” Alagic, an experienced coach with a craving to learn new methods in training, told local reporters.

When the outgoing head coach Packeer Ali took over the national side in February 2018, he too stressed similar sentiments, stating that he “cannot promise the stars and the moon, but can assure that the goal is to draw matches”.

Sri Lanka was experiencing a string of defeats before Packeer Ali’s takeover, yet even when he is replaced by Alagic, virtually nothing very much has changed with the fortunes of the national team’s international outreach. What Packeer Ali failed to implement was a solid foundation, though his intention was obviously clear as any coach at any level.

But Alagic, a more streamlined professional, objectively focused and a master in what he does, has a cemented plan to uplift the standards of the national side, while at the same time focusing to raise the status of the players at domestic level.

“I’m not a magician, the players are not magicians either. Sri Lanka, with a bunch of amateur players, cannot think of even drawing a game against a team of North or South Korea, where all are professional players. With what is around, everyone in Sri Lanka should really appreciate these kids for what they have done. But if all fall into place as I suggested, the destiny of these young players could change for good,” Alagic added.

A holder of UEFA Professional Coaching License, Alagic has been part of elite clubs from across Europe and Asia. He has coached clubs in Australia, Bosnia, Germany, the USA, Brunei, India, Oman and Sweden, and when Germany’s Werder Bremen lifted the UEFA Champions League in 2007 Alagic was the assistant coach. He also was the Head Coach of the Brunei National team and Bosnia Under-19 team. In Asia he has worked in the capacity of Head Coach at Radiant SC in Maldives and as the Academy Director of East Bengal SC.

“When you compare Sri Lanka and my native country Bosnia, there are similarities, both countries experienced war in the recent time. But with a history of 140 years of football, Bosnia was able to regain the lost status within 14 years, while in Sri Lanka we are in need of battling a war in football to uplift the standards,” he explained.

Alagic’s proposal of establishing a professional league was an initiative the FFSL planned out in early 2019, with a grant of US $ 500,000 from FIFA, but due to unknown reasons, the competition never materialised. The FFSL president, Anura de Silva assured that his administration is willing to kick-start the tournament, with a plan already in hand.

“We must have a plan for durations of one, five and 10 years, and a professional league in Sri Lanka is the ideal start. Soon as it kicks off, it’s about four steps where for one element you can spend a year. The four steps are stabilization, learning, improvement and results. Right now we are in the first phase and hopefully Sri Lanka can learn through the process and improve as a strong team.”

Alagic’s observation during the seven days reveals that Sri Lanka players only have the capacity to be competitive during 75 percent of the full duration. If at all, a professional team is an opponent, they have the ability to strike even during that phase and fully capitalise during the remaining quarter of the game and even hand the Lankans a heavy thrashing.

With the intention of breaking that trend, apart from stamina, mental and physical fitness and skill level of the players, Alagic hopes to start from the scratch, by introducing methods used by beginners in Europe and then take the players further gradually.

To further bolster the chances of fielding a well balanced team and come out with an improved performance prior to Sri Lanka’s games against North Korea on March 26, South Korea on March 31 and Lebanon on June 4 in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, the FFSL has initiated a plan to include foreign players with local roots. So far FFSL has attracted five of them from Europe and two from England are already in Sri Lanka.

In addition the FFSL is serious on transforming the coaching staff into a fully professional outfit. Alagic is guaranteed the services of overseas candidates for the positions of Goalkeeper Coach, Assistant Coach and Physical Trainer to complete his team, while his plea in return was somewhat practical.

“Please understand that this is your team, and from the moment I stepped into it, it’s my team too. What the boys need now is your patience, confident, support and constructive ideas. As the coach, it’s my duty to take the best out of the players, who are given to me and I will do it using my experience, while learning new things. Because football, like any other sport, is changing every now and then, and you need to adapt accordingly,” stated Alagic firmly.

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