The coronavirus pandemic has paralysed sports the world over but it may have come as a blessing in disguise for football in Sri Lanka with new head coach Amir Alagic producing a four-year ‘Master Plan’ during the lockdown which could change the face of the sport in the country. Even as the national team prepares [...]


Alagic to impose European style football in Sri Lanka from grassroots


The coronavirus pandemic has paralysed sports the world over but it may have come as a blessing in disguise for football in Sri Lanka with new head coach Amir Alagic producing a four-year ‘Master Plan’ during the lockdown which could change the face of the sport in the country.

Even as the national team prepares for the 2022 FIFA Doha World Cup Asian qualifiers with a return to training after a three-month hiatus tomorrow, Alagic unveiled proposals targeting stakeholders in the sport to look at the bigger picture and make projections ten years ahead.

Despite arriving in the country in January, the Bosnian-born Australian national seems to be acutely aware of the politics afflicting sports in the country, even within the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) itself which has hindered tangible progress.

Having been entrusted the dual role of head coach and Technical Director of the FFSL, he wants the national team to have an identity like Brazil or Germany and for players to play with pride for the country irrespective of the result.

Just as Sri Lanka is known for its tea, he wants to profile the image of football in the country which he believes will be a boost for the tourism industry as well.

“I want the Sri Lanka anthem played in the camp daily. Players have to be proud to play for Sri Lanka. You have to give whatever you have, like in the war. This is the kind of feeling I want to give back to the players,” he said.

Basically he wants Sri Lankans to spring out of their ‘frog in the well’ mentality without dwelling on the past and harping on the present but to see where Sri Lanka football will be in ten years time.

A Liverpool fan and a professional coach who has plied his trade in Europe and Asia, Alagic is not afraid to impose the European style of 4-3-3 formation in Sri Lanka. He is also aggressively pursuing scouting of overseas talent – players with Sri Lankan connections to play for the national team.

He wants to impress authorities such as the Ministry of Education and the Sports Ministry that the seed of development has to be planted at the grassroot level, even willing to travel to Jaffna to spread his message.

Like a football messiah, he wants to engage in a diplomatic offensive by visiting embassies and drum up support for Sri Lanka football and also attract sponsors.

Above all he wants to bring all entities involved with football under the roof of FFSL and for Sri Lanka to have a national stadium for football.

“We can’t have different approaches. FFSL is supreme. We also need a reliable stadium so that fans will come and really support our national team,” he stressed.

His grand designs to make football a marketable sport in the country were revealed at a lengthy presentation he made during a press conference held at the Football House in Colombo on Thursday.

The Master Plan, National Curriculum for Football and Action Plan will be enshrined like a constitution once it is formally approved by the Executive Committee of FFSL.

He dismissed questions related to funds when the Sunday Times asked the FFSL president Anura de Silva whether they can afford to pay exorbitant sums for him and foreign support staff which may swell in the future.

“I am paid only one salary. When we are talking about development in certain countries, only experts can lead the process. These guys (FFSL) put the faith in me and the money is really irrelevant if you want progress,” said Alagic who has a UEFA Pro Licence.

“We saw potential in him. That’s why we wanted him to take over technical department as well. We have to find a way because there are local assistant coaches, national team to look after, etc. We are managing from the money we are getting from FIFA ad AFC,” said the FFSL president.

Alagic virtually feels Sri Lanka is playing rubbish football at the moment, the reason for languishing in the bottom of the pile in the FIFA rankings.

“Everybody knows how football is played in Brazil or Germany. Asking about Sri Lanka, nobody knows. They have different styles when they come to the national team. Any national coach has a big problem because they don’t know what to do. The players are also confused,” he said.

He wants to create a profile of players for certain positions to be competitive at the highest level.

“We are trying to open a new chapter in football by replacing the old structure. We want to create a winning strategy for Sri Lanka football. Corona is a hard situation for everybody but I am saying it is a blessing for Sri Lanka. With valuable time ahead we will be able to squeeze the gaps between us and so-called advanced countries. Everything starts from the bottom line,” he declared.

“Obviously we want to play attacking football. This is written in the national curriculum. What you want to do is learn from the best. I am coming from Europe. I want to implement the 4-3-3 system because it is popular in world of football with 78% of teams having achieved success,” said Alagic who was assistant coach at Werder Bremen in Bundesliga.

Alagic wants to impose this style from the grassroots.

“It is very easy because there is only tactical change. It is playing aggressively on the flanks with a false No. 9 to support the midfield. For kids starting from grassroots, it will be easy to understand what this is all about,” he said.

The problem in general in Sri Lanka, he says, is people talk only about today.

“I am laying down the foundation. We are not coming from the roof. We are coming from the bottom because obviously I don’t have anything in hand. I took over to fix the problems about the national team,” he said.

He claimed that before the viral outbreak, the national pool even adopted his style of play.

“You cannot impose anybody to run 15 kilometres if he is not able to do it. But they responded well. It is very fun for them imitating European style of play. They don’t have physical structure right now but we go step by step. That’s why I am not focusing result in these three games. I am focusing on performance,” he said referring to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against North Korea, South Korea and Lebanon.

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