I read with interest the allegations and comments made by the Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage regarding Sri Lanka football in which he emphasized was on a massive decline in the standard of football, lethargic attitude of football officials in the Federation and how funds sent by FIFA and other organizations were spent.
These are three important areas where I have pointed out and criticized on various occasions through the media but the officials of the controlling body showed no interest, no comments and no proper response whatsoever were shown to develop the sport. Now that the Minister of Sports has got seriously involved on the matter, the officials of the FFSL will have no option - either produce goods or perish.
I along with the soccer loving crowd of this country wish to praise the Minister for the bold statements made and the cause of action he intends to take in the near future. The whole nation is silently and anxiously waiting with the hope that he will resurrect Sri Lanka football and put it in the right place where it deserve to be. Recently when I met Sanjeeva Ranatunga the Sports Director - Sirasa I casually mentioned to him, that cricket has now become more popular in Sri Lanka than football. He interrupted me and said: No! It is football; it is still a crowd puller and a popular sport in the island.
The PA manifesto emphatically states that no one will be allowed to hold office in any sport body, unless he has played at the highest level. If there is indiscipline and corruption apparent among the participants, it is attributable to a weak administration i.e. those holding office, who have not played the game at top level. A couple of past footballers brought into the caucus for a mean price is only camouflage, if only the sport laws are strictly and rightly followed, most if those pretenders could be unseated.
Mr. Minister please do not allow any of the officials of the Football Federation to misguide you or take you for a ride while you diagnose the sickness where the whole game is hollow. With no prejudice, whatsoever, it is my humble view that Football is sadly lacking in men of caliber, competence, commitment and integrity at the base of the controlling body. Certainly we have enough talented young players and playing grounds in the country as you mentioned. We too have quality coaches, knowledgeable and competent administrators in our country who are able to guide and develop football from the grass-root level. May I humbly suggest to the Minister of Sports to kindly consider appointing a Competent Committee comprising reputed and knowledgeable personalities, who have played the game, to probe this episode and submit a comprehensive report on the following:
a) The technical qualification and competence of the officials in conformity with the sport.
b) To initially asses and report on the performing standards in comparison to Regional and Asian Standards.
c) Playing experience and qualification of national football coaches.
d) Report on the financial aspects - funds received and how it was spent by the FFSL.
e) To re-activate those football leagues through-out the island
f) Immediate take steps to meaningfully resurrect school and football playgrounds.
g) Development of youth football.
h) Short and long term programmes - to build up the national teams.
The situation though grave, is not totally hopeless. If only the Minister of Sport could implement the above-mentioned programmes as a matter of urgency, we could have some hope for the sport in the years ahead.
In conclusion, I wish to mention that the whole nation will be grateful to you if you could lay both the administrative and technical parameters which are so outdated and outmoded. As a young Minister, we are confident that you have the courage, energy and power to put the country’s football on the right track.
(* The writer is a former national football captain and cational coach)