Football is known to be the poor man’s game, but today the game has become poor in Sri Lanka. Literally it means that the standard has dropped to such low levels that even a country like the Maldives, with such a small population, is beating Sri Lanka.
Gone are the days when the Sri Lanka Football Association, as it was known then, was poor and could not afford to support the players even with proper diet so that they can sustain their nutrition. Even with those poor facilities the standard of football in the 60’s and 70’s were high enough to win at international encounters. That was the time when the national team consisted of nearly 50 percent of Muslims, whose diet consisted of a high level of protein.
Whenever a tournament is held among the schools teams it was always the Muslim schools that emerged victorious and carried the main trophies. This is happening even today, but the national team has only one or two Muslims in the team.
Reyyaz Salley, who is the son of a veteran football administrator, has made several observations regarding the development of the game in Sri Lanka says that the new Sports Minister, who maintains an unblemished record, should see that all sports bodies carry out their responsibilities in a clean, just and enthusiastic manner.
“The minister should appoint an Interim Committee to the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL), like he did for cricket, and appoint a committee to probe the manner in which the Federation has handled the finance these past ten years or so,” advised Salley.
“The world governing body for football Fifa, has been pouring out money to Sri Lanka from the previous administration in Sri Lanka onwards but the game continue to drop in standard. The Maldives are improving because they have employed a foreign coach and their players are well nourished,” observed Salley.
Salley says that Fifa are giving Sri Lanka millions of dollars for the development of the game but nobody knows what is happening to the money and how it is spent. Even Fifa president Sepp Blatter has honestly expressed his dissatisfaction with the progress made by FFSL.
“There is large scale mismanagement of funds at FFSL and the minister should intervene and probe the irregularities that are taking place at FFSL,” said Salley.
Salley’s father was a dynamic secretary of the Colombo League and looked after his players with the little funds they were able to raise through friends and well wishers.
“I remember when my mother cooked soup for the players and gave them other nutrients. Those were the days when the players complained about lack of funds to give them the necessary nourishment,” said Salley.
“But today the FFSL is getting so much funds from Fifa the players cannot complain about not being looked after. The FFSL should look into the expenses of junior teams and send them overseas to participate in tournaments,” advised Salley.
Salley also reminded that there are many past national players who are willing to share their knowledge and administration skills who are ready to join the administration stream, but those at the top are keeping their favourites to obtain their support at the time of elections.
One such past national captain is Anvar Ameer who is every willing to join up with the administration team and is waiting to be called up. Ameer entered the national team as an 18-year old schoolboy and played for many years and even led the team. He was once a selector and advisor on skills development set up at the Federation but now he is a forgotten man.