Football is popular all over the island but not in Kandy

The Kandy Association Football League (KAFL) is 91 years old. Both football lovers who served as officials and players say that football at present is not what it was at one time. The game over here is as good as dead.

Football in Kandy traces back to a history of over 150 years. KAFL was formed in 1925. KAFL is one of the founder members of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) (earlier known as Ceylon Football Association).

Kandy had one of biggest leagues with over 40 teams. At present, the people who are involved administrating Kandy football don’t know its history. Now only a knockout tournament is played in Kandy.

The FFSL made a big show in Kandy saying Kandy will get a modern football stadium at Dangolla. The FIFA laid the foundation stone. Now nearly 18 months have lapsed but nothing has happened. It is a pintsized ground. How they plan to put up an international stadium brings doubts to the minds of football lovers. Football is in doldrums over here in Kandy. This is mainly due to the alleged mismanagement of affairs by the controlling body which greatly lacks interest in promoting football in the hill country.

A look back into Kandy football reveals that the sport in Kandy had its origins in the mid 1920s. This was during the 2nd World War when the British Units were stationed in Kandy. Onetime Commander in Chief of Allied Forces in South East Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten had his headquarters in the hill capital and played the game.

One should remember how football came here. To know and appreciate the growth and development of football in Sri Lanka, it is necessary that one knows even briefly the history of the game.

The Colombo Association Football League was formed at a meeting held in the Bristol Hotel, Colombo on April 4th, 1911. H. French was elected President with H. K. Crosskey as Secretary.

However, as a result of the World War in 1914, this body understandably became inactive and ineffective. After a lapse of nine years, the CAFL was revived and re-constituted in 1920 under the amended name, Colombo Football League. Herbert Dowbiggin was elected as President and H. French as Chairman. In 1924 Sir John Tarbet, that evergreen sportsman, became its President and contributed immensely to the promotion of the game. Some years later Manilal Fernando took on the mantle of administration and gave his best for the game.

A few years back, the controlling body’s President Sarath Weerasekara messed up Kandy football. In a surprise move the hard working committee was dissolved and a new committee was appointed. From that day, they have failed to complete a single tournament in a proper manner.

Today, football is not much heard of in Kandy. An English football coach who visited Kandy, after watching rugby recently told this writer that when he was here some years ago, football was the most popular sport in Kandy. But today, instead rugby is more popular. Who is to blame?

Football has apparently hit rock bottom. Kandy won the All Island Senior and junior League championship for the first time under the presidency of B.M. Liyanage and H. Marikar. With this win Kandy toured Nepal. It was the first ever Kandy team to go overseas. What the controlling body should do is to appoint an interim committee and run football in Kandy until it is properly organized. They should obtain the support of those who have done great service to this game in the past.

In the FFSL’s premier league competition now on, it is sad to say that no team from Kandy is participating. Holding office for prestige is not what is required now. People must come forward and serve football. Today, most officials holding office are only keen on coaching and refereeing for financial benefits. If football in Kandy is to improve the controlling body must put the leagues on the correct path.