Former president of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) Ranjith Rodrigo said that former national captain E.B. Channa was a good player and earned well, but mismanaged his funds. He made this observation at a media briefing held on August 31 at the Football House to express the plight of E.B. Channa the former national footballer who led the country and is now said to be digging graves for a living.
“For almost two decades, Channa had lived throughout dreaming the life that of a European footballer, but of late did he realise that it was just a dream. Eventually, according to his educational qualifications he had to end up as a labourer at the Dadella Cemetery in Galle, which is sad. It’s sad to see a prominent player, who has represented the country for years ends up this way, but I do not sympathise with him,” Rodrigo observed.
Channa has played for top clubs including Rodrigo’s team, Negombo Youth, Galle Youth, Old Joes, Pettah United, Negombo Jupiters, Ratnam, Solid SC, Super Sun and at present Blue Star SC. He also has played at top leagues in countries like India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Throughout his career, after beginning as an 18-year-old youth, and up to now, the 38-year-old seasoned footballer, Channa has earned immensely through football.
“Had he not played football he could have probably done what he is doing right now as a grave digger at 19. In a way he should be thankful to football for helping him survive and earn a great reputation, which he did not utilise properly and mismanaged all his income,” Rodrigo stressed.
Though football is a poor man’s game in Sri Lanka, episodes such as Channa’s case will only discourage parents from encouraging their sons to take to soccer, in the future.
“This is one of the reasons why middle and upper class families are reluctant to send their kids for football even as a recreational activity. They rather encourage them to be cricketers or rugby players,” he said while adding that competitions like Kotmale Chox under-19 Football Championship has managed to break that barrier to some extent.
“With what Channa has portrayed, the attempt taken by FFSL to promote this game among youngsters and schoolboys in all walks of life is pulled back by a step or two,” noted Rodrigo who is a Vice President of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).
Rodrigo is an administrator who has spent generously from his own funds to sustain his club merely for the love of the game. He has been running Negombo Youth for the past two decades and later the functioning of the Negombo League.
“It gives me great satisfaction to serve the game and become a provider for some 25 odd players at my club and more youngsters at my League. If not for me, football in Negombo would have simply got lost,” added a humble Rodrigo.
Now a vice president of the FFSL and a member of the Financial and Media committee, Rodrigo said that he serves all these positions in an honorary capacity and voluntarily spends his own funds, time and experience for football and does not expect anything in return. (TBR) EB Channa was not available for comment