Football House days of playing 'pandu', on the skids
Looks like even the much- heralded super coach Pakir Ali cannot revive the fortunes of Sri Lanka (SL) Football. While his colleagues at Football House play hostage to the oneman think tank who dreamed up the Vision 2030 plan that would have kept him and his cronies in clover for another 12 years, the fault lines have been evident from day 1. Recent newspapers highlighted the stupendous sleight of hand around the last few audit reports, with affidavits being thrown around like confetti. Everyone knows that one lie requires another and another to cover up those expressions of untruth. So it appears that the sorry saga of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka ( FFSL) and its financial dribbles has finally come unstuck. And the Referee, the Minister of Sports (MoS), is reaching for his Red Card!
Everyone knows that the Ex-Finance Manager who was everyone’s darling for quite a while, calmly transferred a sum in excess of Rs 25 million from under the very noses of the people at the helm. But those who have associated with the FFSL over the years, know only too well that holding office in Football House is more often that not, linked to the funds that roll unceasingly from FIFA and AFC. This largesse is what draws the bees to the honeypot. Those who talk of blue chips and international licenses, without an iota of integrity or fair play, are the very people who excel in moves that plant them in office and provide them the avenues to spirit away funds that should go to redeem this sport from the nadir to which it has fallen.
The powers that be, both local and international, have been very kind. Even stuck at # 201 in global ranking, lowly SL is interwoven into the fabric that keeps this behemoth intact. This we saw in the recent AFC election, where SL was compelled to vote against the very policy of the State, prompting the MoS to call for an explanation from the FFSL hierarchy. The argument that the vote to let nominations come from outside one’s country, which the AFC pushed hard to pass, could have let SL abstain without causing any ripples. It is not normal for FIFA and AFC to penalize those who don’t tow the line, though SL has suffered from the strong arm of the Football family during the Blatter era! Instead, our delegation practised solidarity with the godfathers because bonuses and personal rewards are inexorably linked to such gravitas!
And so, our MoS is left embarrassed and will no doubt receive ample supplications to look the other way and keep the ball in play! No harm indeed, because SL now settles for morsels, when we once walked with kings. But the big- ger issue is the overall game plan for SL Football. Where does it go from here? Football watchers have repeatedly called for an Interim Committee (IC) to correct this sad state of affairs. But consecutive MoS’ have been afraid to go where angels fear to tread! Therefore, where does the current MoS look, to help him carry this burden, when the powers that be have left this popular sport in a quagmire from which it cannot extricate itself.
There is hopefully one last resort, if the MoS chooses to allow Cricket to look after itself for a while and spend some time playing Football. There have been reputed people in the past, who have served SL Football with honour. One such person is Ranjith Pandithage who was a member of the IC under DIG Navaratnam. Those were the halcyon days of the sport and though, big dreams were not high on the agenda, honesty and decency was the order of the day, with realistic plans systematically put into place. There were others such as V.K. Arumugan of CFA fame, Dr. C. D. L. Fernando from Kandy, Top Referee Perimpanayagam and the indefatigable Sports Ministry Secretary, Siri Gunasekera who brooked no nonsense, when it came to the fundamentals of organized Football.
At a minimum, the MoS should set up a Commission of Inquiry to examine what has and is taking place. It is good if we can work with the FIFA and AFC to avoid any conflicts of interest and come up with a plan that will resurrect SL Football. Otherwise, Vision 2030 will be a blur and only a capricious, poorly thought out long term plan of action. While FIFA and AFC is pushing its writ, the FFSL has still not got its Constitutional reforms based on a model offered by FIFA to its Member Associations. So, merely stumbling along with a National sport devoid of concrete development pro - gramme is an indictment that the FFSL cannot avoid any longer. A Red Card will only bring the game to an inglorious standstill, and worldwide disrepute, but it is, perhaps a necessary evil!
Where does football go from here - Anura de Silva (L), the FFSL President and Minister of Sports Faiszer Musthapha (R) have met quite often in the recent weeks to discuss on policy matters, but the game is in a state of instability