Sri Lanka’s football monopoly shattered


Newly elected Sri Lanka Football (SLF) President Jaswar Umar is determined to change the sport landscape in the country and herald a new dawn to lift his declining popularity and collapse in the world rankings, after winning the first post by a thin margin of six votes.

“I am proud and humbled by the people’s choice,” proclaimed the 47-year-old former secretary who won one of the most contested elections in its history to become the 13th president of the SLF.

He did not respond to his prediction of at least 115 out of 186 votes, with 96 votes in elections held in Galle, Kandy and Polonnaruwa due to COVID-19 restrictions, to get ahead of rival Dr Manil Fernando .

“I firmly believe that people want to see a new dawn for football in Sri Lanka. For 30 or 40 years, the administration of football was controlled by a clique or a group. They were playing musical chairs. I don’t personally blame anyone for this. The system did not allow the right people to get elected. This is why we have started the fight to change the direction of football in Sri Lanka, ”said Jaswar after his historic triumph over a heavyweight and son of former FSL president Manilal Fernando.

A former Royal College footballer who took the whistle and became an international match commissioner, Jaswar may be the first FSL president to be elected out of the system, but he has his work cut out for him. one year to complete its programs previously. facing another election.

“It was not easy to fight against a formidable opposition. I believe I am the people’s choice. Even those who voted against me are contacting me. I am sincerely looking for everyone’s cooperation, ”he declared, without however inviting former FSL President Anura de Silva and the President of the FSL Medical Commission to sit in his administration.

“People gave me the mandate to change the landscape of football. It is a great responsibility that I will assume, ”he promised after taking office as FSL president at a ceremony held at Football House on Friday. He wants to reduce the number of FSL executive committee members from 28 under the previous administration. “My first priority is to change the constitution and introduce administrative reforms,” ​​he said.

He plans to “revive football” by bringing sport to rural areas and getting back to basics. “We have football but I want to go back to basics where football lost its momentum by taking the game to the villages. That’s where this game belongs, ”said Jaswar who garnered most of his votes in leagues outside of Western Province.

He felt that the 90 votes obtained by his rival Manil were perhaps a gesture of appreciation and gratitude for the legacy of his father Manilal Fernando.

“There are no more rivals now because I get calls from everyone. I will ensure that they are integrated into certain development programs. I will treat them on an equal footing without any political agenda. I think this is definitely my mandate, my chance, my opportunity. They will definitely see me as a different leader, ”said Jaswar who has a powerful team including former FSL chairman Ranjith Rodrigo as vice chairman.

The new football chief got the highest vote of confidence from European Pro-License coach Amir Alagic who transformed the Sri Lankan squad dubbed the “Golden Army” into a combat unit, as evidenced by the 2022 World Cup qualifiers (Asia) against Lebanon and South Korea.

“First of all, I’m happy with this change. It was absolutely necessary for Sri Lankan football because obviously the last management lasted too long without positive results. This is why we are 206th in the FIFA rankings without the youth leagues, almost nothing. It will be a big challenge for the new administration. I think we’ll spend another two years fixing the issues first and then start from there, ”said Alagic who pleaded for the public’s patience.

“Everyone should be patient in the country. Results cannot happen overnight. It’s a long process especially when you have a situation like the one we have. Number one for me is infrastructure. Work closely with the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education to establish grassroots football in the country. Someone should replace Sujan (Perera) and the members of the national team. We need the training of coaches. We got the approval for the “B” license course in Sri Lanka after so many years, ”he said.

“I’m bringing FIFA to Sri Lanka. Very soon, their technical department will visit us. Many positive changes are in sight. We need someone like Jaswar to come and start all of these processes. To reopen football to fans. Don’t keep a low profile like what the last management did, ”said Alagic, of Bosnian descent, who has worked in football for many decades.

“Unfortunately, I did not have a good relationship with the last management. But with Jaswar who is a very educated and very energetic person, we can certainly reach the top. I am sure Sri Lankan football will flourish after two years, ”he said.

Asked if he would have congratulated Jaswar if he hadn’t won the election, Alagic replied, “Everyone knows I have supported him even during the difficult times of the past six months. It’s not about Jaswar or anyone else. In football, it’s black and white. When you see that someone is educated, that someone is making clear decisions, that someone is very simple, that’s football. “

“I have worked extremely hard in my dual role with one salary in 16 months as Technical Director and National Coach. We are one of the few countries in the world to have improved the national team during a pandemic. We lost two games in Korea, but my assessment is that we are around 180 in the FIFA rankings, ”he said.

While he was unwilling to speak in depth about the national team, he was eager to prove that he had accomplished a lot with limited resources in a short period of time.

“We did a good job in South Korea, but this is just the start. It is not development. I think the national team needs two more years to be strong honestly. I also try to bring in foreign players to strengthen the national team, ”he said.

“We are waiting for the Super League to take off because for the moment, it is far from expectations. We can’t dream of a strong national team without a strong Super League because the Super League should produce the players, not me. At the moment, I am one of the few national coaches in the world who have to create the players for the national team. This is not normal, ”he said.

“If you look at South Korea or Lebanon, clubs create players. The national coach simply chooses the best, gives training and tactics on how to play. But here I have to do everything, ”said Alagic, who would like to devote more time to FSL’s technical service.

But the key to development is to make football a professional game.

“We have a Super League that’s kind of semi-professional. You can’t say it’s professional when we have so many officials, players and coaches who don’t win anything from football. Once all the players, club officials, secretaries, managers, referees have become professionals, then you can say it’s a professional league, ”Alagic said.

“I am the creator of the Super League. I will ensure that it is cultivated appropriately, ”summed up Jaswar who wants to chart a new course for Sri Lankan football.

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