Give our soccer the ‘GR treatment’ to revive it | Sunday Observer

Give our soccer the ‘GR treatment’ to revive it

13 September, 2020

As sports in Sri Lanka is gradually beginning to return to normalcy, we must not take things for granted and assume that things just happened. The discipline that President Rajapaksa brought into the country to control the spread of the Virus was the single reason that we are now able to breathe fresh air and resume our games, albeit with some ‘masked’ caution.

Taking a cue from this DISCIPLINE, we hope that the regimen will be applied to the administration and promotion of all sports with new vigor. We need the GR Treatment, in short! Soccer the most played sport in our country in hamlets and villages, has lost its pride of place due to weak administration and lack of support. And we look to the leadership of the country --from President, to the Prime Minister and to the Sports Minister and downwards to give soccer a boost.

To ensure this, sports administrators and governing bodies be it soccer, cricket, rugby, netball, basketball, track & field and every other sport should be given the GR Treatment to get their acts together or face the boot! For instance, in the good old days when the Ceylon Football Association Cup final was played it was former President Ranasinghe Premadasa who would grace the final as chief guest.

Premadasa was a football addict having as a youngster playing for Price Park Club in Pettah. He showed his prowess with both feet in the game and once in possession of the ball no opposing defender could stop him.

One remembers the game between the Parliamentarians and Municipal Councilors played at the Sugathadasa Stadium to a full house. Premadasa captained the Parliamentarians and showing his enthusiasm and skills like of old during his Price Park days scored the winning goal for his side.

When he received the pass, he showed his dexterity dribbling through many defenders and sending the goal keeper the wrong way to hit the net much to the jubilation of his team mates and deafening cheers from the spectators.

During his reign as President of the country he provided the much needed sponsorship for the game, because football being the neglected game, and yet the most played sport, badly needed funds for its promotion.

With his benevolence the game improved and so did the clubs and the players. Many tournaments were played and interest in the game was at its zenith.

Premadasa was not crazy about the game and its progress but was also a great disciplinarian. Once in a final between Saunders the glamour boys and Victory Sports Club where the excitement was fever pitched and Saunders won, it was alleged that some of the Saunders supporters in their excitement had broken the glass windows in the pavilion.

When the incident was brought to his notice, the President broke out into a frenzy, summoned PD Sirsena who was the live wire of Saunders and after inquiring wanted him to immediately suspend the club’s president. That was President Premadasa the strict disciplinarian for you.

With President Premadasa’s cruel assassination, football that received his monthly largesse went into neglect and so did the game that promised a renaissance during his time.

The Vantage Football Association Cup final this time between Colombo Football Club and Blue Stars lacked the luster associated with finals of old. That could be expected because of the prevailing dreaded covid-19 which has gone on to spoil many sporting events here and abroad with all games played behind closed doors and sans the all important spectator interest which makes games that much more interesting and inspiring the players.

The FA Cup final played saw the organizers the Football Federation of Sri Lanka allowing a few football fans into the stadium to soak in the action that was won 4-nil by the Colombo Football Club.

Watching the game on telly the standard of play and the excitement was not up to the mark of a prestigious final of this level. There were moments of brilliance, but it was few and far between.

Dribbling which was a fine art in the past and that sent spectators into raptures was sadly missing. Dribblers of the class of PD Sirisena, Judy Preena, Denzil Walles, Nithi Nicholas, A. Zainulabdeen, Edward Wickremasuriya, Ammanula and Roshan Perera were missing. Oh for players of that class. Today the game is based on the pass and run style.

In all football controlling bodies in the world playing the Football Federation Cup final is the most prestigious Cup played for and contested for in all pomp and pageantry by the two club finalists.

Many clubs contest this trophy playing fiercely contested football in the early rounds in an endeavour to play in the final which is played with nail biting interest watched by a full house of spectators who cheer wildly inspiring their club to victory because this is the show piece and the trophies of trophies to win.

The trophy on offer is a glittering one and the prizes awarded to the club are enormous and even the individual winners such the best player, best striker receive rich cash awards and till the next FA Cup comes around the winners are talked about and flaunt their plumes proudly.

In England especially when the FA Cup final round comes around there is frenzied activity not only by the clubs favourites to play the final, but supporters go crazy sporting their club flags all over the city and making one big din.

On the Cup final day the ladies of the respective clubs come in their best dressed as it was Derby Day in England. Every seat is booked at the Wembley Stadium where the final is kicked off and from the time the referee sounds the whistle the cheering is deafening for the 90 minutes of full play and if the final goes to extra time.

English soccer fans are known to get involved in fisticuffs when their country plays in tournaments abroad, especially the FIFA World Cup and it is no different when the English FA Cup is played.

In England the FA Cup final is held in such esteem that the King and Queen attend the final and the Queen gives away the main trophy to the winners and other individual winners. Let’s hope that a few years from now we can all look back to the revival of soccer arising hopefully from extraordinary support from the government and the discipline brought about through a leadership that makes no bones about the need for that revival.

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