Sri Lanka football moving away from a rotten system | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka football moving away from a rotten system

15 August, 2021
Jaswar Umar: ‘I will overcome the setback of not having an international stadium’
Jaswar Umar: ‘I will overcome the setback of not having an international stadium’

Almost two months after being elected to office, Football Sri Lanka (FSL) boss Jaswar Umar spelt out how he will implement his promises under his campaign slogan “Restart Football”.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Jaswar said he believes in infusing a new football culture in the country while making viable changes in the administrative procedure.

He is working indefatigably to set the platform to transform the game to reach great heights and in the process making some strategic plans to gear up the Junior and Senior teams which are scheduled to compete in many tournaments later this year.

While focusing on these areas, he is into making the all-important Constitutional amendments, which has been a longstanding issue that will eventually become a mandatory aspect of FSL’s future endeavours.

In these challenging circumstances he and his team of officials are striving hard to set up the domestic football calendar and as an initiative they looked into the grievances of the ten competing teams in the Super League which was the inaugural semi-professional tournament which was the brainchild of Jaswar. Subsequently, he has volunteered to pay the salaries of the local players and half the salary of the two coaches over the next four months.

They are looking at the possibilities of accommodating the players and the officials in a Bio-Bubble environment to resume the tournament by November.

Excerpts of the interview with Jaswar:

Q: It has been almost two months since you took office. How is the progress so far?

A: We are working almost all seven days of the week in the last two months to bring the most needed changes in the system. We have seen very good progress in our hard work. As a result, many internal changes, proper procedures and good governance practices are taking place. You can see visible changes in football administration in the next few weeks.

Q: It is a well known fact that the General Secretary position has a very hectic role. But now you are holding the top chair. How challenging is this position?

A: General Secretary (GS) work is generally an important role in the football industry. But what many people don’t know is that the GS of the FFSL, according to the current constitution, is a ceremonial position with very limited responsibility and authority. The powers were vested with a paid CEO in our Constitution. We are now changing our Constitution according to FIFA’s standards and then the position of a GS will become a challenging one.

Q: Some of the regular listed tournaments are still pending and the Super League, your own initiated tournament, is also halted halfway through. What are your plans to conclude it?

A: We have planned to resume the Super League in a glamour manner soon. We had to re-think the strategy with the sudden spike of the fourth wave of the pandemic. But, we will overcome the situation with the proposed Full Bio Bubble system. This will cost a lot of money, but as administrators we have to find ways and means to play the game. I am ready to invest in the Full Bio Bubble System in November this year so that everyone will be safe and football continues. With regards to other competitions, we will talk to all clubs and find a way to start by the end of this year.

Q: It is well known that most of the clubs are being drained right now due to various reasons. One of the reasons they claim is that the Super League has taken more time than planned. Do you agree with what they say?

A: I understand the hardships of the clubs. This is why we have supported them financially from time to time to protect the clubs. We will also continue to protect them in every way to keep them in hope for survival in these extraordinary times.

Q: For the first time in the history of the game, you have come forward to pay the local players from the 10 clubs. How confident are you to deliver this and how do you generate funds?

A: The whole purpose of creating the Super League was to create more professional football players. When the teams are struggling during adverse economic situations, it is our responsibility to protect the interests of players and keep them in football at a professional level. I am happy that I took this bold decision, so that players will remain professionals with the club during the season. I am not ready to dilute the concept and objectives of the Super League.

Q: By the end of next month, the National teams (junior and senior) have a busy schedule. What are your plans to gear up for that?

A: The Senior team will take part in the SAFF championship in the Maldives from October 1 to 13 this year. Likewise, the U-23 team will take part in the AFC championship from October 27 to 30 in Doha, Qatar. Both teams will undergo residential camping separately by the end of this month. We are looking at better preparatory arrangements now and looking forward to doing well in these competitions.

Q: It is said there is a move to hire a new coach. Have you decided on any person?

A: We have announced that our current head coach Amir Alagic will take up the Technical Director position soon after the Word Cup Qualifier and we will look for another coach for our Senior team. Until we find the right candidate, Amir will continue to prepare the team. He has a lot of abilities to support our development technically. He will remain in Sri Lanka and will help in setting up the technical strategy and pathways for the next generation of Sri Lankan players. There is a lot he can do at youth and grassroots level.

Q: Also we heard that there are plans to contract a coach for physical fitness as well. Have you decided on that?

A: Yes. We are in negotiation with a few handpicked fitness coaches internationally. This is an important position. We will try to bring down a suitable person at the earliest possible time.

Q: It is humiliating to note Sri Lanka does not have a fully-fledged stadium to host an international tournament?

A: This was one of the key reasons for the downfall of Sri Lankan football for the last two decades. Without a proper International Standard stadium, our players are not getting any opportunities to play quality football. On substandard pitches we can produce only amateur level players. None of the previous administrations paid serious attention to this matter. I will certainly build a state of the art national stadium during my tenure and that’s the legacy I will leave to this country when I hand over my seat to another President. I will change the landscape of Sri Lankan football. I can find out necessary investments to build this stadium if the government gives us a suitable land.

Q: How soon will your Constitution amendment be finalised?

A: Constitutional amendment was one of the key issues in my manifesto and 80% of the work is completed now. We had four rounds of discussion with FIFA and AFC. We have to adjust a few Articles in line with our Sports Law. Then we are ready to adopt the same at a Special Congress.