As a mass sport across the country, Football touches the lives of so many, especially the poor folk of this island nation. Both Kochchikade and Negombo are popular Football centers and there is no doubt the Football community is closely linked to those affected by this calamity. They will, therefore grieve with families that lost their near and dear ones and stand with them in their hour of grief. It is indeed a time for all sportsmen/sportswomen in general and footballers in particular, to reach out to all those affected and help them reconnect to life with hope!
It is in this context that Football must rise above the narrow sewers of politics and the marauding decadence that racial abuse brings. British Football star Raheem Sterling has articulated the fact that racial overtones have no place in Football. But it is common knowledge that the evils of politics form an unholy backdrop in all sports, and Football is no exception. The sordid examples of the most powerful personalities in Football show us that the sport has been tarnished by these demi-gods, whose desire to control the destinies of the game in many continents, is not without blemish. It is indeed a credit to the sport, that FIFA has held those at the highest level accountable for gross misdeeds and banished even its top dogs. Sepp Blatter and Bin Hamman come to mind!
Football is a noble sport that is mired in commercial lust to no end! Big money and lucrative contracts influence the organisational superstructure and, while it attracts the best talent in the world, it also destroys the spirit of fair play, both on and off the field. People associated with the sport are initially attracted by a love for the game, which inevitably converts into greed and the grandeur of big bucks. Such is the smorgasbord of benefits, that Football officials clamor and inveigle themselves into the inner sanctums of national associations, in order to extend their stay and feather their nest at the cost of the sport.
The international Football structure, while it has stood the test of time, is not without serious shortcomings. The symbiotic interdependence of country Leagues with their Federations, and the Federations with their Confederations, ending up at the top of the pyramid with FIFA, produces amazing gyrations to remain and share power, all designed to stay in control over long periods of time. The largesse meted out to the corollary of officials, through poorly administered fund programmes, smacks of this grand subterfuge. Time and again, reforms and clean-ups have been undertaken, but the fact that, an equal vote for the top Football nations, as well as the menials at the bottom of the heap, provides enough leverage to demand an equal share of the cake. One often wonders, if the funds that flow from FIFA and its affiliate Confederations, cannot be based on strict performance. Instead, if these programmes are tied up in rewards for votes, then the perennial system of graft keeps bringing the bees to the honeypot. Football standards and mandates are quickly forgotten and the overriding top-of-mind clutch is a delinquent fund management process. Sure, there are basic criteria in place, but these are easily circumvented, contravening FIFA rules and the sports laws of individual countries.
We recently read how the powerful Kuwaiti Sheikh controls who gets to sit in the powerful AFC Ex-Co at the recent Asian Football elections. Maldivian delegate Mariyam Mohamed Didi lost her bid for a seat, falling foul of the power broker, who preferred the Bangladeshi Akhter Kiron instead. Select delegates were all hosted at The Kuala Lumpur Hyatt Hotel, in close proximity to the Ritz Carlton, where the AFC elections took place, so that they can be cajoled and browbeaten into following the dictates of those who wield enormous power and resources. Sri Lanka knows and plays its cards very well in this firmament. It has even learned a thing or two from these tycoons and so, when local football elections come, similar ploys are in play, as happened at the last hustings in Colombo. It may be naÃ¯ve to imagine that governance rules apply in the commercial whirlpool of modern Football pyrotechnics, in spite of what is preached by these international bodies. The watchdogs gaze helplessly, while subtle moves are played under their very noses. In Sri Lanka, the MoS is supposed to be the referee of that process, but has no clue as to how the ball moves. Slick League officials simply make a quick buck from both sides, when the going is good.
In the aftermath of the national tragedy that Sri Lanka is facing, we hear over and over again, how high officials have displayed a serious lack of accountability. That is nothing new. It happens all the time in the Football Administration and the governing international bodies and our very own MoS, simply letting the ball run its gauntlet, oblivious to the goals that we must seek.