Mohammed Amanullah — the return of the prodigal

by Gamini Perera
‘The return of the prodigal’, is an apt way to mention the lifting of the life ban on Mohideen Mohammed Amanullah, one of Sri Lanka’s foremost strikers.

The life-ban inflicted on the former Sri Lanka football captain was lifted in February, 2002 on the recommendation of the Executive Committee of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL).

The 32-year old, Amanullah, better known in football circles as ‘Ama’, was suspended for life by the FFSL last year for allegedly assaulting referee A. M. Yapa in Ratnams’ Premier League match against Saunders.

The suspension, was historic, as it was the first time in the history of local football a player was banned for life.

Amanullah, made an appeal to the Tournament Committee of the FFSL to re-consider the life ban and the committee, headed by Manilal Fernando decided to relax the earlier penalty of a life ban to an year’s ban.

As the one-year period had subsequently elapsed, Amanullah was available to play for his club, Ratnams SC in the local tournament.

Observation period

However, Amanullah will be serving an year’s observation period, and if he is found guilty of a similar offence during this one-year period the life ban imposed on him will automatically come into effect.

It must be stated, that the FFSL had lifted the life-ban on ‘Ama’, despite strong objections from the Football Referees Association, a source for the FRA told ‘The Island’.

According to FFSL sources, the relaxation of ‘Ama’s ban came after the Ex-Co had made a careful scrutiny of his past record over the past five years. The source said that during this period, ‘Ama’ had been shown only two yellow cards which proved that he was a well-behaved player on the field of play, until the time he had allegedly assaulted referee, Yapa.

On the decline

In an off-the-cuff interview with this writer recently, Amanullah said: "It is true that the standard of football in Sri Lanka is on a sharp decline. The FFSL doesn’t have to take the rap on this decline. They are trying their utmost to remody matters".

"Many South Asian countries have employed the services of foreign coaches to strengthen their respective national teams. The latest methods introduced by these foreign coaches have certainly given the sport in those countries a tremendous fillip", Amanullah said.

‘Ama’ reminded that the last occasion Sri Lanka had won a gold medal was in 1995 when they emerged champions in the Bristol SAARC Gold Cup championship which was held in Colombo.

M. M. Amanullah, on that occasion, was awarded the ‘Best Player of the Series’ award.

"During the period from 1993 to 1995, our national football team came under the watchful eyes of the two Brazilians, coache Jorge Ferreira and trainer, Marcus Ferreira. They must be given their due, whatever some arm-chair critics have to say", said the former national captain.

According to Amanullah, the reasons for the victories under the Brazilian coaches was the manner in which they inculcated the latest ploys and methods of modern day football, to suit our demands.

Commenting on our own local coaches, some of whom had undergone training abroad, Amanullah said, "Not that we are craving for foreign coaches. But, over the years they have proved that they possess that extra bit of wiz and know-how to steer the respective teams they coach, to the path of victory and sheer dominance".

In constant training

"If you take a closer look at the football teams in the Asian region, you will find that all the national teams under foreign coaches have been in constant training, even when they have no major competition to participate. In our case, it is quite different. The national football pool is summoned to a camp, sometimes not even for a residential camp, with hardly two months to go for an impending championship. This sort of training, like a bolt from the blues, does not pay any dividends, whatsoever. For this sad state, one cannot direct the blame solely on the FFSL. Large sums of money is needed to have a national team under constant training. Maybe the FFSL lacks this sort of finances for this purpose. That’s why I say that the entire blame cannot be levelled at the Federation", stated ‘Ama’.

Commenting on the activities of the Federation, Amanullah stated that people like Mr. Manilal Fernando are trying their utmost to resurrect the sport from the pitiful state it had fallen into.

"Football, certainly is the best crowd puller and the most popular sport in the world. But, here in Sri Lanka, football is played by the under-privileged segment of the country. At school, I played good cricket, but I chose football as a career, because of the glamour and the excitement of the sport. But, woefully football in Sri Lanka is treated in a rather step-motherly way, by those who crave for cricket. You can’t blame them because at cricket, Sri Lanka emerged as World champs", Amanullah admitted.

"Every dark cloud, they say, has a silver lining. Let’s not be shaken or disappointed. One day, sooner or later, football will become the ‘King of Sport’ in our land. That day is nearing", proehpsised Amanullah. Mohideen Mohammed Amanullah, it seems certainly had left and forgotten his ‘bad-boy’ image.

Let’s give him an opportunity to put Sri Lanka in the forefront of Asian Football.

He can achieve it, with the wealth of experience he possesses.