Sri Lanka’s loss to Hong Kong was first bad luck

by Gamini Perera
t was one of Hong Kong’s finest hours and Lanka’s worst nightmares. Needing only two goals to proceed to pound 3 of the 18th Olympic Games in August, 2004, Sri Lanka slumped to a 0-2 defeat before large and enthusiastic crowd on Wednesday, September 17,2003. Hong Kong showed that they were much stronger than us. But, Sri Lanka had a problem from a psychological point of view as they had only ten men from the 6th minute of the second half as T. R. W. A. Lesley (mid-fielder) was red card victim. He was also shown the yellow card by Malaysian referee, Kim Hong in the 28th minute of the first half.

As the game progressed, Sri Lanka were shown five yellow cards the offenders being Chatura Maduranga, Kumara Sanjeeva, Prasanna Samarajeeva, J. L. Gihan and Lesley. In comparison, Hong Kong was shown only one yellow card during the entire match.

Our game plan was to keep things on par until half-time and then apply the pressure in the final 25 minutes of play. But, Sri Lanka, playing before its own supporters and getting these rousing cheers all the way, proved to be over confident. Whereas Hong Kong had come with mixed feelings as told by team manager, Lup Phillip at the post-match press conference.

We came here with mixed feelings, after Sri Lanka lost to us 0-1 in the first leg in Hong Kong. We knew their capabilities and we had to adjust ourselves accordingly to forge ahead. It is unfortunate that Sri Lanka lost 0-1 better luck to their, next time, he said.

Important factors

In general, Sri Lanka played well but they most pay attention to the following factors if they are to match the top teams in the region.

* All the players in the Hong Kong team were members of first division clubs in their country, and have played at the highest level of competition in Asian football.

*5 They displayed good technique and tactical maturity and were able to play with confidence in tight situations.

* Hong Kong players showed a positive attitude and a high level of physical condition and speed, especially speed of anticipation and execution.

* The visitors further displayed nimbleness and delicate touches, whereas Sri Lanka showed precision in their passing. But, failed to find the net and missed three easy chances in the 4th minute (Azmeer) 10th minute (Azmeer) and the 18th minute (Gihan Janaka).

* The local goal-keeper lacked that most important anticipation and the cat-like vigilance on most occasions, especially, where the two goals were concerned.

Sri Lanka must take stock of above points and prepare for the future national team which can match the best in the South East Asian region.

To achieve this development process, we have to look into the following:

* A sound youth programme with quality coaching to build allround players who can defend and attack. Every period of a player’s development should be taken care of to produce a good finished product.

* A strong domestic competition between 20 and 30 competitive games each year, based on age.

* A good coaching system, selection process and training schedule, with regular training camps, at all stages of development.

* International exposure against a variety of opponents to make players more adaptable.

`95 A professional level is very vital, and the youth players should be trained so that they are ready to play first division football by the age of 18.

`95 To sum up, in the selection of players with proper co-ordination, especially in the younger age group as they learn the skills much faster.

`95 Goal-keeping is a specialised job and one can see the progress made in West Asia in this vital avenue. We need to emphasising on goal-keeping to reach the level of Sri Lanka’s goal-keepers in the past like, M. M. Hashim Deen, Lionel Pieris, Sherif, Sampson and Wilson to name a few.