Coach Ferreira on Lankaís football
by Gamini Perera
We have already met Syria and who will be our future opponents?
Iíll base my answer on the preparations and prevailing standards of our opponents, including Syria to whom we lost recently.
Syria: They had four senior players, currently playing in the Greece professional tournament. Two are playing in Kuwait, also on a professional basis. Another is playing for a Lebanon professional club. Syria played three preparatory matches before meeting Sri Lanka in the qualifying round. Against Saudi Arabia, Syria drew the first match 1-1 and lost the second, 1-2. Against a team from Lebanon, Syria won both matches 1-0, 2-1. They also beat the African champions, Zamalac FC 2-0 and 3-1.
United Arab Emirates: Sri Lanka will meet UAE in two matches in Dubai on November 18 and 22, 2003. In preparation for that they have already played matches against Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Qatar. More will follow, I presume. The majority of the team plays for Al Alain FC, which two weeks ago won the prestigious AFC Champions League tournament. They have qualified on four occasions for the Asian Cup in 1987, 1991, 1995 and 1999. UAE played in the World Cup final round in Italy in 1990. Its under17 team played in the junior division of the World Cup 1991 and the under 20 World Cup in 1997. Some of these youngsters are in the present national team.
Turkmenistan is another formidable country in our group. Five of the national players are playing in the Russian Football League. During its preparation period, the Turkmenistan FA sent its coach to watch matches in the UAE, to video them and show it to his nationl team. Turkmenistan beat UAE in a preparatory match, 1-0 in Turkmenistan. The present temporature there is 3oC.
Sri Lanka play Turkmenistan on November 9 and 12, in Turkmenistan. In comparison, our opponentís preparatory scheduled of the Asian Cup 2004 was: we played against the Under-17, Under-20 and the Under-23 pools. Four practise matches were played at the Sugathadasa Stadium, as the Stadium grounds was heavily booked. Prior to these matches, Sri Lanka met Chinese Taipei and East Timor in the first round and won both matches.
I must say that all the facilities now under the Football Federation will be used more for future footballers. For example, the training centre at Baddegana is still under construction and I am told that it will be opened in April, 2004. In comparison, the Sri Lanka team, I handle gets the lowest benefits when compared to UAE and Turmenistan. The national team of Sri Lanka is like the national team of Palestine and they, too, have no matches being played at home. May be due to the war and why doesnít Sri Lanka play exposure matches at home.
Why are people unhappy?
When this same team qualified for the second round of the Asian Cup, 2004, the officials, fans and the general public were extremely happy. It is the first time that a national team from Sri Lanka had qualified for the second round of this premior AFC conducted championship. The second round was a huge experience for my team. From what I had said earlier, it should be understandable why Sri Lanka failed in Syria. I believe that there is a literated football crowd in Sri Lanka, who will understand the true position, at least now. Comparing our structure with that of the Syrian football structure is an insult. Although Manilal Fernando has made vast contributions towards the development of football in Sri Lanka, the time is still not opportune to make the Sri Lanka football team competitive at very high level of Asian football. I hope that Mr. Fernando will continue his efforts towards the development of the sport. The youth programme has just started and the Premier League is still in the amateur stage.
All this indicates to the point that we need patience and plenty of hard work to join the Asian Professional football nations like, Middle East, Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Iran, to name a few. I donít take the opinions of people seriously who clamour to have a new set of national players, every two years.
After my father George left I have dropped many a veteran player and substituted new players to keep up the side. Players like, Roshan Perera, G. P. C. Karunaratne, Anton Womback, K. M. Kabeer, Mohammad Amanullah, M. Naushad, Ananda Kumar, M. Hashim Deen, M. Haniffa, Anura Sampath were those who played under my father, George. Who is there, who thinks that he has the knowledge and the know-how to give instructions as to say how long can a player play and when a player is considered old? Ronaldo began his football career at the age of 17 and now he is 26. I assure you, that Ronaldo will play till he is 34.
Opinions of critics
I was even made to understand rumours that the team is too old and some good players have been left out on the tour of Syria. Just to make a parallel comparison, the age of the players in the present Brazilian national team and the present national team of Sri Lanka are roughly the same. I had to leave players like, Imran Mohammed, K. M. Anees, Janaka, due to injuries. Goal-keeper, Sadun Devinda, had a problem to get a release from New Radiant SC Maldives, where he is playing at professional level.
To a question whether Marcos is happy and contended to coach and train the national football team of Sri Lanka? he answered.
"Oh! yes. I am very happy that I am coaching a national team at this age. I have no problems with anyone or with anything. Everything is going well. Patience can remove mountains. The day is high when Sri Lanka football will enter that slot.
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