The national Football trials were held for Northern and Eastern Provinces separately by the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) in order to pick the players for the Sri Lanka National Team.
The Sri Lanka team that did not take part in any international matches in almost two years, is in their worst FIFA ranking position of 200.
In such a situation, as the first step to make developments on the national team, the FFSL made plans to make many advancements in Football in Sri Lanka of which, appointing former National Captain Nizam Packeer Ali as Head Coach was one.
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The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF Championship) will be held in Bangladesh from 4th to 15th September, and is going to be the first tournament Sri Lanka will be participating under Packeer Ali’s training.
To choose the pool for the tournament, trials were held from 26th February at several stages. There were two trials conducted in North & East with the North trial being held at the Ariyale Training Complex, Jaffna while the East trial was held at the Weber Stadium, Batticaloa.
Though there has been a vast improvement and to a certain extent, dominance from the North and East players in Football during the last few years, the participation for the trials were less than expected. Jaffna only had 15 participants while Batticaloa had around 36 players.
After the completion of these trial camps for the two provinces, Packeer Ali and National Team Manager Sunil Senaweera shared their views with ThePapare.com;
“If you take Colombo players, they are excelling in technological matters. They have great trainers. But the love that they (footballers in the North and East) have is amazing meanwhile Colombo players are not that kind. Though these players have fewer skills and technical knowledge, the young players here play very diligently,” Senaweera expressed.
Senaweera, who has experience in refereeing in International Football matches said the FFSL will take steps to improve the technical aspects of the North and East players.
“The players in the outer-districts can not become the best players without progressing in technical aspects. From next month, we are looking forward to organizing C & D certificate course for school teachers and football trainers here to train them. By bringing up a course like this in to action, we can create good trainers, which will bring up some quality players in the next five years,” he added.
Players from Western, Southern and Central Provinces are trained at school level (at a younger age) and have a good support system from schools and parents. But, in most places like North and East, there is no such thing happening.
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However, compared to the Eastern Province, the Northern Province has been slightly progressive, especially in Jaffna. It is evident from the fact that some of the Northern Province players are playing with professional clubs in the Dialog Champions League, Sri Lanka Premier Football Tournament.
“If we call North and East players for selections in Colombo they will have difficulty in speaking in Sinhala or English. In addition, the climate in Colombo is different. That’s a problem for them. So, we and Football Federation decided to come to the Northern and Eastern Provinces to conduct the trail camps,” Packeer Ali mentioned on the reasons behind having exclusive trials in North & East.
“But what’s worrying for us here is that football players, though they have a lot of interest in football we don’t find quality and proper football in them,” he added.
“During the time I played (for the National Team) there were some great football players from Jaffna and Batticaloa. I was expecting the same quality players would still be there. We must do something about the technical knowledge the players have.”
Packeer Ali too expressed the same sentiments as the National Team Manager, that the young players of the North and East should be trained under knowledgeable and good coaches.
“The football coaches here must be gathered as a team and we should teach them the things of the present football world. While doing so they will lead the players here in good way,” Packeer Ali said.
He added that the selectors will visit the major football matches in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and if they find out talented players there, they too will be included to the National Pool.
“We are in 200th place in the FIFA rankings. This is a very worrying thing. So, we should try to improve our team from this position. This is not a thing just a few of us can do. This requires a coordinated effort from administrations, players, parents, trainers, schools and media. That’s how we can achieve that,” he said.
What we all can agree on is the high interest levels in football from the North & East players. However, the trials and the selections process would have made them understand that there is a lot to learn to shine at higher levels.
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The players in the North and East will have more opportunities to be included in the National Team if only the players, clubs, schools, parents, the respective officials and the Football League members take an effort to advance and improve the football in those areas.
What are your suggestions to improve football standards in North and East Provinces? Comment below.