The final 23-man squad for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship Qualifiers was announced by the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL).
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Sri Lanka is slotted in Group B along with South Asian counterparts Bangladesh and two gulf nations of Bahrain and Palestine, both of which are favorites to go through to the next stage of the competition. The team will play the group stage in Bahrain from the 22nd to 26th March 2019.
The squad comprises of 3 goalkeepers, 4 forwards, 8 midfielders & 8 defenders. The team will be captained by Rasik Rishad of Renown SC and Sasanka Dilhara Jayasekara of Ratnam SC as his deputy. Both Rishad and Sasanka had a brilliant season in the 2018 Dialog Champions League where they were instrumental in keeping their respective clubs in the top six.
The squad includes three players each from Renown SC & Solid SC while two each from Police SC, Ratnam SC, Navy Sea Hawks FC and Saunders SC. Around sevens players are representing the North & East regions. There is also the unknown commodity of Wishal Gunarathne who has come down from Bahrain to represent his birth country.
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The final 23-man squad, whose average is 20-years, was announced with surprises, as many of the players who performed well in the recently concluded Dialog Champions League not included.
The most notable absentees being Mohamed Aakib of Colombo, Dilip Peiris of Renown, Naveen Jude of Java Lane, Mohamed Asmeer of Navy Sea Hawks, Mahendran Dinesh and Danusha Perera of Police. Danusha and Dinesh won the Premier League Division I last week with Police.
Several inclusions have raised eyebrows as some players have not featured in any of the 18 Dialog Champions League or the 12 Premier League Division I clubs. Players from North and East who have not played competitive football domestically too have been included in the U23 National Squad.
The move is well thought out if it is to develop football across the country and for players to gain exposure. However, one wonders if the gamble is worth taking when the country currently has a young crop of players who have excelled in the domestic league.
Nizam Packeer Ali is the Head Coach, Sampath Bandara the Goalkeeper Coach and Sunil Senaweera the Manager of the team.
The 23-Player Squad
Rasik Rishad (Captain) – Sasanka Dilhara Jayasekara (Vice-Captain) – Mohamed Shaheel (Sea Hawks FC) – Shabeer Razooniya (Police SC) – Rifkhan Mohamed (Police SC) – Mohamed Mujeeb (Renown SC) – Alfred Thanesh (Solid SC) – Joy Nithushan (St. Joseph’s SC, Mannar) – Mohamed Shifan (Mawanella United) – Chathura Lakshan Dhananjaya (New Youngs FC) – Suntharaj Niresh (Saunders SC) – Aman Faizer (Ratnam SC) – Mohamed Musthaq (New Star SC) – Wishal Gunarathne (Manama Club, Bahrain) – Chamod Dilshan (Saunders SC) – Pathum Vimukthi (Red Sun SC, Gampola) – Sivakumaran Kirushanth (Solid SC) – Jude Suman (Renown SC) – Mohamed Rinas (Pioneers SC, Kinniya) – Antony Subash (Collins, Jaffna) – Vikum Avishka (Sea Hawks FC) – Mohamed Ishan (Solid SC) – Nuwan Gimhana (HGS Blue, Piliyandala)