President Rajapaksa's support overwhelms delegates:
Manilal lives out, Churchillian Dictum 'Never Give Up'
Being aware of the enormous contribution made by Manilal Fernando,
for the furtherance of football in the country. The thought that kept
coming on and on, as we kept listening to him the other day in his
office - was what might Sri Lanka soccer have been, if there wasn't
Manilal to give it that much needed impetus and drive and, that too in a
characteristic style and class of his own.
A.F.C. President Mohamad Bin Hammam (third from left) with
his winning team and captain Manilal Fernando (1st from
left) with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees.
True no man is indispensable, but if we are to be realistic, he
proved to be the rare exception, to be extraordinary. Through his
organizing and administrative ability, brought about by painstaking
unflagging zeal and zest, his name has come to be synonymous with
For to think of Manilal was to think of football and the converse was
equally true - of a man who developed a fondness for the game from his
tender years in Kalutara.
But this apart, it must however be borne in mind that the performance
of our national team last year and the year before, was poor as far as
It wasn't commensurate with all that was done for the game by way of
improvements to the administration, the infrastructure and the
betterment of facilities for players.
Manilal was conscious of this and did in no way cast the blame on the
administration, the coach, the players or yet others - but in a very
responsible manner took upon himself the blame, by saying that he had
failed to produce a standard competitive side.
It was most salutary to be exemplary worthy of being emulated by yet
other heads of bodies, experiencing similar situations.
Notwithstanding all this, Manilal undeterred holding onto what
Churchill said "never give up" and with the "love for football, that
will not let him go," he continued to strive in the name and cause of
Meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees: A.F.C.
President Mohamad Bin Hammam, A.F.C. Vice President Yousuf
Al Serkel with Senior Vice President A.F.C. Sri Lanka’s
The players for their part, perhaps jolted by the lament made by
Manilal, were determined to raise their standard of play and give of
Evidence of this was seen when the team acquitted themselves
creditably well, in the preliminary of the Asian Football Confederation
Cup 2009 in March/April played here, where they remained unbeaten having
beaten Brunei 5-1, Chinese Taipei 2-1 and drawing with Pakistan 2 all
and, thus qualifying to play in the next round.
The achievement of the team marked a compete turn around indeed.
Elaborating on the recently held Asia Football Confederation (AFC)
meeting in Malaysia - according to, Manilal Fernando, the Senior Vice
President of AFC, it was significant mainly because, Bin Hammam, of
Qatar Football Association and the President of AFC, was challenged by
Sheikh, Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain for a post in the
Executive Committee of FIFA.
Incidently Hammam was the incumbent representative of Asia in the Ex:
Co: of FIFA, the governing body for world football.
Prior to this decisive meeting, Hammam entrusted the steering of his
election campaign in the capable hands of his close friend and
colleague, Manilal revelling in challenges, Manilal proved that he was
equal to the task and imbibing as well the winning ways of President,
Mahinda Rajapakse, meticulously employed strategy and planning that
found Hammam being elected at the meeting.
Faizal Sally HAYTT President Pakistan Football Federation
President Thailand Football Association Dato Warwi Makudi,
Secretary Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation S.
Liyanagama with Senior Vice President A.F.C. Manilal
Fernando with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It was learnt from Manilal, that the reason for Sri Lanka backing
Hammam, was purely because he used his good offices to financially help
Sri Lanka. Some of which were the release of $ 400,000 FIFA (Gold
Project) for the coming to be of the Sri Lnaka Football Headquarters
(Football House) - from the FIFA gold proejct 2 gave $ 400,000 for the
establishing of the Baddegama Training Centre. He did spearhead a FIFA -
AFC Fund during the Tsunami and collected around 350 million rupees by
organising a match between a world eleven and Europe at the Barcelona
The monies so collected were utilised to build training centres at
Matara with grounds, Kalutara, Wattala, Badulla, Mannar, Ampara under
construction, Norwood under construction. Pavilion at CR & FC, City
League grounds, pavilion and training centre.
The observation of Manilal was that the facilities they receive, he
thinks has not been available to any other national association from an
He also made mention that Hammam was human enough to feel for
another. Evidence of this is seen during the sudden passing away of J.
S. N. Anandaraja, where he opened a fund with his personal monies and
donated therefrom a considerable sum of money to Anandaraja's family.
Most touching it was to know that he flew down for the funeral.
Hammam has visited Sri Lanka on five occasions, thrice with the
President of FIFA, Joseph Sepp Blatter. It was for these reasons that
Sri Lanka took an open stand to support Hammam displaying thereby that
we had the potential to give the lead in the area, just as much as
President Rajapaksa leads the SAARC region.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, being the fine sportsman he is, the
supporter of sports and a former national Association President - on the
initiative of Manilal Fernando, readily met the delegates of the AFC on
28th of April at Temple Trees. Some of the delegates expressed surprise,
that the President in spite of the war, where fighting the most brutal
terrorist organisation, had the time for sports.
The President perhaps having Hammam's victory in mind quipped that
when Sri Lanka takes a stand they take a straight and sincere stand.
Manilal intends to take the national team to meet the President, in
order to brief him of the program for soccer and also seek his guidance
to take the national team to become a champion side because the
President has the winning way.