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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 football.

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 results go.

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 the game.

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 Manilal Fernando.

The players for their part, perhaps jolted by the lament made by Manilal, were determined to raise their standard of play and give of their best.

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 Stadium, Spain.

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 outside party.

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.


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