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Is our National sport living up to expectations?

Is our National sport living up to expectations?

 

The game of volleyball has been a part of Sri Lankan sports culture for the past one hundred years. Then since 1990, the game also enjoys the that elevated status of being the National Game in Sri Lanka – and the only country to recognise that sports at that level in the world. Yet, what have we done or got return? The game of volleyball had failed to live up to expectations. In 1976 Sri Lanka men’s team won the Bronze medal at the Mohammed Ali Jinnah tournament and in 1991 the women won silver at the South Asian Games which was held in Colombo. But, is this the way the national sports should reciprocate? A few questions are being asked …

I. P. Wijeratne
(Director Sports, Department of Sports Development)

“Today we have a sports culture based on cricket. Also we have a rugby mania. Volleyball is still considered a rural sport in the country. A schoolboy cricketer is well recognised these days. However, no one is aware even about the Sri Lanka volleyball captain. It is sad that volleyball is considered a third grade sport even among the schools in Colombo. It is due to these reasons that the game has declined. It is true that volleyball is Sri Lanka’s national sport. It is true that Sri Lanka is the only country which has made volleyball as their national sport. We have a history of 100 years for the sport in the country. But volleyball fans have lost their interest on the game.

We hardly see any sponsors coming forward to help the game. Earlier, we saw volleyball being played in every ground but today we see cricket matches been played at those venues. The attraction for cricket is more unlike for volleyball. The Sri Lanka Volleyball Federation should take the blame for this setback. Their responsible for the drop in standard of the game in the country. This has affected almost every other sport in the country. The Sports Ministry is ready to help any sport. But due to some internal issues among the administrators the game has declined. The current regime is only keen on short term plans to satisfy their needs but not to develop the game.

The Education Ministry and the National Association should join hands to promote the game among schools. All development plans should start from school level. The District Association’s of most sports including volleyball is non effective these days. Under these conditions we can’t expect the game to improve. These associations exist only for voting purpose at the AGM. They do not have any long term pool of players. However, athletic and weightlifting do have long term national pools. If they can achieve their targets why cannot volleyball reach international standard. The Sports Ministry is always there to support if the District pools, provincial pools and national pools are maintained well. No one can blame the Sports Ministry for the decline of standard of volleyball in the country.

N. D. Gunasena
(Former Sri Lanka Captain and former National Coach)

We are proud that volleyball is the national sport of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately it is also the only sport which has been played for 100 years without a proper national volleyball plan. If we had a proper plan Sri Lanka would have been among the top four in the Asian region. Although we have a proud history it is sad that we have defeated India only once in a men’s encounter. We won the SAF Gold Medal in 1991 but since then we have never beaten India in a volleyball fixture. We can’t have a long term plan due to various financial difficulties specially the Federation. We need to have a huge budget if we are to have a long term plan. All countries South Asian nations receive a lot of backing from their governments and the Sports Ministries.

Although we cannot beat top countries like Iran, South Korea, China and Japan we can be proud that the National team is capable of giving a good run to all these opponents. But the team is lacking in international experience. We have played only three international matches for 2016 at the SAG Games. Our next international assignment will be in 2017. We need to play at least 40 matches if we are to win a major international tournament. All other top Asian countries have made vast strides because they have introduced the game to the players from school level. But in Sri Lanka the players take up to the game very late and they tend to struggle on the field. Vietnam and Thailand have concentrated more on Women’s volleyball. Likewise we got to make a decision and should pay special emphasize on that category.

We don’t have a very good plan and the preparations for a tournament is about three months and because of that we end up losing badly. Our priority should be on youth volleyball and beach volleyball. We became fifth at the Asian Youth Volleyball Championships. If we had reached the fourth place we would have had the chance to represent at the 2017 World Youth Volleyball Championships. We also qualified for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games beach volleyball. We have won a number of medals in beach volleyball at Asian level. But today we cannot see that happening and the standard has gone down drastically. Our golden period in volleyball was seen in the 1980’s under the guidance of Charitha Ratwatte former Interim Committee President of the Volleyball Federation.

He also pioneered the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) when the current Premier Ranil Wickremasinghe was the Minister of Youth. They also established a volleyball training school and were able to produce a good number of national players. It is these players who are currently running the show at the Education Ministry, Ports Authority, SLTB and three forces and the police. Also, there were lot of foreign coaches coming to Sri Lanka. The current President of the Federation is also the head of the NYSC. We thought that he will be able to revive the game once again. But he has failed to perform that task. Although we have completed 100 years we are still far away from winning at least a South Asian tournament.

A. S. Nalaka
(Secretary Sri Lanka Volleyball Federation)

“I think except for cricket and rugby, there is no recognition for any other sport in this country including volleyball. This is a very sad situation. This is because the demand is more on the elite sport. The returns and the benefits are more in participating in sports like cricket and rugby. Volleyball is an Olympic sport and is also very popular in Sri Lanka. In fact Sri Lanka is the only nation which has selected volleyball as its national sport. Also, this year we celebrated the centenary of volleyball in Sri Lanka.  The job opportunities for the volleyball players in Sri Lanka are limited. It is the three-forces and the police that provide employment opportunities for these players. The selected players will be placed in the lowest rank. In fact over 90 per cent volleyball players hail from the three-forces. As a result parents hesitate in encouraging their children to take part in volleyball.

Because of this playing volleyball will be restricted to a short period. The parents also concentrate more on their children’s education and tuition classes. In addition there are very few sponsors coming forward to support volleyball in Sri Lanka. This is the sad situation in all sports in the country except for cricket and rugby. Not winning any international matches have also been one of the main causes for the game to decline. As a result the parents like to see their children compete in a more popular sport. Also the sponsors tend to keep away from the game. The blame for not winning matches on the international scene cannot be put on the administration. But the reason for losing is the non availability of talented players from the pool. We got to carry on with a limited number of players.

Even the government cannot help just because volleyball is the national sport in the country. They treat all sports in equal terms. So we can’t put the blame on the government and the Sports Ministry. Although we cannot win Olympic medals and World Championship medals we are have reached some kind of standard at Asian level. Teams like Japan and South Korea have always considered Sri Lanka as a tough opposition. We have always provided a good fight against these teams specially the junior and youth teams. The main reason we are unable to reach the Asian standard (beach volleyball) is because countries like Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have recruited overseas players from Europe. Sri Lanka, India, Japan, China and South Korea are the only countries that field their own players in competitions. We have not forgotten the special landmark of competing 100 years and we intend to celebrate with events in the next four months”.

Udeni Priyadarshani
(Former Sri Lanka Captain 1996 and Vice-President Sri Lanka Schools Volleyball Association).

“We saw a lot of volleyball matches during our days been played at every nick and corner. Both Men and Women were involved in a number of matches throughout the year. Today we don’t experience this kind of situation anywhere in the country. The government decided to make volleyball as the national sport when the sport was at its peak. At that time there were a lot of hopes that volleyball will reach higher standards especially in Asia and South Asia. However, what occurred thereafter was tragic as the game declined drastically to a new low. In 1991 we won the Women’s Gold Medal at the South Asian Games in Colombo beating India in the final. But thereafter it took another 25 years for us to beat India in a women’s volleyball match. This is largely due to the incapability of the officials and not because of the players.

The National Association officials are responsible for this setback. This has been the situation in the past and it is the same today. None of the appointed Sports Ministers were able to break the dominance of these corrupt officials. We should give priority for schools if we are to develop the sport. But the current administration has been able to get a firm grip and control over the Schools Association. The earlier regime continued with these tactics and we can see the same situation happening among the present set of officials. The DSI Supersport Tournament is the best event to identify the talented volleyball players. This should be organised by the Schools Association. However, as there is a huge sponsorship involved the Volleyball Federation has taken over the organising. They have virtually grabbed this sponsorship by force.

We have also informed the Education Ministry regarding this incident. It is because of the school coaches that the club system has emerged in this country. Those clubs are existing due to the efforts of these hard working coaches. In fact Sisira Kumara Vanderkoon and the current National Coach Charles Thillakaratne both have emerged because of the schools system. But the Federation has not yet taken any steps to uplift the well being of these coaches. The Federation is now completely in control of the schools body. The Federation has even made use of the foreign tours which comes into the schools association. The sport is divided between two parties. The veterans dislike giving an opportunity to the youngsters. They try to discourage when they see a talented player coming out from the schools.

There were a number of leading clubs which produced several national players. However clubs like Wellampitiya Mithra, Kollonnawa Central, Siyanetharu and Nattandiya United which dominated the game in the past are now struggling to find their existence.  The game with a history of over 100 years should have be in a better situation had the former officials acted more positively. The reason for this is due to the appointment of non qualified officials and power hungry politicians who have completely ruined the sport in the country. I think the Sports Ministry and the Federation has not given the due recognition to the sport which it deserves for completing 100 years.

Posted on 2016-09-04 14:10:30
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QUESTION?

Should Dilshan have continued until Cricket World Cup 2019?

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THE DAY'S QUOTE

“That was pathetic. No excuse at all. The whole team is responsible. Whoever the captain is, we have to back him and try and support him. The captain has to do so many other stuff. All the 11 guys must back him and support him.” “We have addressed the issue of finishing off the overs on time in the past as well, but it cropped up again. It’s so unfortunate to see Upul going out as he is a crucial player in our set up. He batted well against South Africa and it’s so unfortunate. This can’t happen again,” - Angelo Mathews

FEEDBACK/COMMENTS

Cricket is a game of fine margins and Mathews is set to be a modern great. Hang in their Angie, this team can achieve something on this tour. Thirimane and the youngsters form was a real positive. Prasad was missed. Chameera should be persisted with. If Bairstow was our early outcome could have been very different.

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