When Manilal hit the net for soccer
The Prince of sport promoters Manilal Vernon Fernando, scored winning
goals for the game of football and for himself when he deftly and with
aplomb answered questions posed to him by main host Kingsley Ratnayake
in the popular “Kelin Kathawa” question and answer programme on Sirasa
on Wednesday night.
Every night Sirasa kept flashing on their programmes that Fernando
would be featured this time, and he certainly would have had a large
following watching him perform at the show.
Fernando is one who does not believe in talk. Work, honesty and
always being ramrod straight have been his stepping stones to success.
Ratnayake posed questions that were straight and some tricky.
Fernando took strike like a brilliant batsman, faced the bouncers
bowled by Ratnayake and answered them cleverly playing a straight bat
and replying quite cleverly.
Fernando faced questions initially as an entrepreneur,then sportsman
and later his experience as a politician.
It is not the facets of sport, entrepreneurship and politics, the
writer will comment on, but the footballing aspect of Fernando and how
cleverly and interestingly he went on the programme.
Initially Ratnayake paid glowing tributes to Fernando and showered
praise on the good work that he has been doing to take local football
into the promised land.
When asked how he got into the game and its administration, Fernando
said that in school he took part in cricket, soccer and rugby and then
being popular and a lawyer much in demand, the soccer teams in the
Kalutara District - Kalutara is his home town -, forced him to take
charge of the game and once he stepped out on to this field, he never
“I am a straight man. And honesty has helped me to success”, he told
When asked for his views of politicians getting involved in sport he
said: Politicians who can do a honest job and work for the benefit of
the sportsman and the game is a good thing.
“Take for instance volleyball. Now there is a politician at the helm
and I must say he is doing an admirable job”, he said. Incidentally the
head of the Volleyball Federation is Dilan Perera, Minister of Justice.
When questioned about the money that is coming into the
Federation,Fernando said that the money is well accounted for and that
it goes down the line and no room is left for question.
“For some years,we did our own accounting. But of late we have left
that important job to the Auditor General. Of course the accounts cannot
be made public, but it is available to the membership.
“Today it has to be made a rule for all national sports bodies to
hold their annual general meetings and send in their statements of
accounts in time”. The Football Federation is an example in this aspect
it must be said.
When a question was posed to him that there is a belief that he is a
sort of dictator, he said that he would like to be that, as long as he
could do things for the benefit of the player and the game.
He even quoted the former Singapore dictator Lee Kuan Yew, who he
said as a dictator was an example.
When asked about his son coming into football, he said that he is a
medical doctor by profession and that he does a honorary job in treating
injuries. “If he wants to get into the administration that is his
business. He must open the door, it is not for me to do that”, said
Fernando said that his one ambition is to see that the primarily poor
man’s game hits the big time here.”Before I close my eyes, I would like
to see 10 to 12 good teams emerge here, so that we can pick the best and
be a force to be reckoned with in the future”, said a cheerful Fernando.
Speaking on the progress of the game Fernando said that in the Asian
region we are lying somewhere in between 24 to 25 and in the world scene
we are in about the 135th position.
Fernando admitted that soccer is the world’s most popular game.
He also revealed that Sri Lanka won the SAF Gold Cup in 1995 beating
the Indians and have also won several other trophies. When asked whether
there were any religious differences in the team, Fernando said that
there is no such thing and that the soccerites play as one family.
Fernando also revealed that in the good old days when the game was
played in Jaffna a crowd of nearly 30 to 40 thousand would throng to
savour the action.
“Even when Muralitheran plays there, there wouldn’t be that much of
crowd” said Fernando.
The consensus was that Fernando came out tops in this show, silenced
his critics and raised his esteem.
Incidentally Fernando is in big demand not only in the Asian
scene,but also the world scene being a trusted lieutenant of Bin Hammam
and Sepp Blatter.
Fernando “lived his dreams” as the blurb implies when one enters the
imposing “Football House”, that he helped build.
More strength to his elbow.