FIFA chief Sepp Blatter made a bold promise to make football the number one sport in Sri Lanka on a visit to the country today. Still the sport has a long development road ahead before it can win hearts and commercial sponsorships in the cricket centric island.
“Football is not in a position to take over cricket in Sri Lanka anytime soon,” says Vijay Setlur, Marketing Instructor, Schulich School of Business-York University.
Football like cricket will need its own idols to draw a domestic following in Sri Lanka. In 1996, it was Arjuna Ranatunga and his World Cup winning team that inspired generation of schoolchildren like Kumar Sangakkara and other cricketing heroes to take-up the sport at a professional level.
“It is difficult for great numbers of people to take up the sport without idols, something to aspire to,” Setlur told lankareporter.com.
Sri Lanka must expose their top footballers to Asian powerhouses Korea, Australia and Iran to build their icons.
“For the country to become a power in Asia it needs to field a very competitive team. The top players must play overseas in better leagues with exposure better tactics, strategies and competitions,” says Setlur.
“Sri Lankan football must ensure their top players become attractive to the K League in Korea or the J League in Japan, the A League in Australia or perhaps even leagues Central Asia and the Middle East. If there is exceptional talent maybe they will draw interest among the leagues in Europe.”
“They have to be realistic on what they are going to achieve, it will take a really long time, right now they sit on the fourth tier of the Asian ranking,” he added.