Sri Lanka team coach in his first AFC Cup appearance

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They may be facing the worst economic crisis in their history at home, but Blue Star SC manager Banda Samarakoon said on Monday they were focusing on their best chance in their first AFC Cup appearance.

Blue Star SC moved closer to the group stage of the 2022 AFC Cup, after winning 2-1 against Machhindra FC of Nepal in a South Zone first preliminary round match at Dashrath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu last week.

“Right now Sri Lanka is facing a huge problem, economic mismanagement. Obviously it is affecting the sport, but we are here to play football, as Team Blue Star,” said the coach on the eve of their second-round clash against ATK. Mohun Bagan.

A win over ATK Mohun Bagan will put them one game away from what would be a historic appearance in May’s group stage and the coach appeared optimistic despite the tough build-up.

“We are striving to perform well internationally. We don’t care about the crisis and we are striving to achieve something on the international stage.” Although the coach says the economic crisis is not bothering the players, he acknowledged that most players are not full-fledged professionals as there is not a lot of money in Lankan football. Thus, players manage to do odd jobs that they can hold on to.

“Players don’t get enough pay. You can’t survive playing football, we have to do odd jobs. Most of the players are from middle or low income families. So we have to bring football to a level professional,” added the 50-year-old.

The Lankan players also faced logistical hurdles as they could not travel directly to Kolkata from Kathmandu and had to detour via Colombo due to visa issues.

To make matters worse, their game kits including bibs and boots only arrived on Monday as they were unable to practice with full training gear.

“It’s easier to come from Kathmandu to Calcutta. But due to visa problems, we had to go back to Sri Lanka. We didn’t have enough time for proper training.

“Also our kit bags just landed here due to an airline issue. Yesterday we had a training session without shoes or even the bibs, we asked for another training session on morning but it was not successful”, he regretted.

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