By Asanka Gammanpila
Gampola Red Sun Sports Club defender Rohana Ruwanthilake has been appointed to lead the Sri Lanka football team at the upcoming South Asian Games and Asian Challenge Cup stage to be held next year.
After a poor showing in recent competitions the Sri Lanka Football Federation dissolved the national football squad and named a thirty member fresh under-23 pool for the upcoming South Asian Games and AFC Challenge Cup stage to be held in January and February.
In their last international assignment at the South Asian Football Federation Games, Sri Lanka lost to Maldives so badly that a 5-1 defeat gave the Sri Lankan authorities a severe jolt resulting in the shake-up.
Only five senior players from the previous side remain in the current pool. They are skipper Ruwanthilake, forward Mohamed Izzadeen, mid fielder Chathuara Gunaratne, forward S. Sanjeew and defender A. B. Warakagoda.
According to an official of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, three overage players (over-23 years) can represent the national side for the SAG championship.
The strong-minded Ruwanthilake (25) speaking to the Daily Mirror said it was a great privilege to captain the side and a dream come true.
“This side has young blood with a lot of talented players hoping to do something different this time”, he said.
Ruwanthilake has been a regular member of the national side for last four years and led the Sri Lanka under-19 schools team in 2001. He was also the vice captain of the team that contested the SAG Games in 2007 in which the team won the silver medal.
He is contemplating a move to the Colombo team Saunders for the next season.
Sri Lanka will be represented by the under 23 team for the SAG championship to be held in Bangladesh in January and the same side will train for the Asian Challenge Cup stage to be held in Sri Lanka in February.
The thirty players under new coach ex-national player Mohamed Amunulla will also go into further training in Singapore before the SAG championship.