Cuban coaches Luis Miranda and Sergio Manuel, who opted to work free for six months, are now stranded in Sri Lanka as they have not been provided tickets to get back home.
The Sports Ministry decided to terminate their services last December with just four months to go for the Asian Games trials in April, which put several top national athletes in a dilemma with nowhere to go for training.
The Ministry did not bother to take any input from Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) or dozens of national athletes who trained under them. According to these athletes, the Ministry officials were under the influence of a group of incompetent local coaches and ex-athletes with a dubious past.
Athletes fought hard to retain these coaches and made several requests through SLA, and even wrote to the Sports Ministry, providing statistics showing how much they had improved since the arrival of the foreign coaches, but were unsuccessful.
The two coaches decided they didn’t want to leave the athletes midway, since they had already undertaken the responsibility of getting them ready for the Asian Games (now postponed), and offered to work without remuneration until the trials in April.
Coaches were under contract with SLA, and following a request from SLA and approval from the Ministry, payments were made through National Institute of Sports Science (NISS) funds.
According to their contract, they are entitled to air tickets to return to Cuba at the end of their contract period, which they did not receive last year. They have now made a request to SLA they wish to return to Cuba, which SLA referred to NISS, who had then sought approval from the Sports Ministry who had rejected the request.
A letter signed by the Additional Secretary to the Sports Ministry, N.D. Abhayarathne, stated that the Ministry does not have funding this year and suggested that SLA should provide them with the tickets.
Athletes who trained under these coaches have tried to contact the new Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe regarding the matter, but have failed so far.