Chat with Milo Champions: Dudley Steinwall – From player to coach to administrator
By Vimukthi Adithya
Football might not be in good shape currently, but there was a time when Sri Lanka was considered a force to be reckoned with in the 1990’s, at least in the South Asian region. This was evident when Sri Lanka became the runner-up in the First South Asian Football Federation Cup held in Pakistan in 1993. Again, in the second edition of the 1995 South Asian Gold Cup, the boys from Sri Lanka in a beat India 1-0 in a thrilling final to clinch the title.
The gradual decline began in 1997 when Sri Lanka were placed 4th, even losing to Pakistan whom they had convincingly beaten a couple of years ago. From the next edition held in 1999, football in Sri Lanka saw a complete decline. When someone has been involved in one sport for over 40 years, holding various positions both on and off the field, you know that personality becomes a Master at it and will leave with an unmatched legacy.
The man whom I am going to pen down is one such personality, who led the school football team, who played for the national team at the age of 18, and continued for 17 long years, who captained them for five years, who later on became coach of almost all the football clubs in the island, and eventually the coach of the national team and finally moved into administration looking to improving and identifying talented youth. Dudley Steinwall has now reached great heights in the sport he fell in love with as a little boy. Born on 11 August 1974 in Anuradhapura to Wilfred Steinwall and P.R. Malkanthi, Dudley is the third in a family of five kids.
His elder brother Chaminda and elder sister Priyanga provided unconditional love for their baby brother, and later Dudley had no bigger happiness in life than hearing the cries and laughter of his two sisters, Ayesha and Surangi. From grade one the kid attended St. Joseph’s College, Anuradhapura and remained loyal to his Alma Mater, excelling in the gentleman’s game played by hooligans. Just like any other kid, Dudley indulged in a bit of cricket as well, following his brother’s footsteps, but a sport like cricket is considerably more expensive when compared to other sports. Also, since the school was renowned for football, his true love was towards football.
After a few years of impressive performances for his school, Dudley was selected to the National Under-15 team in 1989, but unfortunately the planned tour did not materialize. In 1991 he got the opportunity to travel to Malaysia representing the Sri Lanka Schools team. In 1992 he captained the Sri Lankan School team and travelled to Thailand. Soon after this talented footballer arrived in the island, he got the opportunity to represent the National football team at the age of 18. “My first football club was Anuradhapura Sputnik, which was near my house. My late father was a main force in forming this club. I grew up looking at my seniors and mastered the game to perfection.
The support that I received from my seniors and teammates at the club was immense and this helped me to transform into a better player. Even my School Principal (R. Stanislaus) showed great interest towards the sport and his main intention was to improve the sport at School. St. Joseph’s Anuradhapura had a very strong team back in the 1980’s and we were able to beat many Colombo schools. Many boys from the school, including my brother, represented the National team.” Dudley touched on how his school and the club helped him to be a better player. The teenager was full of talent and showed glimpses of a great footballer in the making. This was also evident when he got an invitation from the Renown Sports Club in 1992 to be a part of their team. Included in the National team and then recruited by one of the best clubs of the time, there was nothing more an 18-year-old could ask for.
His journey with the National team that started in 1992 ended in 2009, a career that lasted for 17 long years with memories filled to cherish for a lifetime. When a player has represented his country for 17 long years, two things are apparent: one: how talented and skillful the player was, and two, the number of matches he has played. Dudley played over 150 international matches, and according to him, he is the only player to have played over 150 matches for the country. Dudley was seen as potential captaincy material in 1992, when he was entrusted to lead the Sri Lanka Schools team. Then in 1999, he was made the vice-captain of the National team.
The decision was backed by his sensational play on the field. He was part of the team that ended as runner-up in the SAFF Championship held in Pakistan from 16 to 23 July 1993. Another important achievement came in 1998 in the Bristol Freedom Cup, which was held in Sri Lanka from 15 to 19 November. In the match against Malaysia, he was awarded the player of the match for his exceptional play and goal assist. Soon the vicecaptain was promoted captain in 2002, and he gave leadership until 2007. The qualification process for the 2004 AFC Asian football championship began in March 2003.
Under the captaincy of Steinwall, Sri Lanka topped Group ‘B’, beating Chinese Taipei 2-1 and Timor-Leste 3-2, and advanced to the second round, which was the qualifying round. Unfortunately, the opposition was much stronger and lost against UAE, Syria, and Turkmenistan. Also, in the history of Sri Lankan football, this team became the only team to qualify for the second round in Asian qualifiers. In his five years as Captain, Dudley led the team in nearly 60 matches. The center has also scored three international goals - against Vietnam in 2002, Afghanistan in 2003, and Indonesia in 2004 World Cup Qualifiers. Talking about his club career, he spent 10 years with Renown SC (1992 to 2002).
In 2004/2005 he turned out for Saunders SC, and from 2005/2007 he captained Negombo Youth SC and also coached the team. This was done while captaining the National team. In 2006 the Negombo Youth team had a formidable attack, which enabled them to win all the major football tournaments in the island: Premier Tournament, ‘Shurayangeth Shuraya’, and FA Cup to name a few. In his final couple of years as a player, he decided to join Ratnam SC. Dudley’ intentions were clear; he wanted to be more than just a football player. In 2006 the Sri Lankan Football Federation provided an opportunity for National players to obtain a coaching license.
Dudley attended the ‘B’ license coaching course and passed with the highest marks. “I obtained my ‘B’ License certificate in 2009, and as soon as I retired from professional football, I had the necessary qualifications to be a coach.” Dudley touched on how he moved into coaching. Gradually he gained recognition as a coach, and the talented footballer was now getting ready for this new chapter in his life. In 2011 he was entrusted to coach the Sri Lanka under-14 team, and travelled to Iran with his troops. Just like when he was playing, he reached great heights while coaching. A bigger responsibility was handed over to Dudley in 2014 - he was made head coach of the Sri Lanka Under-23 team.
The same year he obtained his coaching ‘A’ license’. In 2016 he was appointed head coach of the National team. Up until then he was the assistant coach. He has also coached several clubs: Negombo Youth, Ratnam, Kalutara Blue star, Police, Army and Old Bens are just a few names. In addition he has coached a number of schools - St Thomas’ in 2007, Royal in 2013, and finally St. Peters. “As a sportsman what I have gained is invaluable. Sports helped me to establish myself as a person. People got to know me because of the sport. I gained recognition because I was involved in the sport.
Being a sportsman makes you a complete package. You became a disciplined person, a person who can go through any challenges and who could overcome them. Even when talking about my personal life, being involved in a sport has helped me a lot, because I was able to marry a former netball national player. I married Manojika Priyadarshani in 2006 and we are proud parents of two kids - son Kevan and daughter Liyansa.” Dudley touched on what impact sports had on his life.
Dudley considers former French skipper Zinedine Zidane his role model, and also his brother Chaminda, who has given him strength and motivation from his childhood days. “My Brother Chaminda is someone I looked up to when I was a kid. It was with his support that I have come a long way. My late parents never forced me to do anything that I disliked and I received the freedom to engage in whatever I preferred. My father, too, being a footballer, created a good environment at home. You need education to move up in life, but sports play an equally important role, too.
Parents should understand the importance of it and encourage kids to move into any game they prefer. When you are engaged in a sport you become very healthy and an active person. Sports will help to inculcate leadership qualities in a kid from small days. They will learn how to face and overcome problems. Learning things the hard way in life at a small age would help the child to have a good future when he/she moves out into society. Decision making, handling pressure, and being independent are few of the other traits a person engaged in sports would gain.
Kids also should know to be focused on their goals.” Dudley did not forget to remind us about the support given to him by his parents and his advice to parents and the kids. In his long relationship with football, Dudley has faced many challenges and overcome them to reach his present position. A National football captain, a National football coach and currently he is into the administration side of it. From 2018 Dudley works as the Manager Elite Youth at Sri Lanka Football. He is someone who considers discipline to be a top priority when involved in a sport, as he is someone who played a cleanly by abiding to the rules and regulations of the game.
His son Kevan is studying at Royal College and has decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and given up rugby. In addition, he also trains at the Manchester Academy, and indulges in swimming. Dudley Steinwall, the dedicated individual who has lived with football since his childhood, playing for his school, then his country, captaining the National team, coaching boys and now seeking and managing youth talent, is someone who aims to do his job to his maximum capacity. Finally, he wanted to extend a thank you to his parents, siblings, cousins, the seniors and teammates at Sputnik club, his wife, kids and his friends.