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I can think of two problems here.
First, (not trying to insult your intelligence here) make sure the controller is plugged in all the way.
If that doesnt help, the controller may be malfunctioning or the controller port inside the console may be malfunctioning (possibly a loose ribbon cable).
Try the controller in both controller ports and if that doesnt work, try a different controller. If that still doesnt resolve your problem, you may need to fix the controller port.
If you feel comfortable opening the console (keep in mind this would void any warranty you might have and could lead to further damage to the console), you might have a look to see if the ribbon cable to the controller port is loose and/or replace the controller port.
I don't know what type of controller you have, but all the wireless PS2 controllers I've used come with a receiver that you put into the controller port, and then you should be able to use it. The wired controllers, of course, you just have to plug in.
Sounds like you have wireless Controllers. Be sure your batteries are good on the Controller and the controller is turned on, LED should light. Plug the receiver into the controller jack, and it should light up at least one LED. If you have channel number selector, set it to the same number on the controllers, channel selector.
If old wired controllers will work, then you have dud wireless controllers. I know that cheap poor quality wireless controllers exist out there. You may have a dud. I also know that sometimessomething kills the controller ports on the PS2. The only way to know is to hook a wired controller you know works into the port to see if the port is good or bad.
Sounds as if it has been dropped .....or an impact to the controller
port while one was plugged in. in some cases the in side of the port
can become full of dust and dirt causing light rusting creating a loss
of connection ...but an impact can break a small chip on the back of
the controller port inside the machine , try cleaning out the
controller port and check to make sure the metal tabs are clean and un
Sounds as if it has been dropped .....or an impact to the controller port while one was plugged in. in some cases the in side of the port can become full of dust and dirt causing light rusting creating a loss of connection ...but an impact can break a small chip on the back of the controller port inside the machine , try cleaning out the controller port and check to make sure the metal tabs are clean and un bent.
1 of 2 problems.
1:- the port on the console has a fault, do they work normally when a single controller is in them ?
2:- bad or broken connection in the multi-port itself.
Hope this helps Mike @ compurepair.