Bicksei was given the job of Liberia’s national coach in July 2010 on a four-year contract, but had to take a leave of absence in February 2011 after a long battle with the illness (cancer). Finally, on 16 July 2011, Bicskei died in Budapest. He was 67 years old. The death of Bicskei was described as a loss to “a very important part of Hungarian football”.
The demise of Bicskei as well as his employment without a publicized and detailed term-of-reference contract brought the country (Liberia) into disrepute owing to the ‘grave error’ on the part of the Blue House (Liberia Football Association).
To avoid violating such ‘simple rules of engagement’ in contracting coaches for the national teams, stakeholders in and out of Liberia, have strongly advised the LFA to make public detailed term-of-reference contracts and the medical certificates of future coaches.
The summarily dismissed manager of Lone Star, Roberto Landi, too, had neither a publicized contract nor medical report, owing to the fact that the coaches are the employees of the Liberian people.
The LFA boss, Musa Bility, a few weeks ago, announced the termination of the Italian coach’s contract, on grounds that he (Landi) breached the contract.
“Was there a contract? [Was] the employer, the Liberia people, aware of an existing contract? Was there also a medical report? Does the LFA know that the coach is working for the Liberia people, not the football house?” stakeholders asked rhetorically.
Interestingly, on Friday, May 4, 2012, the LFA boss, through the mandate from the Executive Committee, in the presence of Vice President of Operations Adolph Lawrence (who is a Honorable Representative of District # 15, Montserrado County) and Technical Director Henry Browne unveiled a US-trained Liberian coach, Joseph Kaitu Smith as the new coach of the Senior National team.
The LFA boss also announced former Lone Star midfield maestro as the new deputy coach replacing Thomas Kodjo, who is in South Africa. He stated that upon Kodjo’s return, his new role will be defined on the national team. He vowed to subsequently reveal the other support staff of the national football team.
Bility’s pronouncement automatically meant that the new Lone Star managers began work over the week.
Disappointingly again, this third coach, under Musa Bility’s leadership, was unveiled without a contract and medical report or certificate.
When asked about the LFA’s failure to provide a contract and other relevant documents, Mr. Bility responded: “The unveiling of the new coach of the Senior Lone Star team is the first phase. His contract, which will include his terms of reference, salary and all other things will be ready by next month, and we hope to make them public. We believe that the Liberian people need to know because they are the employer.”
The LFA boss further said that the appointment of a Liberian to manage the Lone Star is to lift qualified Liberians, in accordance with the theme of the Poverty Reduction Strategy II, “Lift Liberians!”
“We are proud to say Coach Smith is the best of the LFA and the best coach we have for now,” Mr. Bility opined.
Two former Vice Presidents of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) and veteran sports reporters, Horatio Willie and Albert Jaja, hailed the LFA for the appointment of a qualified Liberian coach, but urged the LFA to make the contract public.
Mr. Willie, who is currently, the Assistant Minister for Public Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said Coach Kaitu is the only Liberian with an “A” Certificate in coaching, while Mr. Jaja, who is also Assistant Minister for Information Services at the Ministry of Information, described the LFA’s appointment as “the best.”
Another veteran Liberian sports reporter, Omari Jackson, who is based in the US, wrote about Coach Smith: “It is a fact that every occupation has its qualifications. Hence in the sports world, anyone who claims to be a coach is examined and accorded with the appointment he deserves. Therefore, it is just natural and healthy for observers to question the Liberia Football Association on the criteria it used to “select” Mr. Joseph Kaitu Smith as its candidate to handle the national soccer team, Lone Star.
“Available records indicate that Mr. Smith has had a fruitful adventure in amassing credentials that could convince anyone that he has been serious in acquiring the wherewithal of a coach. That he has had certificates and licenses from both FIFA and the United States Soccer Federation, among others, may be enough to consider him for the job. But then the question is, while documents are part of the process, what are the evidences of his successes? This is because documents alone are not enough that he is capable for the job of handling a national team.”
For his part, the former Chairman on the House Committee on Youth and Sports, during the 52nd National Legislature, Kai Farley, insisted that the LFA should request a medical certificate or perform its own medical examination of the newly appointed coach, so as to not repeat the ugly scenario of Bertalan Bicskei.
Liberia’s Technical Director Henry Brown, who has been accused of nominating Coach Smith based on friendship, stated: “I recommended a Liberian coach to the Executive Committee of the LFA owing to the fact that we don’t have money to hire a foreign coach. And I recommended Coach Smith on a professional level, because he is the best we have with A-license. I trust Coach Smith. He has the sense of confidence, purpose and discipline and with the support of all of us, and he can make Liberians proud.”
Deputy Coach Kelvin Sebwe smirked: “I know Coach Smith, he a very good coach, he was my coach and I know what he can do. We will work with him amicably.”
The new Lone Star coach blissfully stated: “Though I have been [away] from home (Liberia) for over 10 years, but I have been monitoring the league; and [throughout] my stay in the US [I] have been coaching. With the help of my principle deputy Kelvin Sebwe and support of every Liberian, we can lift the Lone Star….My selection of players will be based on local and international, and I can’t depend on the local league because it is substandard and will be a bad product.”
In the US, Coach Smith was crowned as “thriving coach” owing to his sting he left at the National Fusion Soccer club, while serving as Director for both the male and female teams, comprised of about 2,000 young boys. His success story compelled the United States Soccer Federation to award him an “A” Certificate with ID # 27,293 on January 10, 2010.
He (Coach Smith) and Henry Browne (who is now the LFA Technical Director) managed the U-13, U-14 and U-15 Lone Star teams, where they won laurels in the Gothia and Diana Cups in Sweden and Denmark respectively, from 1997 to 1999.
Coach Smith also manages the U-17 and U-20 national teams. Some of his developing players were Kelvin Sebwe, Dulee Johnson and Dioh Williams.
He provided technical support as head coach to several local teams, some of which include Bacchus Marrine, Fulani, NPA and LPRC Oilers. He also managed a team in Nigeria, the Obanta United Football Club.
Below is the available list of credentials of head coach of the senior Lone Star team.
•USSF “A” License (2010-2014)
•Liberia FA “A” License (1989)
•FIFA Coaching Certificates
•CAF Coaching Certificates
•NSCAA Regional Goalkeeping Diploma
•NSCAA State Goalkeeping Diploma
•I.O.C. Itinerant Administration School Certificates
• A.S.E.P. Director of Youth Sports Program Certificate
• Liberia Coach of the Year 1997
•Former Liberia FA Coaching Instructor
• Former Liberia National U17 & U20 Coach Teams
• Former Coach LPRC-Oilers FC Liberia
• Former Coach Baccus Marines FC Liberia
• Former Coach Obanta United. FC Nigeria
• Former Coach Fulani FC Liberia
• Former Coach NPA-Anchors FC Liberia
• Former Coach Great Bame FC Liberia
• Playing Experience (1970 - 1984) in: Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, LiberiaWith the appointment of a trained Liberian coach, Liberians are hoping and praying that their own will pull the magical wand he has gathered from the US and the world football governing body (FIFA) to put the country amongst the comity of football nations again.