Liberia won the debut Amputee African Cup of Nations at home in 2008, when she outclassed Sierra Leone 2-1, and registered its name in the history books of amputee football by whipping hosts Ghana 3-2 on penalties to win the 2011 Amputee Cup of African Nations at the Accra Sports Stadium on November 26.
This means Liberia has become the first country to win twice the biennial tournament in its six-year history.
The President of the Amputee Football Federation of Liberia (AFFEL), Cooper Melvin Gotten, in an exclusive telephone interview yesterday said that they have written the Ministry of Youth and Sports and BHP Billiton for support.
He said BHP Billiton, which provided logistic support for the just ended 2011 Amputee Cup of Nations has declined to offer the Amputee Lone Star sponsorship, while discussions with the Ministry of Youth and Sports for a full support are ongoing.
Mr. Gotteh said the Amputee Lone Star, which is currently known as Liberia’s Pride and Joy, is appealing to the Chief Patron of Sports, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the National Oil Company of Liberia, the Lone Star Cell MTN and Cellcom GSM, to participate in the 3rd Amputee World Cup.
According to the AFFEL boss, from a very tactical standpoint, Coach Cooper George, who nurtured the team and won the 2011 Amputee African Cup of Nations has the magic wand cum tactical panacea in taking the team to the 2012 Amputee World Cup in Brazil.
“The truth is we want surety from the government or NOCAL, Lone Star Cell MTN, Cellcom GSM or any institution or individual to lift the uncertainty of our participation and to focus and concentrate on our training,” Mr. Gotteh said.
He added: “We don’t want this to affect the players’ interest and skills, so we’re appealing. The boys want to be sure and continue training to excel at the competition.”
The Russian city of Kaliningrad will host the 2012 Amputee Football World Cup on 6-15 October.
Russia stepped forward to accept hosting responsibilities after Iran was unable to conduct the tournament according to established Federation policies.
The host nation traditionally covers food, lodging and local transportation expenses for all comers, and accepts financial responsibility for 18 teams and staff members.
Citing global economic conditions the Russian Organizing Committee said it could host the World Cup Tournament for only 12 teams.
It has been debated now within the organization how to choose those 12 teams. A number of proposals have been forwarded --- including selecting the top (two) 2 teams from the 2012 World Cup; the 2010 medalists, the top two (2) medalists from this year's African Cup of Nations, the host nation; plus six more teams based on their activities since the last world cup.
Amputee football became popular in Liberia at the end of the brutal civil conflict with strong but inexperienced one-leg youth roaming the society hopelessly. Some members of the team participated in crude acts that led to the killing of fellow Liberians.
But Football for Hope has given them a new sense of direction. Members of the team are now using their single leg and one hand along with their respective crutches to play the world most popular game.
The team presented the best opportunity for the less fortunate to showcase their talents. They participated in the 2008 and 2010 Amputee World Cups in Turkey and Argentina respectively, flying the red, white and blue flag high.
But when the AFFEL boss was asked about Liberia past performances and how prepared is the team for the 2012 World Cup in Russia, he said: “The Lone Star performances in the past two world cups were under different administration and it was due to poor preparation. I can boast that we’re ready, Coach Cooper George proved himself last year, when we won the Cup away in Ghana and we can do the same in Russia.”
“Interestingly,” he said, “we are taken into consideration the cold weather.”