2023 AFCON Q: Why Lone Star Playing Home Games in Morocco?

Liberia national team players in their Wednesday’s training session in Morocco (Photo: LFA).   

By Jacob Harris (Intern)

It has been a serious concern for many followers of Liberia senior national football team, the Lone Star, after it was announced that the team will play their home matches in the 2023 AFCOn qualifiers in Morocco.

The disclosure of the Lone Star’s home ground for the qualifiers was made after the red, white and blue boys were paired in Group K along with Morocco, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe were later disqualified due to their failure to meet requirements for the lifting of a FIFA ban.

This decision also caught the attention of group members South Africa, who wrote CAF, objecting to Liberia's arrangement to move their home fixtures to Morocco, which they believe is against the principles of fair play; even though they did the same during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers and 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

Amidst the concerns, Liberia Football Association (LFA) Mustapha Raji on Thursday made it clear that the Lone Star are using Morocco as their home ground because the government of Liberia and the LFA fell short of the use of nearby countries as home ground.

Additionally, Raji said the decision to use Morocco was also meant to cut down costs, stating that the use of Morocco is also cost-effective

“Guinea was booked by Sierra Leone, we also engaged Senegal; Senegal was engaged earlier by The Gambia. We had an MOU between Liberia and Morocco dated way back in 2019. When there was no country that could accept Liberia, Morocco provided the facilities to us, to utilize their stadium at a low cost and to work with a lot of development projects.

“We did not make the draw or to calculate that Liberia was going to be paired against Morocco. We tried as best as we could,” Mr. Raji said.

Raji also disclosed that the decision was not a unilateral one taken by the LFA, but was done in connotation with the government that eventually approved.

The government of Liberia is said to have spent over US$40,000 when the Lone Star played their home match against Cape Verde in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Although Raji did not state how much has been spent on the arrangement with Morocco, the reasons provided suggest that the government is spending less than the amount spent in Ghana.

Due to the MOU signed between the LFA and the  Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) in 2019, the Moroccans agreed to provide the Lone Star the opportunity to play their remaining qualifier matches in Casablanca, Morocco. 

Renovation works are still ongoing at the SKD Sports Stadium following the ban placed by CAF in 2019, due to the national stadium not meeting the minimum requirements to host international matches.

Meanwhile, the national team began their preparation on Wednesday upon their arrival in Morocco as they were seen doing a little exercise in their villa. They continued with their preparation early Thursday morning with the arrival of Brem Soumarou, Prince Balde and Mark Paibai. Kpah Sherman and others were due to arrive yesterday to complete coach Peter Butler's listing of 23 players.