Liberia: LFA Apologizes for Discriminatory Act Against Guinean Player

Player Bountou Sylla  on the (ATS playing patch) was invited to the headquarters of the Liberia Football Association by president Mustapha Raji and apologized.   

.... Launches Investigation

Liberia’s back-to-back women’s division champions, Determine Girls, second consecutive title celebration was Saturday interrupted by a discriminatory action after Guinean international Bountou Sylla was denied from celebrating her team’s triumph with her country’s flag.

Determine Girls last week clinched their second consecutive championship after a 2-1 win against Soccer Ambassadors, extending their lead atop the league table to 11 points with three games to spare.

What Happened?

Sylla, a striker, was earlier denied from carrying her flag for the medal presentation. After receiving her medal, Sylla later went for her flag to celebrate with the trophy, but was again prevented by the Liberia Football Association’s Deputy Secretary General for legal and Technical Affairs, Benedict Yarsiah.

Out of frustration, Sylla, who is also a Guinean women’s national team player, folded her country’s flag, burst into tears and decided to boycott the title celebration.

She was later counselled and consoled by her teammates and officials from her club and the football association.

The incident later went viral on social media, sparking a flurry of posts and condemnation from football followers. It also claimed the attention of the Guineans back home with several Guinean media institutions reporting the incident. 

Atty. Benedict Yarsiah Denies Allegation

Atty. Yersiah, in response to the situation, wrote on his official Facebook handle: “It is very unfortunate that I've been prosecuted and adjudged guilty without anybody, even if I was guilty of all pictorials and write outs displayed, asking to hear from me what actually happened. Howbeit, I’m highly cognizant of situations as they unfold and what depicts such situations to unfold in such a manner. I've never, will never, ever stopped player Bountou Sylla from celebrating with her country (Guinea’s) flag. I know better than that to practice and exercise discrimination. 

I, along with Deputy Minister Quamie, Acting President, Prof. Sekou Konneh swiftly reached out to the player on the field while celebration was ongoing and passionately apologised to her for just the insinuation and assertion which was permeating the corridors of the program. 

Meanwhile, I herewith once more extend to the Determine Girls FC, player Bountou Sylla and the entire Guineans and Liberians football populace, my sincere apology and assure you that I never, ever stopped player Boutuo Sylla from celebrating with her country, Guinea’s flag. Pictorials depicted on social media, in my mind, were just meant to magnify the situation wrongly.”

LFA Takes Responsibility, Apologizes to Player Sylla

LFA president Mustapha Raji, upon return from the 72nd FIFA Congress held in Doha, Qatar, held a press conference at which time he condemned the act and apologized for the situation.

“In our society, there is no place for discrimination. Everyone has the freedom to exercise their rights. The LFA is open to all players around the world with interest in playing football in Liberia. 

“We want to take full responsibility for the wrong action taken by one of our staff at the SKD practice pitch during the closing ceremony involving the crowning of Determine Girls as the Women’s football champions. We want to extend our sincere apologies to player Bountou Sylla, the higher goal scorer of our women’s league division, the football club Determine Girls and fans; Guinean Football Federation, all Guineans, sport loving Liberians for what happened yesterday, we’re very sorry and we regret the situation. 

“The Football Association likes to also assure our football loving families that the LFA will continue the investigation and take the appropriate action. So far, we have communicated to the Guinean Football Federation, we extended our apologies to the federation and we’ve also communicated with player Bountou Sylla and apologized for the situation that took place,” Mr Raji said.

Who is Bountou Sylla?

Sylla, 22, is currently having her best season in the Liberian women’s division league after recording 51 league goals in 16 matches with two games to end the league season.

Saturday’s trophy was her second consecutive league title with Determine Girls after she became one of the first two Guineans (Hawa Conteh and Bountou Sylla) to win the Liberian women’s league in April of 2021.

Sylla arrived in Liberia in July 2020 and officially joined Determine Girls on August 25, 2020 after she was spotted by the club from the Guinean women’s national team in a 3-3 draw against Liberia at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.

During her debut season, She recorded 15 goals and 19 assists in 15 league games. She’s a favourite to win this year’s MVP award in the women’s division.

Sylla is one of four Guineans to have played in the Liberian women’s league.