Thousands of Liberians thronged the streets of Monrovia to give their team, the Lone Star, a fitting welcome after their first away win in a decade. Liberia had played 1-1 with Guinea Bissau in Monrovia on October 8, 2015. After that match, tempers flared as the Liberian fans spewed insults and pelted their team. Fresh on the heel of defeating Tunisia and cognizant of their team’s anemic away performance, the fans expected an emphatic win in Monrovia against a third world, lowly rated side – Guinea Bissau.
This was not to happen – as the boys from Bissau held their own on Liberian turf and were worthy of sharing the spoils of the match. Fast forward to the return leg on October 13, 2015, the excitement that filled the air post the Tunisia match has ebbed.
The decade long poor away-game showings have beleaguered the Lone Star and stifled spectators’ confidence. Liberia needed a win or double goal draw to qualify, and many Liberians believed that was a “big ask,” even monumental, of their team given the home advantage that Guinea Bissau now held.
Post the 1-1 draw against Guinea Bissau, James Debbah, the oracle trusted with transforming Liberia’s fortune, found his mojo under the spotlight. Many commentators sniped at the coach’s long ball tactics. They employed the ‘Lone Star strikers don’t have the pedestal to compete on such terms,’ hence they were detached from the game.
On the eve of the match in Bissau, Liberia FA President Musa Bility – who is seeking the FIFA presidency – drummed up his team spirit- inducing monetary vow if the Lone Star come away with the Holy Grail.
Thanks to civil crises, which arrested developments in both countries, the match was not beamed on television. Those of us who got to the Internet – on live score – twenty (20) minutes late were pleasantly surprised and swamped with elation that the Lone Star was leading 2-0, courtesy of Williams Jebor.
Jebor would go on to net his third in the dying minutes – salvaging a historic 3-1 win for Liberia and arguably going down as the first Liberian to ever net a hat trick in an international match.
That has placed him among the enviable legends of Liberian football, with the likes of Wannibo Toe, George Weah and his current Coach James Debbah. Excuse my amplification. In Liberia we exaggeratedly celebrate the little milestones. That is the
Liberian way, as Dr. Robtel Pailey put it: “Liberians are generous people. They rejoice and celebrate the small milestones in life – the birth of a child, a marriage, a graduation” and certainly a sweet Lone Star victory.
On November 13, 2013, our next World Cup qualifier is against Ivory Coast – our Mano River neighbor. There is traffic between the two countries – ethnic groups straddle our borders, but unlike as with our other neighbors, Sierra Leone and Guinea – Ivoirians and Liberians celebrate their similarities and keep their suspicions of each other beneath the surface.
However, this time will be different. Liberians are finding their voices. There is excitement in the air; a flicker of hope, and so much to play for: to put an end to Ivorian hegemony over Liberia in football, a world cup slot and the joy of beating a star studded Ivorian team. Bring It On! We’ve got Jebor, the new kid who carries the hopes and aspirations of a nation on his shoulder.