The Run to the Africa Cup: What It Takes to Get There—and Beyond

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The remarkable performance of the Lone Star squad on Monday, beating Djibouti five goals to zero is cause for celebration by all Liberians. We cannot, however, celebrate too long, for much greater challenges lay ahead—in Monrovia meeting Togo; in Tunis, meeting Tunisia; and beyond.

The Liberian government (GOL), the Liberia Football Association (LFA), the business community and all Liberians should devise ways in which to give every encouragement to our Lone Star teamas they prepare in hope, faith, determination and invincibility for the next two matches.

We highly commend CELLCOM for its magnificent support to the Lone Star in this past match, and encourage them to continue working with LFA in the drive toward football excellence.

The LFA must keep the team in camp, ensuring strict discipline—no smoking, no drinking, no sex—persistent and vigorous exercise and practice, in preparation for their next encounters in Monrovia and Tunis. The team must be given every encouragement to go out and win!

We are happy that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was herself at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium to share the pride of Liberians in seeing their men perform so brilliantly and so successfully. Perhaps the GOL, LFA and the broader business community could make some handsome promises to the team that if they win in Monrovia and Tunis, they would be greatly rewarded.

The aim is not momentary gratification but motivation that will spark within each and all the players the patriotic zeal to go and play “with valor unpretending” until, for the first time in many years, Liberia qualifies for the Africa Cup of Nations.

And once that is accomplished, we all should use the same principle and practice, encouragement and motivation, to arouse their patriotic zeal to go out with vigor, determination and brilliance to win the cup for the first time in history!

Let our Lone Star squad realize that anything is possible in football. See how Egypt dominated the tournament for several years, and then went out, eliminated each successive year. See how the former champs, Nigeria, went down last week, ingloriously eliminated.

It is a distinct possibility that our squad, having “found their scoring boots,” as our Editor Omari Jackson put it in Wednesday’s report, will prove that Liberia’s time has come. So let us seize the moment and, at long last, win the Africa Cup and put our country on the world football map.

And once we get there, how do we stay there and prepare for the BIG ONE—the World Cup?

We need a football academy in Liberia! In this academy, our youths, from ages five to 18, can be trained in the sport and in all the discipline required to turn them into excellent footballers.

These youngsters should go through the normal academic life—primary and secondary schooling—enabling them to train their minds, bodies and spirits while at the same time developing unconquerable football prowess.

Where can this academy be built? It should not be far from Monrovia. One desirable place could be Harrisburg, Montserrado County on the St. Paul River, where the LNYO (Liberia National Youth Organization) had its training operations in the 1960s and 70s. We are sure that the people of Harrisburg would wholeheartedly welcome such a development in their township. The land is large enough to build several football pitches, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, and even an Olympic-size swimming pool to enhance the children’s athletic capacity.

There is enough land, too, for a first class elementary, junior and senior high school, equipped with qualified teachers, dormitories, a library, laboratories, computer and Internet facilities that our young people will see as challenges to excelling in everything they do—academics, body building and yes, football.

Mr. Musa Bility, who told the world some months ago that if he won the FIFA presidency, he would not need to be paid, could put up some money for the erection of this academy. Besides, the Liberian government could surely allocate US$1 million for its construction and FIFA would be willing to contribute to its building and operations.

But every cent raised for that project must be well spent. Liberians must prove that for once, they are SERIOUS about a worthy initiative and spend every cent toward its realization.

We urge the LFA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to start thinking seriously about this project and engage architects to design it.

In time, a football academy could be built in each county. These would empower our footballers to embark on a persistent winning streak. A football academy in each county would inspire a far more dynamic county league. Imagine what that would do to improve football in Liberia!

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