It was a sad day for Africa Monday evening when we saw two of its top teams, Nigeria and Algeria, gracefully bow out of the World Cup in Brazil. Nigeria lost to France and Algeria to Germany, ending Africa’s hope of reaching the semi-finals.
But we must quickly put away that sadness by redoubling our determination to do not only better next time, but go out and win, until one day, probably in the next tournament, we will bring the Golden Cup to Africa.
The world controlling Football Association, FIFA, and its wise and dynamic President, Sepp Blatter, announced last week that the organization was granting to each FIFA member association US$750,000 to develop football in their various countries. This multi-billion dollar investment is highly significant.
What will Liberia do with hers?
We understand that the Liberia Football Association (LFA) has plans for a national football academy, and football academies in all 15 countries.
These are great plans which, if followed through with honesty, patriotism and determination, would significantly improve Liberian football. But we also understand that two other problems facing the LFA could stand in the way of these football academy plans. First, after all these years, the association is still renting. Secondly, she owes salary arrears. These two are in addition to travel costs and other recurrent expenses that limit the capacity of any organization to make effective, long-term use of financial resources.
It appears that the first order of business in the use of this FIFA grant is the salaries; next, the building of the headquarters, so that LFA will stop paying rent. These are legitimate and probably urgent expenditures. For it would be difficult to see all that FIFA money in LFA’s hands when they are struggling to pay salaries and rents. The Creoles in Sierra Leone laugh at people who possess lots of money and are yet living in poverty. The Creoles dub this as “Money na hand, back na ground.”
So it is understandable that LFA would be inclined to use some of the FIFA grant to take care of “urgent business.” But the BIG question is, what of the long term. There will always be salaries to pay and maintenance costs once the headquarters building is erected. But the more urgent and critical question is, Where will Liberian football be come the next World Cup in 2018?
We pray that Mr. Bility, his team and LFA as a whole will start thinking big and making concrete, realistic and serious plans to build first, the National Football Academy—somewhere in Careysburg perhaps—and academies in each of the 15 counties.
We understand that FIFA is soon to send a team of experts here to help in formulating the plans for the future of Liberian football, in particular the academies. We hope that LFA can engage some creative and visionary architects to plan both its headquarters and the academies. Let the LFA headquarters be a landmark building, not a box or warehouse as people in this country are so used to building. No! These football officials have seen the world. Let them bring back something that will be functional and good to look at.
Secondly, what are LFA’s real plans for the National Academy? We are talking first of the program—academic, athletics and actual football training; and of the design of the complex to make it as efficient as possible. The plan, as it is developed, should be exposed to the public to get their input.
LFA should use the same approach for the County Academies, too. Let the local people be involved; but ensure that the plans are developed by the best architects and contractors available.
But we cannot overemphasize the need for well conceived and developed PROGRAMS for the National and the County academies that will truly make a difference and start training from childhood through secondary school, a new cadre of highly disciplined, talented, patriotic and smart Liberian footballers.
In order to move forward with efficiency and effectiveness, the LFA must streamline its leadership and operational system and ensure that they make the best possible use of all that FIFA has to offer in training and in the success of Liberian football development.