Wither, Liberian Football?

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The dismal defeat of our Under 20 Women’s Football Club by their Nigerian counterparts last Sunday is a horrid reminder of the deep and serious trouble Liberian football is in, and has been for a long time.

How on earth is it possible that the Liberian people, and their government, which happens to be headed by a woman, will disgrace their own mothers? Those girls on that football squad are all our mothers.

We understand that there had been a plan to encamp them for at least 15 days prior to the match, for training. But then the perennial Liberian excuse popped up—no money. The question immediately arises: Why are we so unpatriotic? Truly, if we loved our country, money would NEVER be an issue where national honor is involved.

We understand that when Musa Bility became president of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) in 2010, he signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Youth and Sports stating that the LFA alone would be responsible for Liberian football. From that time it seems GOL has washed its hands of football and stood aside uninterestedly and permitted Africa’s oldest independent republic to face one defeat after another, all over the continent and globe, and even here at home.

What we and our government do not realize is that whenever our players—the various clubs, the Female Lone Star Squad or the Lone Star itself—suffer defeat, it is not the LFA that is defeated. No, the international media never says the LFA was defeated. Just as they blasted this week, it was Liberia that was humiliatingly defeated—yes, Liberia—not LFA!

We call on Youth and Sports Minister Eugene Nagbe to reread that MOU between his Ministry and the LFA and have it immediately rescinded (annulled, withdrawn). We make this call because it is patently (clearly, deliberately) wrong for the LFA to take sole responsibility for the Lone Star, the sports and athletics SYMBOL of our nation. The Lone Star should be and IS the full responsibility of the Republic of Liberia, just as all African and other governments around the world are not only responsible for, but SERIOUSLY and ACTIVELY interested in their national squads. Was it not President John Mahama of Ghana who rushed US$5 million to Brazil for the Black Stars during last year’s World Cup? Did not German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck fly to San Paula to see Germany win the World Cup? Their presence inspired the players to win the Cup for the first time in 24 years!

Was it not President Mandela himself who inspired South Africa’s all-white Springboks Rugby Team to go and win the 1995 World Cup? His message to each player was, “Play for South Africa’s pride.”

Surely, as the organization responsible for football in Liberia, the LFA should be interested in the fate of the Lone Star and its affiliates. But we insist that it is the GOL that is ULTIMATELY responsible for the Lone Star, which is also our National Emblem—the Flag.

With the GOL and the LFA working hand in hand, surely the Lone Star could shine and succeed—but not with LFA alone. See how we have lost so miserably, see how we have so many times been disgraced.

Yet Mr. Bility says he wants to run for the FIFA presidency. Does he not know that charity begins at home? The people whom he expects to vote for him will first ask, What has he done for Liberia—how has he helped his own team, the Lone Star? If he has nothing to show, they will have nothing to offer him—certainly not FIFA’s coveted crown.

A leading retired Liberian footballer has another explanation about why the GOL has neglected football and Lone Star. He says GOL has decided it does not want another George Weah, who will become a new Liberian superstar and enter politics. But though this may be plausible (possible), we reject this view because we fail to believe that the Liberian government would succumb to such mean-spiritedness, shortsightedness and shamefulness.

We now call on the Lone Star’s Chief Patron, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to convene immediately a roundtable of all stakeholders to discuss how we can remedy Liberian football. These stakeholders should include the MYS, LFA, former Lone Star international stars like Senator George Weah and James Salinsa Debbah, other Liberian international players, and former Lone Star Coach Josiah Johnson, whose son is playing in Europe.

Other stakeholders are former Invincible President Willard Russell and Barrolle Executive Member, Cllr. T.C. Gould, who is also Old Timers Football President, and Counselor Estrada Bernard, former MYS Minister.

Let them sit and reason together to determine how the Lone Star can become second to none in Africa.

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