After training for six months for the ECOWAS Jr. Championship that recently concluded in Gambia (June 11-12), twelve Liberian athletes were told weeks before their departure that there was no money to send them to Banjul, Gambia.
“It was difficult for the athletes after preparing for the championship and later get to know that the Liberian government could not afford to foot the trip,” Coach Samuel Cooper told the Daily Observer in an interview yesterday.
He said he took the eleven athletes through a vigorous training in the various departments of track and field, and it came as a shock to the delegation that there was no money for the trip to The Gambia.
Cooper said the delegation included eleven athletes and a coach, and they wanted to build on their achievement in 2002, when they won nine medals at the Cotonou, Benin Jr. Championships.
Cooper said his team was prepared to compete in several heats, including 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3,000m, 5,000m, long jump, shot put, 4×4 relay and 4×1 relay.
He named the athletes as Jenora Neufville; Laveline Tolbert; Richard Mayango; Cornelius Pennoh; Sunnyboy Barcon; Abraham Harris; Andrew Kpehe; Anis Faraj; Marcox Sackie; Lucy Massaquoi; and Princess Duah.
Cooper said a round trip ticket to and from Banjul was US$974, and with eleven athletes and a coach amounted to US$11,688.
He said the athletes are downhearted because they feel that the Liberian government does not pay much attention to any other sport other than soccer; and while the government is prepared to spend any amount of money on the soccer team, it is not willing to do the same for track and field and other sporting disciplines.
Commenting on the soccer team’s recent disappointment against Togo, he said, the government provided money to bring 19 footballers from abroad, which amounted to thousands of dollars. He regretted that the government is not prepared to do the same for track and field athletes, calling it a shame.
“What has soccer done for us that we must continue to overlook other important sports?” Cooper noted. “The Ministry of Youth & Sports must create conditions for better support to any national team in the country.”
He said if the Liberian government had paid as much attention to track and field, and even boxing, Liberia would have brought home precious honors.
Cooper made reference to Jamaica’s 100m sprint champion, Usain Bolt, whose achievements on the track have elevated his country to international status, and has made track and field a national past time.
“When are we going to have heroes from other sports since soccer has always failed us? Our sports officials must rethink and be determined to provide financial support to other sports that could bring honor to Liberia,” Cooper said.
Cooper appealed to sports officials to remember that there are various sporting disciplines in the country that should not be left to die because of soccer.
He said the eleven athletes who could not attend the ECOWAS Games due to lack of financial support are people who are prepared to die to raise Liberia’s image regionally and internationally, once they are supported materially and financially.