2013 Soccer Review: Growth despite Challenges

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Liberian soccer in 2013 did not improve much in winning sub-regional and continental titles in the various competitions.

Though soccer is the nation’s number one sport, there was not much to look up to internationally. Liberian teams did not do well in the World Cup, African Nations Cup, Club Championships, and the Confederation Cup tournaments.

Achievements were however made on the local level. The first was the successful organization of the sub-regional 3rd Division Play-offs, the first of its kind by the Liberia Football Association.

It was like a mini-county meet, for teams in Grand Bassa, Lofa, Nimba, Maryland, Bong, Montserrado and Margibi competed in the play-offs. The finals then were held in Monrovia and it is expected that the exercise could be repeated in 2014.

Another achievement was the organization of coaching seminars for locals to achieve License B certificates.

“In fact 25 Liberian coaches can now advance their careers and if they want to look outside of Liberia, they can coach teams anywhere in West Africa,” said a former sports administrator.

But the most impressive achievement is the promotion of three local coaches as CAF Instructors in the persons of LFA technical director Henry Browne, CAF Instructor Francis Tamba and Coach Kaetu Smith.

The three men have been elevated by CAF and now have the prospect of joining many others who have been ensuring a successful development of coaches for Africa.

“It was a major achievement for Liberian football development,” a long time follower of the game told the Daily Observer.

The three men told the Daily Observer that they “look at their new positions as challenging, as Liberians join in the improvement of soccer coaching in Africa.”

On the administration of the local league, financial constraints were as usual the major problem but Cellcom GSM kept its promise and renewed its previous sponsorship in the amount of U$650,000. It was a major boost for soccer development and FA President Musa Bility described the deal as Cellcom’s exceptional support to save Liberian soccer.

Previous to that momentous support, President Bility, who had been under CAF’s six-month suspension, received a reprieve, and CAF followed his decision by appointing him a member on the organizing committee of the next African Cup of Nations.

The most difficult aspect of football development in 2013 is still the lack of spectators support. While the LFA has an ambitious pairing of teams at the same time, there are pitches that are so close to each other, for example, the Blue Field and the Antoinette Tubman Stadium that playing games the same day and time divides spectators.

The Liberia Football Association kept its promise during the 2013 review period and teams’ registration, red and yellow cards infringements were deducted from the LFA’s financial support, as arranged.

On LFA’s local sanctions, vice president for operations, Adolf Lawrence received a reprieve but former Nimba United president Adolphus Dolo, who had contravened CAF regulations on the registration of players, was not reprieved, despite calls from several sectors.

Still on the local scene President Bility’s experience with CAF introduced what has commonly come to be known as ‘Fraternity Football,’ in which it is explained that the longer sports officials remain in office, the higher the chance for CAF or FIFA to entrust them with regional or continental responsibility.

Though there were others who felt otherwise, new CAF regulations have empowered all Executive Committee members that the successful implementation of ‘Fraternity Football’ is about 90% by stakeholders.

Another interesting development is the completion of a 5-year football development program by the technical department of the Liberia Football Association, whose implementation is highly anticipated in 2014.

 On the international scene, Ambassador George Weah was admitted into the FIFA Hall of Fame, located in Pachuca, Mexico. Weah played in the Italian Serie A and made 146 appearances and scored 58 goals.

  Liberian referees were at the recent WAFU Zone B finals in Ghana, and Jerry Yekeh and his friends were recognized for their improved performance.

Another area that needs to be looked into is the LFA’s responsibility towards the demise of its former members, whether as a player or an official.

  In 2014, BYC and Red Lions will represent the country in the Confederation Cup and the Mandela Cup, and there is not much expectation of the teams doing better than the year under review.

 Overall, the Bility administration has kept the course and its promise, but the challenges of developing the game is dwarfed by the invasion of Euro football that not only Liberia, but the rest of Africa is suffering.

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