2014 Sports Review: Painful Milestones and a New Start

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The late Willis D. Knuckles and right is the late_web.jpg

Soccer: If there is anything worth remembering about Liberian soccer in 2014, the clear cut answer is that there was nothing much.

This was simply because in the third month of 2014 (March), Liberia was engulfed in a fight against an insidious disease, Ebola, that began to reap a grim harvest.

And the Liberia Football Association as a consequence suspended all its activities as part of the national effort to fight the Ebola virus.

As if that was not enough, former LFA Vice Chairman, (under President Samuel K. Doe), Willis D. Knuckles died on Monday, July 29. His shocking demise shocked relatives and friends, as well as the sporting community.

Known as Bob Willis, he headed the re-organization of football administration in the country, as vice chairman of the Liberia Football Association in 1982. He was supported by a star cast of actors, leading Liberian clubs to participate in continental tournaments. His administration re-started a regular soccer league as well as the LFA-Sub Committees and Associations program that sought to identify future talents for the regular league.

He was ably supported by Assa-Mady Kaba, known then as ‘Chairman,’ who headed the Central Monrovia LFA-Sub Committee, to set up the Union of Liberia Football Association Sub-Committees (ULFASCOM). It was also during his administration that the LFA toured all the counties and established LFA Sub-associations that are integral part of today’s football development. Personalities included the late M. La-Marks Kerdoe and Mohammed Sherrif of Logan Town.

The tragedy of Knuckles’ passing was still fresh under the year under review when broadcast journalist Zoegar Quinn James died two months later. The circumstances leading to Zeogar’s death was evidently the broken healthcare system, where Zeogar was reportedly rushed from hospital to another without success.

Though Zoegar lived a simple life, and mostly it was his friends who helped to transport him here and there, many Liberians were shocked when the Liberian government Gazette, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the deceased as ‘Honorable Zeogar Q. Jaynes.’

The Gazette, originally issued when tragedy hits any prominent Liberian, explained in details the deceased’s remarkable contributions towards Liberia’s growth.

Zeogar’s death was also still fresh when Joseph Cooper, Office Secretary at the Liberia Football Association during the administration of Mr. Willis D. Knuckles also died.

Cooper, a resident of Caldwell, was as efficient in his dealings with soccer, as the late Willis D. Knuckles was to administration and the two men struck a relation that developed beyond their respective times at the LFA.

“They were together till the end,” said someone who followed the activities of the two men.

As the struggle to contain the insidious disease receded in the year under review, the Liberia Football Association’s technical department, under Henry Browne put up a program to restart the rebuilding of the national soccer team, Lone Star and its junior teams.

After nearly three weeks seminar, and practical at the Antoinete Tubman Stadium former national team players, including James Salinsa Debbah, Kervin Sebwe, Thomas Kojo, Janjay Jacobs, Washington Blay, Christopher Wreh, Joe Nagbe, George Gebro, Varmah Kpoto, and Oliver Makor—received the blessings of the Liberia Football Association for a fresh start.

“The dissolution of George Weah X1 in 2002,” LFA boss Musa Bility told them, “was done poorly that afterwards there were no role models for the next generation.”

Hence, it became necessary to allow former players who went professional to now take over the national soccer teams: Lone Star, Junior Lone Star, U-23 and U-17.

“We’ll provide you with every support,” Bility told the coaches, “we want you to build national teams with players with commitment to Liberia.”

It means that the new coaches have the challenge to begin a new, with new players to develop the various national teams for regional and continental assignments in 2015 and beyond.

It will not be an easy task but thank God, Soccer Legend, George Manneh Weah made a triumphant entry into the Liberian Senate for Montserrado and the LFA and sports lovers are crossing their fingers to get Ambassador Weah’s exceptional support for financial and moral support to run a smooth national football program.

Weah’s senatorial success, said some of his admirers, “is a success for sports.” Their hope is that with Ambassador Weah’s commanding presence at the senate, he would mobilize support to put Liberian soccer where it belongs on the world and the continental stages.

And hopefully, other sports may benefit after all.

Boxing & Mixed Martial Arts: While Liberian boxing has suffered greatly, there was news from the United States that all was not lost.

And so as Ebola virus weakened every segment of our public life and cancelled all sporting activities, in 2014, far away in Atlanta, Ga in the United States, Liberian boxer Archie Weah was knocking doors with glorious feats.

Weah turned professional in the United States and won two Golden Glove Awards. And remarkably he gained the blessings of five-time WBC champion American Evander Holyfield. The Liberian now wants to represent his country in the next Olympic Games in Brazil.

“What a chance opportunity for Liberia to at least make history at the next Olympics,” someone who has followed Archie Weah sent a text to the Daily Observer sports.

One of the vice president’s of the Liberia National Olympic Committee Malcolm Joseph is following Archie Weah’s development with interest, he told the Daily Observer in a phone conversation recently.

And though with Liberia bruised by Ebola and rejected by the world another Liberian was making waves in the United States as well.  

Hitting headlines in the United States in 2014 was Mixed Martial Artist, Dwight Jaytee Joseph, a sensation in a sport that seemed to favor the Liberian.

He has dominated the division and with his increasing success, it is hopeful that 2015 will see the Liberian achieve major successes to help promote his country’s image.

Joseph made a contribution in the 2014 Ebola fight when he set up a website to solicit funds to help defeat the Ebola virus.

“Showcasing the prowess of Liberia has always been an added impetus as I participate in competitions and don my country’s flag,” Joseph said recently after overcoming an opponent in one of his latest fights.

Other sports: It is encouraging to note that in the year under review sporting federations, including taekwondo, handball, lawn tennis, golf, basketball and table tennis ceased all their operations and joined the united fight against the Ebola, and with the virus continuous decline, as latest reports have indicated, Liberian sports would have better standing in 2015 and thereafter.

 

 

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