Liberia’s oldest old-timer football and fraternity association, Alpha, will on Saturday, August 22, honor the memory of one of its founding members – Willis DeFrancis Knuckles, Jr., as part of a series of activities in commemoration of the association 45th anniversary.
The late Knuckles, affectionately known as Bob Willis also served Alpha in various positions, including general captain, president and senior advisor.
The Acting President of Alpha Old-timer Association, Henry B. Yonton, Jr., said the association would officially name their stadium in honor of Bob Willis, to be known as ‘Willis D. Knuckles, Jr Memorial Sports Stadium.’
He said Willis’s favorite jersey number – Number 9, would also be formally retired and the team’s number 9 would be hung in the team’s closet.
The acting Alpha boss said after the program, there would be a day-long football tournament, restricted to players above 50 years – one of the most-like tournaments of Bob Willis.
He said Alpha would play host to Independence, New Georgia and All Stars of the Liberia National Old-timers Association (LONA).
“Prior to the program members of Alpha and other teams, families and well wishers would match from Duport Road junction to the field,” Mr. Yonton said. “We all will be wearing t-shirts to remember Bob Willis.”
Vice President Joseph N. Boakai is expected to make a statement or a eulogy and officially dedicate the stadium.
The Alpha’s acting boss, who is also the Deputy Minister for Sports, in a tearful interview, said Bob Willis played a highly memorable role in Alpha.
He said Bob Willis was a mentor, awesome strategist and disciplinarian who immensely and honestly contributed to the success of Alpha since its establishment.
The deeply saddened acting Alpha boss said Bob Willis was a potent striker, who had impeccable control on and off the ball, and also had perfect ball distribution ability.
“Mrs. Hawa Evelyn Knuckles is expected to lead the family to the program, and we expect cabinet ministers, friends and sympathizers to troop on the field to honor his memory,” Mr. Yonton said.
Bob Willis died on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:30 am in Accra, Ghana after a brief illness. He was 68.
He served as secretary general and vice chairman of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) from 1972-1975 and from 1984-1986.
Mr. Knuckles served in several positions in government from 1969 to 2013, including Assistant Minister for Sports in the Ministry of Labor, Youth and Sports, during the tenure of Minister Estrada J. Bernard.
Following his successful organization of a six-nation tournament won by Liberia, Knuckles was elevated to the position of Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports – the assignment he held until his resignation in June 1980.
The late Knuckles served as Managing Editor at the Daily Observer from 1982-1984 as well as a correspondent for the BBC’s Focus on Africa program.
In 1988, he organized and served as managing director of the Sports World newspaper, which was forced to close down in 1990 at the onset of the civil war.
His widow, Mrs. Hawa Evelyn Knuckles, three children and other relatives survive him.
Meanwhile, Mr. Yonton said, in continuation of Alpha’s 45th anniversary celebration, there would be a two-day football tournament, amongst the four’s in-house teams, Legend, Force, Angel and Red Dragon. The tournament would run from Sunday, August 23 to Monday, August 24 at the to-be Willis D. Knuckles Sports Stadium in Zubah Town, Duport Road Community.