It was an eye-catching but hardly a credible amputee football display as they moved on their crutches with grace on the dusty football field, located at the front of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, after 18 months of absence owing to the stay of the national amputee team in the United States.
There were flows of sweat, as if it were raining, and as if they were crying, but there was sadness in their eyes as they practiced.
The 12 men, each side with six one-leg players and one-arm goalkeeper in the practice were under the direction of the new leadership of Liberia Amputee Football and Sports Association (LAFASA), under new president Richard Duo.
Interestingly, before they began the practice – they prayed. A dozen men, all missing a limb, leaned on their crutches and bowed their heads. After a brief silent prayer, newly appointed coach Cooper George muttered an “amen” and the men lifted their heads and began to warm-up.
Building a New Team
Head coach George said with most of the topnotch players of the three-time African Nations champions still in the US, he has been directed to build a new team.
He said since December he has gathered the players who were not able to go to the United States with some newly recruits.
“We are reintroducing the kind of winning tactics that will ably represent the titles – because you know we are the defending football champions and three times winner,” Coach Cooper said.
“We practice only on Sundays at the grassy field in front of the SKD Complex – and things are not juicy – water, transportation and practice tools, such as cones and balls are some of our challenges.”
He pointed out that though a player like Festus Harrison is “deeply missed,” there are other players who are filling in his shoes, like Matthew Joe, Darlington Saylee, Samuel Tengbeh, Jerome Togba, and Fallah Varney and goalie Moses Blah.
Coach George was the manager of the 2011 Amputee Lone Star team which retained the title.
Liberia’s Pride & Joy
Since the creation of the LFA, the Amputee Lone Star has been the only national team to win continental titles.
In the 1980s, the national football team was known as the Nation’s Pride and Joy as well as the 1990s and early 2000s which qualified the team for the finals in 1996 and 2001.
After the fallout of the George Weah 11, the label – nation’s pride and joy disappeared and the Amputee Lone Star became the “shining star.”
In 2007, the Lone Star Amputee Lone Star participated in the inaugural Amputee African Cup of Nations and was amongst the least, but in the following year, Liberia beat the defending champions – Sierra Leone in the final in Monrovia to clinch the title and qualified for the Amputee World Football Championship.
In 2011, Liberia retained the title when she defeated host Ghana 4-2 on penalties.
Up to the present, a 15-man delegation of the Amputee Lone Star is still in the United States since August 2015.
According to the then President of LAFASA, Cooper Melvin Gotteh, they were invited by the United States Amputee Football Federation to take part in an international friendly match but the tournament was cancelled before they left.
Still, they decided to travel to the United States but made improper arrangement for accommodation. Now they are having a tough time meeting their basic daily needs.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports said LAFASA hid an email informing Liberia that the tournament was cancelled from the ministry. The ministry’s poor supervision over the process led the team to travel to the United States, when they did not have to.
Melvin Gotten maintained that despite the cancelation of the tournament they decided to go to the USA to explain to the world the deplorable conditions under which they lived in Liberia.
He said Liberian amputees’ lack decent housing, education, and food and many have turned to beggars.
“We knew that actually on the 23rd of June the tournament was canceled but we had other appointments. So that’s why we used the opportunity to come to America. We felt that back home things are difficult, so that’s why we are remaining here to raise some funds for our own organization and for our own purposes,” he said.
Meanwhile the Liberian government denied claims by Goteh that the government plans to prosecute them upon their return for using government funds to travel to the United States to participate in a tournament that had already been canceled.