In spite of the recently two confirmed cases of Ebola in the country, following the death of 10 year old Nathan Gbotee, Jr., and the supervision of about 150 persons, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has said that it is still confident to hold the 2015 National County Sports Meet, beginning Saturday, December 12.
The Youth and Sports Ministry stated that it’s optimistic that there would not be an escalation of the virus to cause postponement of the meet.
The County Sports Meet is organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under the theme “Liberia’s rising through Sports.”
Deputy Sports Minister Henry B. Yonton, Jr., in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer yesterday said the countdown still continues with 16 days to the County Meet and preparations are still ongoing to officially kick off the tournament in Buchanan while preliminary rounds would be in other three counties.
He said players’ cards and the first portion of the preparation fees have already been dished out to the counties whereas the venues are currently undergoing minor renovations.
Minister Yonton indicated that the Ministry has learnt that there are series of friendly test matches between and among counties and the announcement of the group stages has put to rest speculations over who will stand against the County Meet’s elite teams and who would be the underdog in a group as well as which group would be the “Clash of the Titans.”
The draw produced a particularly thrilling lineup, with the defending champions, Grand Bassa County taking on Bong County – the 2008 winner as well as River Gee – the 2009 runner-up and Sinoe (the underachiever). Buchanan, the host of the Group – will also serve as the host of the official opening program. Football pundits have tipped the host and Bong County to qualify for the “Big 8” if both counties could replicate their forms.
Group II will see a mouthwatering showdown with Nimba (1978, 1979, 2010 and 2011 winners as well as 2014 runners-up) against Grand Cape Mount County (2013 winners). Other members of Group II, Maryland and Bomi Counties will not prove too difficult to allow the ‘champions’ to emerge from Group II.
Though Bomi had a winning record in 2009, Cape Mount’s title of 2013 surpassed it. Sanniquellie, Nimba County is the host.
Among the four members, Grand Gedeh County, 2007 and 2010 runner, who is also the host, the foremost contender for one of the two seats for the “Big 8.” The remaining three counties – Lofa, Rivercess and Grand Kru are equally and significantly threats to each other and expect a titanic tussle for the second qualifying spot.
Grand Kru County won the County Meet in 1974, 1977, 1985 and 1987 – but since the 1990s, Grand Kru has been struggling. River Cess was crowned champions in 2007 – the first edition of the Sirleaf’s County Meet and emerged runners-up in 2008, but Lofa County’s highest performance in the County Meet was in 2004, when she settled as runners-up.
Margibi and Montserrado will stand an excellent chance of outweighing Gbapolu to gain qualification, but the Bopolu boys – the 2004 winners – could pull a surprise if any of the favorites shows complacency.
The finals of the kickball and football editions of the 2015/2016 County Meet will be played at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium while the basketball and volleyball versions would be held at the Sports Commission on Broad Street.
It may be recalled that the outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014 caused the cancellation of the County Meet. The games bring unity of purpose and they transcend tribe; ideology and county boundaries.
With few days to the County Sports Meet, there is already heat around the country, where one could again have a sense of belonging besides the national football team.
It has always had such effect on every team on the field during the County Sports Meet, where spectators behave and think that the team represents them – their family and county.
The County Meet, launched in 1956, is held annually in the spirit of unification.