Hopes were dashed and teeth grinded again on Sunday when the Lone Star was shamefully kicked out from the 2016 African Nations Championship qualifiers – there were sadness and doubt coupled with insults on Lone Star for ending another football journey.
Liberia needed a 2-0 to qualify for the 2nd phase of the CHAN tournament – at least to raise the hope of Liberians especially after the end of the deadly Ebola Virus, just as the George Weah X1 did after the two civil wars.
The players performed dismally and Coach James Salinsa Debbah – speechless and frustrated wore an olive green shirt and light trousers instead of the expected red, white and blue – nevertheless he was ridiculed as a ‘bad coach.”
Literally, there were tears in the eyes of former 1995 FIFA World Best Player, Senator George Weah, Public Works Minister Gyude Moore and many other Liberian fans – having anxiously stoned the front windshield of the Match Commissioner’s rented vehicle (License Plate # BB-764), when the back gate was locked to stop them from entering.
“Would the Lone Star ever become the nation’s pride again,” this was the one billion dollars question on the lips of Liberians as they fought to come out of the field as they had fought to go in.
The performance of the national team under its 9th coach since the era of George Weah was appalling thereby causing a number of blames.
Inarguably, Lone Star 1995-2002 became the nation’s pride and joy, pulling many surprises.
In the 1996 Afcon qualifiers, Liberia qualified with 10 points – won three, drew four and lost one. Liberia whipped Togo and Tunisia 1-0 each, defeated Mauritania 2-0, bowed to Senegal 3-0, and again drew with Senegal to gain the second ticket.
Four years later, the George Weah X1, after two failed campaigns, qualified for the African Cup of Nations in 2002.
Mauritania was whipped on the two-tie – 4-0 and 2-0 as well as Congo –5-1 and 1-0 but bowed 2-1 to South Africa and drew 1-1 in the second leg to top Group 2.
In the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, for the first time, Liberia nearly qualified, after five wins and three losses, especially the 2-1 defeat to Ghana at home after humiliating Ghana in 3-1 in Accra.
Since the George Weah X1’s dissolution in 2002 by former President Charles Taylor, Lone Star is yet to pick its rhythm due to several factors.
Lone Star’s coaches since 2001 have included Kadalah Kromah, Kofi Bruce, Frank Jericho Nagbe, Sr., Antoine Hey, Bertalan Bicskei, Robert Landi, Thomas Kojo, Kaetu Smith and now James Debbah.
Debatably, more than six players have not played together for more than six years on the national team, like George Weah X1.
George Weah X1 had seven constant players: George Weah, James Debbah, Kelvin Sebwe, Mass Sarr, Jr., Jimmy Dixon, Zizi Roberts and Joe Nagbe.
Another argument could be that those players had a solid foundation– played in sequence – and were able to qualify under the late Wilfred (Green Banana) Lardner and those of Vava George.
Our current players seem to be a “generation of players” that has lost its way owing to the lack of focus.
BBC described George Weah, from 1996 – 2001, as the real soul of the team. And there has been no player to take the mantle of leadership for the national team. However, five players came close to claim the leadership but owing to personal issues, they could not succeed. They include: Dulee Johnson, Francis Doe, Anthony Laffor and Sekou Jabateh.
In any case, all is not lost as there are five more games for a place in the 2017 African Cup of Nations. Lone Star with our professionals will have Tunisia, Djibouti and Togo to challenge.
What should Liberians expect? Another disappointment or officials would put on their thinking caps to make a complete change necessary for the better? While we await the future of Lone Star, we pray that the Liberian government will now show some concern about the future of the team that represents the nation in competitions.