The 2016/2017 edition of the Ministry of Youth and Sports sponsored National County Sports came to an end to at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium last Sunday, with Nimba County dominating by winning the volleyball, basketball and kickball versions, while Montserrado captured the football trophy.
The annual sporting event was inaugurated in 1956 by President William V.S. Tubman as part of his unification policy to bring the country politically together. The preliminaries of the just ended meet were held in Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba and Maryland counties that many have commended the Youth and Sports Ministry for decentralizing the event.
Out of the 15 counties, eight counties later qualified for the quarter finals and they were divided into two groups.
During this time of the tournament, supporters of the eight counties gathered at the ATS to cheer their respective counties to victory. The Ministry put several measures in place to prevent any form of violence, pitch invasion and the over crowdedness, but did not include the deployment of security officers among the supporters to prevent them from throwing objects on the field.
With such measures police officers were unable to control the crowd with reference to some instances including the match between Lofa and Margibi, when a fan ran on the pitch and held-up one of the players and went unpunished due to the inability of officers to catch him; the breakthrough of fans through the vehicle entry gate during the Nimba and Lofa match, the throwing of empty cans at players and match officials and another dishearten moment was after the final whistle during the grand final when fan took over the pitch.
This led to the players not receiving their medals in the normal fashion as journalists struggled to get to the VIP stand where the trophies were presented and even led to the manhandling of Truth FM’s sports reporter Varmah Kamara by an officer of the Executive Protective Service (EPS).
The Ministry of Youth & Sports got 70 percent cooperation from supporters and was able to host about 144 football, kickball, volleyball and basketball matches in the 2016/2017 National County Sports Meet.
Fans of the counties trooped in their numbers to watch their matches and the stadium was filled to its capacity each time, leaving thousands of supporters outside the stadium, which showed the love that Liberians have for sports.
Remember, there are different languages and tribes spoken around the world, but sports is the only language spoken by everyone.
Yes, it happens. In sports you win or you lose. Supporters of both Maryland and Montserrado were all anticipating victory for their respective counties after 60 years.
The two counties were the two finalists of the first edition of the tournament in 1956 when Maryland won the trophy after a coin was tossed due to the failure of both teams to score a goal after 120 minutes of play.
Yes, it will always be a sad moment for every losing side like it was among supporters of Maryland when goalkeeper Koffa Nimely of Montserrado saved two penalties from Maryland.
Yes, star players like Alfeh Allison and Francis Williams of Maryland, who both won MVP awards in different matches, Musa Kamara of Rive Geee, the tournament’s highest goal scorer, Mark Yallah of Nimba, Aaron Hallie and Wurie
Barry of Margibi, among others would have loved to have won the football trophy, but it was star players including Joseph Zayzay, Musa Kebbay, Edward Ledlum and Markey Morgan that won the trophy.
Yes, 15 counties competed for the trophies in the various categories which saw Montserrado winning the football trophy, while Nimba captured the remaining three trophies, but in the end, the triumph is ultimately for Liberians who came and cheered their respective counties in the streets and at the stadium.