President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in her annual address to the nation, yesterday did not make mention of what her government will do to make certain that the sporting community moves ahead along as part of the nation’s development in its transformation agenda in the years ahead.
President Sirleaf’s silence was a reflection of last year’s address where she paid some attention to the Liberia Amputee and Sports Association, (LAFASA). The amputee Lone Star is the reigning soccer lords of their version of the African Cup of Nations.
But the President’s action comes at the heels of the reduction of the meager national budget provided for the regular national team to participate in the African Cup of Nations and the World Cup series.
Besides football there are other sports like basketball, boxing, table tennis, lawn tennis, golf, handball and kickball that have thousands of adherents throughout the country. And most of the players are in the various schools.
While it is difficult to understand the Chief Patron of Sports’ lackluster attitude towards sports in the last couple of years, I am convinced that she is aware that among health and economic benefits for athletes, it unites a people for their common good. For it is stated by someone, “all work without play makes Jack a dull boy.” And President Sirleaf has had the occasion to speak about the unity that sports bring for the Liberian nation in the past.
Names like George Sackor, and Garetson Sackor (in the 50s), Josiah N. Johnson, Wanibo Toe, Jackson Weah (60s), Koko Wleh, Santos Maria, Frank Jericho Nagbe, (70s) to mention just a few, have become memorable names in Liberian soccer history. I am also sure that she is aware of the importance of sportsmen in the promotion of their countries’ image abroad. For instance, former and current players like George Weah, James Debbah, Cristiano Ronaldo, Leornard Messi, Abedi Pele, Didier Drogba and Serena Williams have been ambassadors for their respective countries. George Weah was first made a ‘sports ambassador’ by Dr. Amos Sawyer’s LNTG. These men have been role models with millions of followers, earning millions of dollars that have made them heroes in their countries.
It is therefore no wonder that the overwhelming popularity of Senator George Weah is due to his past career as a footballer and what that career made him to do for his country.
It is also a fact that amputee footballers, many of whom came to their present condition as a result of the war, have become useful, realizing that they can still contribute towards Liberia’s development through sports.
Though this article does not intend to preach about why the Liberian government should support sportsmen, it is to remind Chief Patron of Sports, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that the overwhelming number of Liberians remember the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe because he was prepared to put money into sports, particularly football and others benefitted as well.
Senator George Weah has always reminded his audience of his gratitude to the late President Doe who spent thousands of United States dollars to send him and his colleagues to Brazil that set the course for his eventual rise as the best in the world.
For a fact, Mr. Robert Sirleaf has shown by deeds that the development of the youths must begin with the promotion of sports, sponsoring the Barrack Young Controllers, along with the construction of several stadiums. In reality, President Sirleaf’s speech was more impressive, hitting all the important spots in the difficult road that the country has traveled but a little attention to sports development could have made all the difference for those of us who have vowed to use sports as a means to become part of her government’s transformation agenda.