The Shame of Belonging to SWAL

The author, Omari Jackson

There are some journalists whose duty is to write and talk about sports and the Sports Writers Association of Liberia is their organization. In their discussions, they talk about sports and they follow athletes as they grow in their careers.

They also follow athlete and make them know how important they are, and how much they stand to gain, if all goes well.

They criticize to ensure improvement and not to destroy a player’s passion for his game. Much attention is on the player and not on a foreign player, who lives thousands of miles away.

For many of us, that was how we were taught to do, and how we did it. Before the civil crisis, sports and sportsmen had the best of time.

Particularly in football, athletics and basketball, sports writers followed players as they moved on to major professional leagues in Europe and America.

Sadly, Liberian footballers who moved to America did not make any impression in either soccer or basketball. Their absence created a vacuum at home that could not be filled.

We created our stars and gave them nicknames: ‘Armstrong’ (Joe Nagbe), the ‘Most Celebrated Player’ (James Salinsa Debah) and the eventual king of the turf ‘Wizard Dribbler” (George Weah), just to name a few.

It was the best of times to talk and write about sports. On the radio, were names like the late Herbert Grigsby, Cyrus Badio and Patrick Manjoe. Badio and Manjoe later came up with the breakfast show CyrusPat Show that took the nation by storm.

Those broadcasters made listening to radio an exciting adventure. They were devoted to our players and the players loved them for it.

On the writing side, I and others like Gabriel da Costa, Akosa Ike, Emmanuel Williams, Hassan Kiawu, Simon Reeves, Momolu V. O. Sirleaf, the late Klon Hinneh, Mattor Harris, James B. Carter, Bana Sackie, made sports writing a wonderful experience.

The war, that animal of progress, brought all our things to a halt, and like Chinua Achebe said, “Things fell apart and the center could no longer hold.”

Today, we live in a new era, a period of instant communication in which the internet has made the work of a sport writer less challenging. And the best sports writers can now do is ‘copy what others have written and for another audience and publish them in their newspapers’ and they are known as ‘sports writers.’ What a shame!

What has the Sports Writers Association of Liberia, SWAL, brought into the development of the sports writer? I am aware of a couple of seminars but the results have been the same, stealing articles from the internet.

Since my return, I have observed SWAL in serious confrontation with the Liberia Football Association when it is not able to address its members’ passion to promote European football over local sports.

I have also heard radio presenters who read step-by-step career growth of foreign players at the expense of local players.

When the Amputee Lone Star won the Cup of Nations’ trophy the 3rd time, the SWAL was silent about that achievement.

When the national team, Lone Star suffered its worst humiliation defeat against Nigeria, SWAL remained mum.

When former national team players Mark Fino and Pete Roberts and administrator David L. Bropleh passed in 2013, the SWAL was nowhere to identify with the families. As I write, Experience Sayon Davis and Joker Wreacher both suffered from stroke and the SWAL has not made any attempt to go tell them ‘don’t mind.’ Sayon was a member of the Lone Star that in 1979 won the 6-Nation Tournament.

The SWAL or its members are not interested in the local boy who after several attempts managed to beat 32 and to set his local team afire with delight.

One of the initiatives that made SWAL relevant: the Herbert Grigsby Forum is gone, and what does SWAL have left?

SWAL election is coming up and there are issues about money credited and repaid. That is pure nonsense!

Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a sports writer, but I have been writing for the last several years and I find it difficult to quit. I have also been writing shorts stories and I think I must continue, for at least, Criminal lawyer Jason Doe, the hero of my mystery stories, will ensure that justice is done.


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