Sports journalist Danesius Marteh has requested the Minister of Youth and Sports, Saah Charles N’tow, to speedily investigate what he described as a physical assault that left him with a sore left knee and bruises on his right eye, allegedly by national team head coach James Salinsa Debbah on Saturday, August 26, after a Fabric 101.1 FM weekend sports program. Marteh said he has suffered physical, emotional and professional pains. “Doctors at Clora Clinic in New Kru prescribed one-week injection to ease pains in my knee at a cost of US$100,” he told the Daily Observer in a telephone interview yesterday.
Marteh said the assault has also affected him psychologically as a professional journalist. He said he is yet to make a formal complaint to the Liberia National Police because he wants sports officials, including those at the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Liberia Football Association to intervene to restore sanity. He said during the assault, co-presenter Trojan Molley Kiazolu’s (who attempted to separate the two) wristwatch was destroyed.
He claimed that Coach Debbah’s anger got the worst of him when he was reminded by Mr. Marteh about his post on Facebook on October 5, 2015 where he labeled LFA President Musa Bility as a “novice to football development” and a conflicting statement at a news conference on December 29, 2016, where he (Debbah) described Mr. Bility as the “Best LFA President ever.”
With the contradiction obvious, Debbah reportedly denied making the post and said he was not on the show to engage in any confrontation with Mr. Marteh. What broke the camel’s back was when Mr. Marteh, on an issue of delayed salaries, agreed to an earlier comment by Mr. Musa Shannon that Africa is replete with stories of coaches going months without pay who resigned in protest and then complaining to Fifa; suggesting that Coach Debbah could do the same. Marteh said he made reference to Serbian coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, who terminated his contract as coach of Uganda over unpaid wages on July 29, 2017.
“I also said Mr. Debbah won’t resign because he has proven to be ‘consistently inconsistent’ since his appointment in November 2014,” Marteh said. With that said, Marteh apparently did not know what was coming for him, and later said: “Mr. Debbah then left the studio meant for guests and came to the control board where Mr. Kiazolu and I were seated and landed a punch on my face.” The enormity of the punch had a telling effect on the journalist, with bruises and a black eye. And since the publication of the assault many soccer fans have condemned Coach Debbah’s alleged attack on the journalist.
Said one in a phone conversation “If Coach Debbah can’t stand criticisms, then he must quit the job as a national coach because so long as the national team is not doing well he will be criticized.” This was Marteh’s own confession after Coach Debbah reportedly floored him at the count of 10: “A physical exchange ensued where I was dragged to the ground by the coach before Messrs. Worwee and Kiazolu came to my rescue in the main ‘On Air’ studio.” Many who saw the fight said the journalist was lucky that his colleagues, Worwee and Kiazolu, were present, as it could have been a disaster for him.
In Marteh’s appeal to Minister N’Tow, he made mention of a litany of attacks he has received against his person and pleaded with the minister to lead a campaign to ensure that those in leadership should expect criticism in the discharge of their duties, and should not resort to violence as a defense to create fear in those whose duty it is to encourage check and balance in their work. Calls to Coach Debbah for clarification did not materialize as his phone was switched off and a text message was not returned.