President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her annual message to the Second Session of the 53rd National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia on January 28, 2013 vowed a new focus to develop a more formidable national soccer team for the country.
Speaking on the theme ‘A Time for Transformation’ she summarized government’s support and the team’s lack of success.
President Sirleaf said, “To promote the more unifying force in our body politic, we allocated significant resources to the promotion of sports activities, particularly football.
“The results have been less than satisfactory, suggesting we need a new approach – one that focuses on the development of a young national team and directing resources to other sports.”
She added: “Consultations are under way with the various concerned entities to ensure commitment to this new approach.”
The less than satisfactory results were the poor performance of the national team against Nigeria (6-1) Uganda (in Kampala 1-0) and Senegal (in Monrovia 2-1) that ended both of Liberia’s World Cup and Nations’ Cup dreams.
Hence, there was a new beginning and the soccer community expressed appreciation for the president’s announcement.
Now what are the facts? Did President Sirleaf’s vow, eventually helped to develop a new but young Lone Star? The evidence, according to our investigation, does not support the reality of President Sirleaf’s pronouncement.
The president will be addressing the nation on Monday, January 27, 2014 and will take stock on the achievement since 2013. As we anticipate the 2013’s Progress Report, we want to draw the president’s attention to how much ‘less than successful’ was achieved during the sports year in 2013.
As a result the Daily Observer sports desk contacted sports officials at both the Ministry of Youth and the various federations to see if the government lived up to its commitment.
A ministry official admitted that there was no increase in the budget allocation to develop the national soccer team, Lone Star.
“We know the usual USD500, 000 that is provided for the Lone Star in the budget,” he said.
At the Liberia Football Association, the Daily Observer gathered that there was nothing new in government’s support to Lone Star in 2013 and none at all went to support the regular leagues where players are developed to play for the national team.
“A USD5 million five-year football development budget was rejected by Lawmakers in the House,” an FA official said.
He added: “We have also submitted a 5-year football national development plan to the government and we are yet to hear a response from the government.”
The LFA said success in football will depend on two programs, which are player development and game development.
“In player development is where you provide a systematic career path with incentives from the various age groups; and the game development includes infrastructure, that is stadiums and equipment,” he said.
The LFA said close to 10, 500 youths, including females participate in soccer from the 3rd, women, first and the second divisions in the Liberia Football Association organized leagues.
“This makes soccer the highest employer for young people, and this can be said about other sports since there are equally significant numbers of young people who participate in them,” he said.
It is likely that President Sirleaf will take credit for the over USD1million provided for the 2013-2014 National County Meet. However, the recently concluded County Meet but we are making reference to the president’s pronouncement to the success of the national team that was less than satisfactory in 2012.
“The players from the County Meet must be absolved into the regular LFA league which is the only way to develop the players for the national team,” an FA official said.
President Sirleaf meanwhile said human development would be high on the government’s agenda, and therefore she must look into the provision of adequate funding for sports development.
In the end the president will have a difficult task to explain to her compatriots the reasons her vow to provide a new focus to develop young players for the national team did not materialize.