Lone Star falls from the ranks
We are concerned and very disappointed in the handling of the Liberian National Football Team, the LONE STAR and the running of the national football leagues. For the last several years Liberian clubs have not participated in any continental or regional football competitions.
Likewise, since 2002, our beloved LONE STAR has fallen in the FIFA ranking in the World and Africa. We drop from among the top 100 best teams in the world and the top 15 best teams in Africa, to 124th in the world and 29th in Africa, per the March 23, 2005 FIFA world ranking listing/publication. We are expected to drop even further in FIFA April 2005 rankings, based on our recent performance in Dakar, Senegal.
Our decline in FIFA ranking indicates the down slope of football in Liberia. It seem apparent to us that the present leadership of the LFA and the MYS do not care about the affairs of football in the country, if they did, there would be plans in place to address the current shortfalls of football in the country. Unfortunately, there aren’t any plans.
All the LFA leadership seem to care about is to stay in power and keep control of the affairs of the football house. They are more concerned about exercising authority (as we Liberian would say “being in things”) than executing their duties and responsibilities to the game with a major objective to improve the game constantly and to promote it nationwide in the light of it unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programs.
The George Weah Issue
To obtain said objective, you must use the best available tools. One of the LFA best available tools was George Weah. You had the opportunity to use Mr. Weah’s influence on the game by calling on the football house’s congress to amend the regulations regarding the presidency to accommodate football legend George Weah. Instead, you fought and blocked Mr. Weah’s road to the presidency by threatening to enforce the provision of the LFA regulations which states that anyone wanting to be president of the LFA must have served as president of a football club, and in one of the LFA leagues for at least two years before aspirating for the presidency.
On the other hand, officials of Bassa Defenders, a first division team, with approval from its board, decided to accommodate Mr. Weah quest for the presidency by appointing George Weah as its president. This would have jump-started the beginning of the process for Weah’s qualification for the presidency of the LFA. Bravo to the Bassa defender’s organization for taking the initiative to start the process of a new era in Liberian football. But to the dismay of many, the LFA leadership refused to honor that appointment on the basic that Mr. Weah was not elected and insisted, if elected, there must be officials from the football house present at those elections.
Notwithstanding, it is a well-known fact that said regulation was not enforced in the past. However, when Weah decided to eye the LFA presidency, the current LFA leaders decided to enforce this provision. This decision, to block Mr. Weah seems intentional and personal. If so, that is very unprofessional and was not in the interest of the game. The question is; why are the LFA officials trying very hard to prevent George Weah from becoming the President of the LFA? Is it for something he did or said? Is it for personal gains? Whatever the reason is does not constitute the game to be held hostage. When a man and his wife have problems, the children should not be punished.
The game, the Liberian people and the nation as a whole are victims of such selfish and unprofessional behavior. The Germans used Franz Beckenbauer; the current President for Germany’s 2006 Organizing Committee and a football legend, to win the bid to host the 2006 world cup. Everyone in the Germans’ football house does not like Franz Beckenbauer but allowed him to take the leadership role in Germany’s football and to improve the German game. Similarly, in Zambia, Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia Football Legend) is that country football association Vice President and the Technical Director for the national football team, the Chipolopolo.
Misuse of Funds and Assistants
In 1996, at FIFA Congress in Zurich, President Joseph S. Blatter reinforced the pledge he made for each of the member associations (regardless of size or resources) to receive one million USD Dollars, and each confederation to receive ten million Dollars over the period 1999 - 2002. The LFA is a member association, so they also received US$1 million over the period 1999 – 2002. This program was initiated through the “Financial Assistance Program (FAP)”. It served as a supplement to other forms of financial aid made available to a national association, especially as part of other development programs such as The Goal Project (which the funds are not made available, however, for the construction of new stadiums, which remains the duty of the state). Liberia also benefited from this Goal Project via the renovation of the ATS.
What did the LFA do with this US$1million? How was it spent? These are serious concerns on our minds because; we have no development programs established. We have one of the weakest leagues in Africa, if not the weakest. Our local clubs have not played in an international match in the past ten years or more. No international exposures to local players, no football schools, the drop of the national team, the LONE STAR on FIFA ranking; from top 100 in the world to 124th in the world and from top 15 in Africa, to 29th in Africa. Young talented players are leaving the country in alarming numbers to Asia, Europe and other African country to improve their game. The list goes on and on.
With such financial assistance, the LFA should have done better. Our ranking, leagues, the LONE STAR and the general state of the game in the country should be at a higher level at this point. In stead, football in Liberia is approaching rock bottom.
The eras for authoritative, corrupt and selfish leadership are over. We need smart-football leadership; with good management skills and very knowledgeable about the game. Leaders that sincerely love and have interest in improving the game, willing to do what it takes, including professionalism, putting personal issues aside to move forward, transparency, accountabilities and leaders who will make improvement of the game a priority.
It’s a shame, that the LONE STAR have not had any good performances since 2002 Nation’s Cup Finals in Mali. Even at that competition, we did not do so well. The LFA & MYS are singing the “no money syndromes” song. If FIFA assistants to the LFA were managed appropriately, there would be no need for the “no money syndromes’. As a solution to the “no money syndromes” the LFA and the MYS decided on using local players for international matches, they claims that these local players will gain exposures this way. At that level of the competition, you cannot learn on the job, only experience players needed at that level.
The used of local players for International Matches
How can local players represent the country in these competitive competitions, when they have no international exposures? Come on; be for real. Look what is happening in the on-going combine World Cup and Nations Cup Qualifiers when you used locals; Liberia 0 Congo 3, Liberia 0 Senegal 3, Liberia 1 Senegal 6. We have not experience these kinds of losses (with the exception of the friendly played in Tunisia about 3-4 years ago which we lost [7-2], again we used local players).
Reasons for our shortfalls and Recommendations
We need adequate preparations and the use of some, if not all, experience players for these world cup and nations cup qualifiers. Not to depend on inexperience players and not to think that “juju” has a place in football as Yanqueh S. Borsay stated on BBC opinion program. Does Borsay think Senagal beat Liberia because of juju? Read what he wrote on BBC opinion program “I feel that juju has a place in African Football. A point is when Liberia lost to Senegal in Liberia. One member of Senegal’s technical staff dropped something on the pitch and one of our Liberia FA Members saw it but could not identify the exact place it was and we were defected”. Is this the reason we were disgrace 6 to 1 in Dakar, Mr. Borsay? No, I don’t think so, below are some facts on why we were defected and why Liberian football is where it is today:
Fact # 1 - No football development programs.
Fact # 2 - Poor and inadequate preparations of the LONE STAR before major games.
Fact # 3 - The LFA and the MYS “no money syndromes”.
Fact # 4 - Local clubs are not participating in international competitions.
Fact # 5 - The Liberian league is one of the weakest leagues in Africa, if not the weakest.
Fact # 6 - Young players leaving the country for Asia, Europe and other African countries in large numbers to ply their trades.
Fact # 7 - No qualify and experienced coaches for the LONE STAR.
Fact # 8 - Instead of adjusting your (the LFA) statutes to enable well known personalities in the game, someone who know and played the game, someone with influence in the world of football, someone who played in the highest level and was the world best player (the first and only African to do so) in 1996, You decided to block George Oppong M. Weah from taking the leadership in the LFA, only because of your own selfish reasons and to keep in control of the lucrative football house money.
Fact # 9 - No football schools in the country and, many other deficiencies not listed.
The MYS is the government representative, the ministry responsible for all sports, the crossroad connecting the LFA to the government. They can help financially. The MYS should direct the LFA to present an annual budget which should be consolidated with the ministry’s own budget. A strong lobbying team, to include George Weah, should be put together to lobby the President of Liberia to except the entire LFA potion of the MYS budget and lobby Parliament for approval of the MYS budget. With this suggestion and the following recommendations, football will improve in Liberia and we will begin to see good results from all of our representatives (the LONE STAR and local clubs) in international competitions:
1. That the current LFA leadership resign,
2. that the LFA be audited from 1999 to 2002,
3. that the LFA issue a comprehensive report from the start of this administration to present indicating how FIFA money and gate intakes are spend,
4. those expenditures of the LFA are open and transparent and, accountabilities for all money spend,
5. that the LFA find sponsors for the league and the LONE STAR,
6. that the LFA use money given to them for development of the game by FIFA is used for that purpose only,
7. initiate some football programs for development,
8. that the local clubs compete in international competitions,
9. that the LONE STAR play at least two meaningful test matches before a major game,
10. that foreign based players are invited on time, at least three weeks before a game and they must be in the country five days to train before a game,
11. only regularly used players who are in form must be invited,
12. hire experienced coaches for the lone star,
13. that you draft plans (such as soliciting funds on an annual basic from permanent businesses and citizens, sell league and Lone Star souvenir, organized social and other activities, etc…) to generate funds for each football season and for the LONE STAR preparations and, don’t depend on government for money all the time, and
14. review the entire LFA statutes, particularly the provision preventing capable Liberians that were not previous president of a League club, the opportunity to become the LFA President and do a background check on all future leaders of the LFA in soccer management and must have play the game and/or was a major part of a football organization.
Elliott Acolatse, Jr.
Silver Spring, Maryland