Written by Josiah Joekai, Jr. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile Phone #: 0776-258-265
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 19:02
I often hear Liberians, especially journalists and sports enthusiasts refer to the senior national soccer team, the Lone Star of Liberia as the nation’s pride. In fact, the expression is frequently used whenever Liberia struggles to win or draw a match at home because over the last 15 years dating as far back as 1997, Liberia has only managed to get her first away draw against the Brave Warriors of Namibia on June 16, 2012 in Windhoek; a massive record defeat.
Obviously, the draw away with Namibia did put Liberia in a better position as a serious competitor in the journey to South Africa 2013 for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) AFCON competition. But is such achievement enough to be classified as the nation’s pride as the case has always been?
Probably, the senior national soccer team attained this great compliment during the famous eight nations’ tournament hosted by Liberia during the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe’s regime. Though Liberia did not win that prestigious tournament, but her performance was splendid and outstanding. Since then, I cannot recall any point in time that the senior national soccer team won any trophies or awards whatsoever.
During the height of the Liberian crisis, I know the team participated in the Continent’s highest soccer show down, the CAF AFCON in South Africa in 1996, but under performed as it failed to qualify from the first stage of the tournament. Similarly in Mali 2002 just before the three rounds of war in Monrovia, the team participated in the AFCON tournament and again failed to qualify from the first stage. Thus, the senior national team’s overall performance in regional and international competitions including the West African Football Union (WAFU), Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), and other qualifiers in general and international friendlies has never been encouraging.
In essence then, if “Pride”is true reflection immodesty and superiority, then it means that pride can only be attained through hard work and achievement. That is why the senior national soccer team in my opinion, has not achieved enough to be a national pride, but if the team’s “national pride” status was conferred on it as a result of being the national soccer team of Liberia and not on the basis of achievements, then obviously it merits it. However, the paradox will be having a national pride without achievements! I am not quite sure that many Liberians prefer such national pride status.
Absolutely, the team lost its pride since the eight nations’ tournament and has since been struggling to restore it. Consequently, it behooves us to restore that spirit of national pride that consumes all us whenever the senior national soccer team wins a match. The pride that makes us happy and brings us together irrespective of our political, social and economic backgrounds. The pride that does not recognize boundaries and ethnicity, but the unity of all Liberians. The fact is that in order for us to be proud people, we need to reestablish the pride of the national soccer team, the Lone Star. As a people, we can collectively surmount this national challenge.
It is an undeniable fact that average Liberians have great passion for sports, particularly soccer, and as such, they spent their time and resources on facilities that televise various soccer leagues and programs around the world. Liberians can be very enthusiastic and emotional in supporting foreign teams. They have no option, but to choose teams of their choice to support morally from Europe, Asia, South America and sometimes Africa. Liberians alternatively find comfort in watching matches involving teams from these continents in their everyday life.
One simple reason accounts for this, the failure of the senior national soccer team to measure up to the quality of internationally acceptable soccer playing standards to get results. Liberians get increasingly frustrated as their national soccer team records defeats. This has led to the lack of interest in the Liberian domestic or national soccer league which standard is very low thereby making Liberian players less attractive in the world soccer community. Many Liberians playing professional soccer are playing in low rated leagues around the world.
Meanwhile, thanks to the current management team headed by Mr. Musa Bility at the Liberia Football Association (LFA) for introducing the commercialization of football in Liberia. The idea is really good because it reduces to some extent the level of political influence and other forms of dominance, and considerably stabilizes support to the team to an appreciable level. This is a paradigm shift in the administration of soccer globally which Liberia has adopted. Nonetheless, one thing that has remained unresolved and that is greatly affecting the performance of the team is the lack of a technical team with the technical-know-how to manage the team and produce the desire results. I am not sure that foreign coaches who have been hired and fired to manage the team are some of the best in the world. No, they are not, and what even adds insult to injury is the fact that those who are appointed assistants to support such coaches do not have the required exposure and experience to do the job. It is clear that teachers who are inexperienced and lack the basic teaching qualities and skills do produce poor and ill prepared students.
In as much as the LFA has gone commercial, but support to the national soccer team is a responsibility of the government, and such, it must not be done on goodwill basis, but adequate and timely budgetary support based on approved soccer programs. Financial constraint has been one of the factors hampering the performance of the team.
Interestingly, majority of Liberian players are always complacent and because of that they lack the courage and determination to persevere. There are a number of them who are also faced with indiscipline problems. It is obvious that such players do not excel easily as discipline is a fundamental character that a player must have to be successful. For many of them today, their careers have been jeopardized because of their indiscipline attitudes.
Accept for few, but those who have some degree of focus and brighter future see playing for their country as been doomed. Thus, they prefer to naturalize themselves in order to play for other countries where their dreams and aspirations can be realized.
In spite of these challenges, we still have hope, great hope too! We can kick off the restoration of the “pride in the nation’s pride” by hiring high profile coaches with the expertise to build and manage successful international soccer teams that yield results and entrust the senior national soccer teamto their care. The management of the team should be left squarely to such coach, free from dominance or influence of any sort except otherwise.
There should be high standards set for teams to qualify for registration in the national or domestic league. The premiership component should be dissolved for a considerable period to allow for concentration and improvement in the national league.
Indiscipline players should be weeded out of the domestic or national league and their various teams without fear or favor to serve as deterrent for others. Relegation and promotion should be equally and effectively carried out. Incentives for local and professional players playing for the national soccer team should be attractive to encourage them.
Appropriate programs should be designed and implemented so as to produce players with the quality to play at various stages before reaching the senior national soccer team. Funding from national government should be directed to the establishment and effective management of regional soccer academies and programs in the country. As part of such programs, stadia should be constructed regionally as well to allow for the formation and participation of soccer teams from the leeward counties in the national league. This will help to develop the many hidden soccer talents in the country thereby giving them the potential to become great players to represent their country.
Indeed, such endeavor will see the pride of the nation’s pride restored fully and at major regional and international competitions. It will be instead our own Lone Star that we will be proudly watching and taking pride in!