The proverbial ‘so near, yet so far’, has again haunted our darling Leone Stars, depriving our promising rising stars to showcase their talents in next year’s Gabon/Equatorial Guinea African Football jamboree. However, taking into consideration other qualifying casualties like perennial participants and former tournament champions Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Cameroon; coupled with the fact that we topped Egypt and equalled on points with last year’s World Cup hosts and 1996 African Champions, South Africa in the same group, Sierra Leoneans could now talk with authority that the country’s football is on the rise.
I doff my hat to our gallant players, the Technical staff, members of the Sierra Leone Football Association, the government through the Ministry of Youths, Sport and Employment, the fans, Africell, Airtel etc for a job well done.
Furthermore, I would like to single out one major contributor to this remarkable participation of our national team-MERCURY INTERNATIONAL. This football betting company in Sierra Leone singularly ensured that members of the Sport Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) brought live commentaries of all the matches, both Home and Away. Moreover, let me assure the management and staff of the MERCURY INTERNATIONAL, that the impact of their SWASAL sponsorship made a tremendous impact. The live commentaries was not only heard by Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone, but was religiously followed by many Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora through the www.sierraleonefootball.com website. It’s remarkable!!
To most of us, the role played by MERCURY INTERNATIONAL never came as a surprise when one takes a close look at the make-up of the company’s top management team. For decades now, men like Samir Hassaniyeh, Martin Michael (my former Defence Lawyer who’d successfully defended me in so many cases without demanding a Leone) and his younger brother, Rodney Michael had been contributing handsomely not only to the growth of football, but to other development activities. Though I have had so many clashes in football with the latter, I am now of the firm conviction that Rodney Michael has proven beyond every reasonable doubt that he’s now ripe and capable enough to be at the helm of Sierra Leone football when the term of the present executive expires next year.
I also doff my hat to the executive and general membership of my fromer constituency, the Sport Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) for bringing all matches to our doorsteps and their efforts to match-up with advanced modern technology. I’m proud of you all Guys and Dolls. Bravo!
The Way Forward
The current momentum must not be allowed to fade away. The fire must keep burning. We must continue to build and strengthen our current form. Mind you, the next African Nations Cup tournament will be held in South Africa in two years time. Yes, the next tourney is in 2013 and not 2014 as most people might think. The Confederation of African Football has reviewed the calendar of all its tournaments. The Orange African Cup of Nations now falls on Odd calendar years and not the usual Even calendar years. We must focus our attention now to 2013 Nations Cup and the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
The current Technical set-up headed by Swedish-born Lars-Olof Mattsson must be maintained. The Ministry and the FA must thrash out their differences and confirm to Olof-Mattsson that he’ll be fully in charge of Leone Stars throughout the 2013 and 2014 Nations Cup and World cup campaigns.
In this vein therefore, I urge the Minister of Youth, Sport and Employment, Hon. Paul Kamara to bury the past and put the nation’s interest first by working collaboratively with members of the Sierra Leone Football Association. Hon. Kamara is long enough in football to accept the fact that no Sport Minister had ever won a football battle against a Football Association. In most cases, the Minister always ends up as the loser. Ministers come and go, but the FA stays. The greatest achievement of any Sport Minister is when his country’s national team qualifies for a major tournament. And I’m sure if all hands are put on deck, South Africa and Brazil, here we come. Yes, we can do it!