opinionBy Julu M. Johnson, Jr
Until seriousness is accepted by Liberia, the national football team of Mauritania taught our darling Lone Star a lesson never to be forgotten. Undoubtedly, with the 1-0 defeat inflicted on the national football team of Liberia, the journey to the African Nations Championship (CHAN) is all but ended except miracle. It is now left with the coming return leg to probably nail the coffin once and for all.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as Chief Patron of Sports, added some butter to the bread by being supportive and was also available for the match at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville on that fateful Sunday, December 2, 2012, with all efforts going in breeze. Many fans are now shocked by another poor showing by the Lone Star amidst huge support from national government.
All these miseries are occurring on the back of the expenditure of huge cash to pay local coaches attractively to serve their nation. Failure to reap a single victory in a competitive match under head coach John Kaetu Smith is troubling and worrisome. He only celebrated victory in two friendly matches officiated by Liberian referees against Malawi and Ghana earlier this year. This has cast doubts over the coaching prowess of Mr. Smith. Should he now be given his marching orders so another local or expatriate could be hired at the detriment of taxpayers' money? Maybe Coach Smith should go or be given another chance but with certain conditions.
From an observatory view, there have been many problems along the way. For instance, whenever Liberia enters competitions such as the African Nations Cup and World Cup, there should be a clear objective. Either the Lone Star is there to build a team for the future or to qualify for the finals. Such mandate should be given to the coach and that the public be made to know to avoid raising the hopes of people only to be let down eventually.
Another matter worth noting is the constant interference into team affairs on the part of some officials. It is an age old problem that football officials will always have interest in their choice of players to wear the national team's jerseys. And even when there were European coaches, this situation failed to change.
In time past, there were moments the country decided to do away with foreign based players and focused on home grown talents after suffering heavy losses. Very soon after the pronouncement, there was a change in plan and we now see dozens of foreign based players, which is also not a bad idea.
However, failure to allow the coach to independently select his squad whether from home or abroad will give him an escape route whenever there is poor result. Thus, it behooves the Liberia Football Association (LFA) to allow the national team head to call his choice of players and not others doing so for him. When this is done, he will definitely be held liable for any result.
Meanwhile, the players cannot be exonerated from the bad omen that befalls the national team. For the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, the Lone Star is nowhere in a group that bookmakers tipped to be an open one, including inconsistent Senegal, Uganda and Angola.
Now that the needed results had not been coming, players to be recalled for national team duty are challenged to do their best just as the famous 'Weah Eleven' did, thus qualifying for two African Nations Cup finals in South Africa and Mali. Partying, bluffing and riding around town will only be necessary after the job is done in a positive way.
There are many talented players the nation can boast of. They are capable of taking even taking us beyond the Nations Cup finals and this can happen based upon the level of patriotism they will show when called to play for the Lone Star. They should have it at the back of their minds that positive displays for the Lone Star are another means of giving them lucrative contracts with bigger clubs.
Now that the team is on the verge of going out of another competition, it is about time to start a new beginning and not complain over what has already come and gone. The 2014 World Cup is the next adventure with four more matches pending. Coach Smith must do his job well and collaborate with his deputy Kelvin Sebwe.
May the fans keep cheering the Lone Star as all is not lost with the availability of a very youthful collection of players. It is everyone's hope that the Lone Star will get to the Promised Land one fine day after failing on the journey to the 2013 finals and almost out of the CHAN tournament. These painful defeats are simply wakeup calls. So, don't cry for Lone Star!