New Vision (Kampala)

19 March 2013

Uganda/Liberia: Cranes Should Prepare for the Worst in Liberia

UGANDA Cranes' chances of registering a rare away win against Liberia could depend on how well coach Bobby Williamson's players negotiate the potential hazards in Monrovia.

The omens already appear to be against the Ugandan side, for whom aside from making the uncharted trip on Thursday with a couple of unfit players, will have to find back-up plans to counter the pathetic infrastructure and underhand methods of operating in the country.

The Cranes will travel a total of 7900km to West Africa in search of only their second win away from home in 13 years in a country that is difficult to visit judging by Nigeria's previous experiences in Monrovia.

After two major qualifiers in Liberia recently, the Super Eagles discovered the price of ill-preparation, particularly after entering a mutual agreement with their hosts to take care of them.

The Liberians did not only accomodate the team in a dilapidated hotel but assigned the Super Eagles team a ramshackled bus without air-conditioning.

Temperatures in Monrovia constantly hover around the 32°C mark.

"When we arrived in Liberia, they left us stranded at the airport for three hours and transported us to our hotel in a bus without ventilation," then Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen fumed after the match.

"The hotel had no power, players slept on the floor, meals were served late and we had to play on a pitch that resembled a course for horse racing". Nigeria could only manage a 1-1 draw.

Seventeen months later, it was Stephen Keshi expressing his disappointment after officials at the Samuel K. Doe Stadium where Sunday's tie will be played, refused to turn on the floodlights at the arena for Nigeria's only training session there before the game, when the game was to be played under floodlights. Nigeria were eventually held to a 2-2 draw.

As it is, Liberia are likely to play foul to gain some sort of home advantage.

The hosts alternatively use Antoinette Tubman Stadium, whose astro turf surface is problematic, for crucial games against top sides.

A two-man advance team from FUFA is due to fly out Tuesday to prepare for the team's arrival but among the issues to be resolved is feeding as there is a food crisis in a country significantly affected by corruption.

The Liberian government has made little effort to address corruption in any sector. Investors find the bureaucratic red tape daunting and the requests for bribes is overwhelming.

Today, Liberia is still recovering from the lingering effects of the civil war and related economic dislocation, with about 85% of the population living below $1 a day.

Statistics show that Liberia is the second poorest country in the world.

The Cranes are undergoing residential training at Namboole Stadium.

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