Liberia: Blame Yourselves, Not the Lone Star Football Team

The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to reports in the local media of the barrage of insults being rained on the Liberia National team (Lone Star) for its defeat at the hands of the team of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African Cup qualifier on last Sunday.

Sentiments being aired on various radio talk shows by some callers placed blame on the team accusing its membership of being unpatriotic and disloyal to the nation with the intent to undermine the leadership of President George Weah. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Daily Observer would like to remind all those posting hate messages on social media accusing the national football team of being unpatriotic and disloyal to stop and reflect for a moment on what it takes to produce a successful national football team.

From every indication and from all the available evidence, what it requires to produce a successful national football team is first and foremost is a national program of training and football development. Such program would see the formation of youth teams in categories reflecting age groupings like the Under 13, Under 15 and Under 20.

To the best of available information, the perennial problem still remains for there is no planned and organized football development program the country can boast of. The national football league remains dysfunctional and plagued in the past and even now by endemic corruption. For all the millions spent by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) on football development in Liberia, there is hardly anything to show for it.

The second basic requirement is resource availability. One cannot expect to produce results in the absence of proper organization, planning and training. To do all this requires resources and, in all truth and honesty, the resources have not been forthcoming in order to deliver the expected results.

If one considers how much, for instance, has been allocated to the development of the nation's prime sport as compared to what is being stolen or siphoned off from the national budget, the gaping difference can be noted. Instead there is evidence of illegal manipulation of the budget after it had been passed into law.

For example, over US$1 million allocated to public health institutions in the country was illegally diverted to private health outfits such as the hospital in Ganta owned by the wife of Representative Jeremiah Koung and the St. Francis Health Center run by the Catholic Church. Looking further at the budget, total appropriation for youth and sports development programs is a mere US$2,636,387 constituting 0.47 percent of the national budget.

Funding to the National Football Team is $350,000.00, representing 0.0006% of the national budget. A total of 29 National Sporting Federations and Associations received only $72,700.00. How then can the nation expect the desired victories from the Lone Star football team when little or nothing is being provided to win the victories the nation longs for as it did in past times when President George Weah played on the national football team? And talking about patriotism or the lack of it as the reason for Liberia's defeat at the hands of Congo is mere idle talk and vicious gossip which can be dismissed in the face of living reality.

How can one call those fine and committed young men who made the sacrifice to abandon their professional commitments abroad to risk injury playing for their national team when the President of the nation, a former footballer himself, a former captain and technical director of the Lone Star has his son wearing the colors of the United States of America football team?

This newspaper knows of no other footballer of such fame that has his son donning the colors of another country playing for its national team. Those who call the team unpatriotic should remember above all the saying that "charity begins at home". The excuse that the son of the President was born in the United States of America or that his professional growth and development could become compromised by plying for Liberia is indeed laughable.

Both sons of famous Ghanaian footballer Abedi Pele for example play on Ghana's national team. And both of them play in the English premiership, the foremost football league in the world. How has their playing for Ghana stymied their professional development is the question which begs answers from those attempting to denigrate members of the national football team.

Going by such warped logic, what then can explain the failure of the Lone Star team under the technical guidance of George Weah to go to the World Cup when the team needed simply a draw to qualify? On the eve of the football match, the entire team under the leadership of captain and technical director George Weah went outing the previous night.

Earlier the goal keeper had sustained injury from an accident which occurred during the wedding of another team mate. At the end the Lone Star lost miserably. This newspaper recalls that virtually the entire nation became livid with some individuals raining insults on technical director Weah.

His supporters would later justify in the view that a victory for Liberia would have elevated President Charles Taylor from his pariah status. Similar views about the team's alleged unpatriotic performance have been expressed in the wake of the Lone Star's recent defeat. Those espousing such views ought to realize that President Weah rode to the presidency on the fame of his exploits on the football field.

President Weah should also realize that there are huge expectations of a successful Lone Star under his watch. And the logic is, if he cannot deliver the Lone Star from its state of backwardness, he certainly cannot deliver the nation from the morass into which it has sunk. As roots singer Jones Duopu puts it, "don't place blame on where you fell, place blame instead on where you stumbled and fell.

Don't blame the Lone Star!

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