Monday, March 05, 2007

Sierra Leone football hits revival path

European football is normally at the heart of daily life in Sierra Leone, but this could all change if the country’s two representatives in African club competitions can progress to the next stage.

It has been 13 years since a Sierra Leonean side has gone beyond the preliminary stage of either the Champions League or the Confederation Cup.

In the 1980’s Freetown became popular for famous upsets - they beat both Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers and African champions Algerian side Entente Setif in the National Stadium.

This Saturday, FC Kalleone face Asec Mimosas in the first-leg of the Champions League in Freetown, while Ports Authority take on Gawafel’ Sportives Gafsa in the Confederation Cup.

Last year the most popular dubs in Sierra Leone were eliminated in the first round of both competitions.

Asec hammered East End Lions 7-0 overall and Mighty Blackpool lost to ASC Compagnie Sucriere Senegalaise 3-2 after both legs.

The game most likely to attract the most attention, however, is. Kalleone tie with Asec.

The Ivorian side are former African champions and a reputable force in the African game, but Kalleone team manager Tunde Scott says his side have done their homework well.

“We know Asec after they played here last year and went all the way into the semi-finals,” Scott explains.

“I’ve also watched them play in Abidjan in a game which they won, so we know what they can do.

“We are just back from Europe and the players are confident and relaxed about facing the Ivorians.”

Victory over Asec will certainly cause an alarm across the continent and Scott is totally aware of such significance.

“In Freetown European football is more popular, but it will mean a lot if we can eliminate Asec to change that.

“I am optimistic about this change because I saw in Liberia, when we played a friendly, that the fans preferred to watch us play the Invincible Eleven instead of football on television.

“Success over Asec will mean the same here in Sierra Leone,” Scott said.

Link to The Tide Online