Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sierra Leone Football In A Mess?

Football in Sierra Leone does not seem to be that which many can proudly talk about today compared to the 90s when the country made their first African Nations Cup appearance in Tunisia in 1994.

Although they made a first round exit during their first outing, the disappointment did not have a huge impact on the team spirit as they again made a second appearance in the tournament in South Africa two years later.

Unfortunately, they have since failed to capitalize on those good days and things have never been the same.

For many people, talking about Sierra Leone football today is a sad issue.

“Sierra Leone football was more organized in the 90s as we had some committed people seeking the interest of the game but things have taken a sad turn today,” says Alpha Dumbuya, a football faithful who has been monitoring the progress of Sierra Leone football.

“The football association is now being dominated by greed and selfishness, which is a huge disappointment to the progress of the game in Sierra Leone.”

And what is a way forward then? “The present SLFA should be dissolved or Sierra Leone football will only continue to tumble. Take for example countries in the sub-region; they are all improving while Sierra Leone continues to go down in the Fifa Ranking. We are now 46 out of 52 in Africa and 156 in the world,” Alpha added.

The national team has failed to excel, especially when it comes to international tournaments.

Poor preparation seems to have become a norm for the Sierra Leone Football Association. Many fans of Sierra Leone football, and even the players, are hurt by the way the country’s football is being administered.

In an exclusive interview with Goal.com, Belgium-based Sierra Leone striker, Paul Kpaka, earlier on echoed sentiments that much change is needed for the development of football in his native land.

“I honestly think we need a football revolution in a true sense if we are to ever achieve or win something in African football to say the least,” said the Roeselare striker.

“It’s truly frustrating and disappointing to see how the [Sierra Leone Football] association runs football. I still believe they are living in the past and football has changed so much over the past years that they simply can't catch up at all.

“Talk about commitment, passion, professionalism and organization and these are things you hardly find with the national team. I am afraid people in the association are still living in the past.

“It’s a shame we can't even learn from countries like Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal to name but a few. These countries are where they are now simply because they have made huge strides to bring up their football up to date in terms of modernization and organization.

“People will say we wasted time because of the war. To some extent yes, but we've had enough time since the end of the war to put things right. I am afraid people using those excuses are just ignorant and refuse to accept or implement changes. Until we do that, our football will just go down the doldrums as it is now and we will always be playing catch up.

“Like I mentioned earlier, we need a true football revolution in every sense of the word, from grass-root to the top and even with the people in power. Let’s hope and pray we find people with the will and vision to implement such changes.”

Another Sierra Leone player, Monaco striker Mohamed Kallon, also blamed the football association for poor preparation ahead of the qualifiers for the 2008 African Nations Cup.

“Yes, I will blame the entire [Sierra Leone Football] Association and the entire Sports Council for the lack of communication and lack of understanding because football is something that has to be programmed,” Kallon last told Goal.com in an exclusive interview.

“You need to have a project and for a national team, a country needs to have a project that they can build on. Say for example, 'we want to take the team to the Nations Cup or the World Cup’ and we say ‘this is our programme, this is our project'. You then make it known to the entire country; everyone has to be involved in that programme and know the basics of the national team.”

Many people are demanding transparency in the activities of the SLFA and a comprehensive plan on the way forward for football in the country.

Details of issues such as coach contracts need to be handled in a transparent manner so that the fans will be well informed about developmental steps the FA is taking towards the progress of the game.

Recently, Sierra Leone acquired the services of England-based coach Leroy Rosenior. He guided the team in a 4-2 win over English side Leyton Orient in a friendly match and was also in charge during a Nations Cup qualifier defeat against Togo early this month.

Rosenior’s departure from Freetown to England after the game prompted speculations as to whether or not he will return to guide Leone Stars in their remaining Nations Cup qualifying fixtures.

Sierra Leone will not qualify for next year’s Nations Cup finals in Ghana, as they currently languish at the bottom of Group 9 following poor results since the qualifiers began last September.

Their latest result was a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Togo in Freetown on 3 June.

Things seem to be taking a different turn now that the Ministry of Youth and Sports is calling for an extra-ordinary congress to be held within six weeks.

Important matters affecting Sierra Leone football will be discussed.

There needs to be a solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone football. SLFA many times complain about lack of finance. That is why a comprehensive plan needs to be drawn with much transparency involved as well. Only committed people who are seeking the interest of the country’s football should hold official positions within the Sierra Leone football fraternity.

With that and many other factors, we only hope that things will change so that Sierra Leone can possibly merry on prospects of the team qualifying for the 2010 African Nations Cup.

It now time to hear from you, the followers of Sierra Leone football, on issues hindering the progress of the game and possible ways forward.

* Who should be blamed for the failure of Sierra Leone football?

* Is the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), led by Nahim Khadi, doing enough to develop and promote the game?

* Are the players showing commitment to the national cause?

* Are there other factors affecting the team, such as players’ influence?

These are some of the questions that need to be thoroughly examined.

Use the form below and take this opportunity for your voice to be heard.

Goal.com - Africa - African Talking Point: Sierra Leone Football In A Mess?