Monrovia - At long last, the National County Sports Meet will officially kickoff Saturday, March 31, across the country with all 15 counties participating in the sporting festival, which is expected to come to an end on April 22, 2018.
The annual national sporting event preliminary rounds will be played in Gbarnga City, Bong County, Grand Bassa, Cape Mount and Sinoe Counties, while the quarter and semifinals, comprising the eight qualified teams will move to Monrovia.
The month-long tournament was postponed five times due to financial and technical reasons.
The tournament failed to kick off on December 2, 2017 because the Superintendent Council of Liberia refused to honor the tournament on grounds that the amount allocated for the sporting showdown was insufficient to take care of their various counties.
The Superintendents were demanding US$30,000 for each county to kick-start the nation’s biggest sporting events but later agreed to receive US$21, 000.
Again the tournament was postponed from December 9 to 16 and to 30 2017 because of the heated political activities in the country, which brought current President George Weah to power.
Addressing the media Monday, March 26, Youth and Sports Minister Zoegar Wilson said they are fully ready for the hosting of the tournament.
He said the new theme of the county meet is “Uniting Liberia after Elections through Sports” while the previous theme was, “Promoting National Identity, Reconciliation and Social Cohesion through Sports”
Minister Wilson said Liberia has a rich history of sports and believed the tournament will be successful with the participation of every Liberian.
He called on Liberians to unite as one people and hope the biggest sporting event in the country will be used as a tool to bring them together.
Previously the county meet was given US$500,000 but this amount was reduced to US$250,000.
Before the tournament was postponed, the counties were given US$8,000 each as preparation fees and Minister Wilson assured all counties that additional funds will be given to them for their preparation.
For his part, Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf said the counties are in high sprit for the tournament after months of postponement.
He added that people in the various counties are committed to a successful tournament because it’s offers good business climate for host counties and the players, who participate in the tournament.
Internal Affairs Ministry Varney Sirleaf encouraged the counties that though the funding is small, there was the need to host the County Meet in order to foster peace and reconciliation, especially at the time Liberians have just ended a highly contested national election.
He urged the superintendents to work within the available amount to prepare their teams as they will receive additional financial assistance.
This year’s event is officially sponsored by Lonestar MTN. Liberia’s 15 counties have been divided into four groups for the event.
Group one pairs Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties. Gbarnga in Bong County will serve as host for that Group.
Group two consists of Grand Bassa, River Cess, Montserrado and Margibi Counties. They will play their games in Buchannan City, Grand Bassa.
In Group three, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi Counties will sort things out in Robertsports.
In group four, they are Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland and River Gee. Greenville will host them all.
Meanwhile, President George Manneh Weah, to be flanked by Youth and Sports Minister, D. Zeogar Wilson, will take the official kick-off in Gbarnga, while the event goes on simultaneously in the rest of the counties.
With the latest news about the kickoff of the tournament Football and kickball players including their coaches have all welcomed the decision by all parties to allow the tournament to go on.
Due to the limited budget allocated for the sporting festival by the government instead of five disciples there will be two disciples in the competition this year namely Football and Kickball.
Despite several postponements, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has always been optimistic of hosting the Tournament.