MONROVIA-ALL OF a sudden, every Liberian government official is on bended knees—like the Prophets of Baal in the Holy Bible—praying for Joseph Fahnbulleh – the lone Liberian Olympian left in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics – to win the finale of the sprint 200m category today.
BUT WHAT MANY of these government officials have forgotten in what is evidently a prayer of hypocrisy and deceit is, there are many Joseph Fahnbullehs in Liberia whose dreams have been shattered due to apparent neglect of all things sports.
KADMIEL ENDERS IS one of many Liberian athletes who gave up hope amid a hypocritical hailstorm of prayers from shameless officials of government for Fahnbulleh. A multi-talented individual in sports, chess, and the arts, he fetched several medals – gold, silver, and bronze – for the country in the high jump category in several tournaments.
FRUSTRATED OVER THE persistent lack of support to the athletic team as well as the opportunities to further his interests in the creatives, the lanky 25-year-old dreadlocked Liberian dropped his interest in the athletics totally and moved—with the help of his parents—to Rwanda in pursuit of further opportunities and as well as to further his education.
HE IS NOT ALONE. Richard Mayango of Paynesville found himself in a similar situation and had had to relocate to Europe where he is thriving in Rugby as well as athletics. Petite in height but possessing the stamina of a workhorse, the Liberian youth abandoned all hopes of growing his athletic interest in the country.
THE STORIES OF Enders and Mayango are not unique to the men alone. Across Liberia, many young people whose interests don’t lie in football are given up on pursuing their athletic dreams.
THIS CAN BE attributed to lack of sports development in Liberia and across the continent, according to sports writer, Ogunleye Aderonke, in the article, ‘The Role of African Athlete in The Development of Sport’. “Most athletes often have to go abroad to better exploit their skills and talents”
THAT ATHLETES CURRENTLY repping the country at the Tokyo Olympics are based in the United States speaks to the severity of the situation.
AND ALL OF THIS is due to the glaring and sad fact of lack of support to local sporting bodies such as the Liberia Athletics Federation (LAF) and the Liberia National Olympic Committee (LNOC).
THE ONLY FUNDING these local bodies have received is what is remitted by their international overheads, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Athletic Federation. Unimpeachable sources alleged that these local bodies have received little or no budgetary support over the past years from the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
AND BUDGETARY LINES from previous years have shown that support to the LAF ranges from a measly US$3k to US$5k. This pittance of support, which is no longer forthcoming, usually went to cover the overhead cost of the local sporting bodies.
THERE IS LITTLE or nothing left to develop the sports as well as the abilities of those who are struggling under the torrential downpour of patriotism to make their country and its cat-licked-faced officials proud.
AND THIS ALL happening under the leadership of President Weah, former footballer and world best whose athletic ability saw him setting a world record for himself as well as rising to the highest pinnacle of the world’s most popular sport.
TRUTH BE TOLD, if Joseph Fahnbulleh and his mates from #TeamLiberia were residents of the country they are proudly representing in Tokyo, their collective dream of representing that lone star would have amounted to nothing more than just a dream.
LIKE KADMIEL ENDERS and Richard Mayango, hopes would have been dashed and lost and they, perhaps frustrated and exasperated, would have gone further afield where the grass is watered and manicured to sprout its greenish looks.
BUT THAT IS not the case now. Fahnbulleh and his mates reside in a place where their talents were nurtured from a very early stage. And that is the saving grace for our Prophets of Baal alias officials of government who are chest-beating on social media with pride, ignoring the embarrassing shame of the absence of home-grown talents alongside diaspora-based ones. AND SO WHILE Fahnbulleh historic qualifier is a win for Liberia, it should also serve as a reminder to those on bended knees that faith without work and support is meaningless.