EDITORIAL: Attacking Liberian Players on Away Ground Was A Bad Sportsmanship That Should Not Be Condoned
On Saturday, September 7, video clips of very ugly scenes flooded the Internet in Liberia and Sierra Leone of players and staff of Liberia national football team being physically attacked by angry Sierra Leonean fans.
Before we dive deeper into this unbecoming behavior on the part of those Sierra Leoneans, who attacked the Liberian players and staffs, we are going talk about the high and low moments of the game that the Liberian national football team had travelled to this neighboring country to honor.
On Sunday, September 8, the Lone Star of Liberia and the Leone Stars of neighboring Sierra Leone met for the second leg of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers in Freetown, at the Siaka Steven Stadium.
After full time of play, the boys from Freetown won the match 1-0 against their Liberians counterparts and the goal was scored by one of their bests, Kei Kamara. Kei brought hope to his teammates and other Sierra Leonean supporters, who had been trailing 3-1 after the first leg from Monrovia on Wednesday, September 4. Nevertheless, the both legs had been won in Monrovia.
In Monrovia, three goals from Lone Star’s Terrence Tisdell, Mohammed Sangara and Sam Johnson, the Captain of the day, gave Lone Star the advantage they took into the second leg.
With this cushion, the Liberian footballers still pushed on and had many near-goal chances, which they squandered. They also had some nerve-jerking moments in the game from the opposing team.
Their Sierra Leonean counterparts pressed harder until they scored in the early minutes of the second half.
The very high, dramatic moment of the match came in the fourth minute of the added sixth minute stoppage time when central Referee Jean Quatara pointed to the spot after a Leone Stars’ player was fouled in the Lone Star’s box.
Omaru Zaingaylay Bangura, the Leone Stars’ captain of the day, stepped up to put the icing on the cake. But his spot kick to his right and to the left of the keeper, was saved by 18-year-old Ashley Williams, making the lad the “man of the match” for the visiting team.
With this wonderful goalkeeping, Ashley, the second-choice keeper for the Liberian football club, LISCR, put his nation through to the group stage of the qualifiers. It also denied the Leone Stars from progressing further to the group stage of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
But before all of this dramatic moments in the game, one of the ugly ‘faces’ of football unveiled itself in some unruly fans of the host country on Saturday.
Video clips captured by Liberian players and support staff showed how the Liberian national football team players came “under attack” from angry Sierra Leonean fans.
At the Siaka Steven Stadium, where the re-turned match was played on Sunday, September 8, Lone Star had gone to do their training in the afternoon of Saturday, when angry fans began throwing stones and physically attacking the team. These fans, according to reports, had been misinformed by some of their local journalists, who had travelled with the team to Liberia, that the Leone Stars had been cheated in Monrovia so that was why they lost the game in Liberia: hence their uncivilized behaviors.
For a long period, the ugly scenes were unattended to by Sierra Leonean police, who arrived several minutes later. Even in one of video clips, the police officers are visibly seen next to the Liberian team’s bus and unruly fans are still hitting the bus with stones.
Before the team had left the playing patch, dozens of Sierra Leoneans besieged the parameter. They even stopped the bus from going for the players, who are clearly seen being attacked. In a scrambled video scene, the players are seen dashing for cover toward the bus.
In another of the clips, a Sierra Leonean fan brings down his pants and shows his naked, black backside to the Liberian players and staff, who were trying to get out of the stadium in the bus.
Other friends of this uncivilized supporter, are seeing shouting and gesturing in very unfriendly manners to the Liberian players and staff, who are afraid.
One scene in one of the video clips that isn’t shown but one can hear the terrified Liberian players speaking worryingly about it, is their bus driver was struck with a big stone and sustained injury.
A terrified player, Lone Star player, Kpah Sherman, who caused the first penalty in the 3-1 win in Monrovia, is heard shouting, “We are under attack at the Siaka Steven Stadium by fans and we are being stoned at our first training session.”
The Liberian players and officials were calling on their countrymen and women back home in Liberia and around the world to further share the videos of them under attack in Sierra Leone.
A very worried Bryant McGill, the direct representative of the Liberia Government from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, can also be seen in the video calling on FIFA to come to their cries for help as the attacks built up.
Later that Saturday evening, the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) put out a press release in which it dissociated itself from the ugly incident that had earlier occurred in the day. However, to be frank, the release felt very short of strongly condemning the violent acts against their brothers from right across the borders in Liberia.
In fact, the Sierra Leonean described this sustained, barbaric assault on the Liberian players and staff as “isolated event.” This is inhumane. It wasn’t “isolated;” it was premeditated. Both in the stadium and outside it, Sierra Leoneans physically attacked the Liberian players.
Frankly, this should not be coming from Sierra Leone against Liberians; vice versa. Both nations are too close in many aspects and relations. There are few common languages that are spoken by peoples of both nations.
There are common names and one international language — English. Both nations have had similar history of civil wars and of recent, the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD).
FIFA has not officially release a statement on the incident, but we think that those ugly behaviors that made rounds on the Internet should be strongly condemned by both the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the world governing body of football, FIFA.
Sierra Leone and Liberians are ‘one people;’ we should name and shame the bad apples among the hundreds of good fans so that such never happens again.