Risking Players in the Liberia Football Association League
Monrovia – Liberian football is said to be improving under Mustapha Raji leadership as president of the Liberia Football Association as is evidenced by the increment in prize money for winners of the various leagues and individual awards. But there are still some areas that need key attention something the football house is overlooking.
Report by Christopher C. Walker 00231886723075 / 00231777898224 [email protected]
Two key components of the game — Medic and Security — are partially attended to by the current LFA.
FrontPageAfrica Sports Desk has observed that there has been no security protection and medical care for players since the start of the 2019 league at eight of the nine game venues.
Though the Football House and the Liberia Sport Medic (LSM) had agreed to work together where the LSM will provide first aid treatment to players in critical condition on the field before taking them to the nearby hospital while the LFA provides the cash, but only at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) sports medic are present. At the North Star Stadium of Nimba United, Blue Field of BYC, Ganta Sport Pitch of Nimba FC, Saniqullie Sport ground of Heaven Eleven and Nimba Kwado, the Dorris Williams Stadium in Grand Bassa County, Nancy B. Doe Stadium in Kakata Margibi County, Unification Sports Pitch, Lower Margibi County and the Kingjor Stadium of Grand Cape Mount-based Bea Mountain, sports medics are not available. Injured players in critical condition are carried out of the pitch with hands without stretcher.
The international body governing football, FIFA identified the health of players as key and mandates that each team has a medical team and a home team provides first aid team at every game day but in Liberia it is the opposite.
At least three players have gone through critical condition on the field. The injuries could have led to the death of young players.
Most notably, first division top goal scorer Christopher Jackson of LISCR FC and Rolando Deah of Watanga FC collided and both players had to be taken off the pitch, Muscat FC Lassana Sonnie also could not end Nimba Kwado game at the North Star Stadium after been hit by a defender. He was in pains when he was removed from the field without a stretcher.
In 2010, Young Liberian striker Ambrose Wleh died on the pitch while playing for Invincible Eleven in a pre-season encounter at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium. Wleh, who was originally a player of than Premier League club Gedi & Sons, was featuring for his former club Invincible Eleven when he collapsed on the pitch and died on the way to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital.
He came on as part of a triple substitution carried out by than IE coach to get the equalizer as his side was down to their arch-rivals Mighty Barrolle 1-0.
Prior to his death he lasted less than ten minutes in the most-watched game in Liberia in an attempt to level the match where they were trailing 1-0.
Goal.com reporter said “There were 85 minutes on the clock when Wreh collapsed untouched on the pitch and, although I was in the stands, I could see his breathing was abnormal.”
Also in 2013, former Liberian Captain George Gebro was forced to retire from football after a serious head injury while playing for Invincible Eleven.
Gebro had collided with an opponent in the air in a league match, which caused him to hit the ground hard.
The Invincible Eleven defender was immediately rushed to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, because he was feeling dizzy.
The former Lone Star skipper, on the Henry Costa’s Radio Show, said his teeth clinched together, causing him to slur in speech or having difficulty speaking.
Gebro said after the incident, he experienced double or fuzzy vision, balance problems, trouble falling asleep as well as sensitivity to light or noise. He needed advanced treatment to save his life.
On March 30, 2019, Liberian Referee Lackey Massaquoi died at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex during a fitness test for referees, organized by LFRA.
The young match official ran seven rounds during the fitness test but could not continue. He fell to the ground minutes after admitting that he was unable to complete the fitness test.
Lackey was taken to the ELWA hospital. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
With the lack of good medical facilities in the country and no independent medics at other venues, there is a need for the LFA to enforce sports medics presence at the rest of the eight venues.
When contacted, the LFA’s Vice President for Operations, Wilmot Smith, said it is unfortunate that medics will not be at venues out of Monrovia.
Smith, who is responsible for the running of the league and national team, disclosed that the LFA runs the league but getting independent medics at game venues is the responsibility of the stadium managers and home teams not the LFA.
According to him, the Football House is working with the teams to address the issues he considers as “very important.”
“We will be very tough on teams that do not provide independent medics at their stadiums; if it will cause us to take games from them, we will do,” Smith said.
In his words during international games, FIFA or CAF are not entities that provide medics and ambulances for home teams but rather the home team so the LFA is following best international practice.
Also security is a concern at some of the venues with Blue Field, North Star, ATS abiding by the security measures of the LFA.
Many a time, fans invade the pitch during and after games, something the Liberia Football Association president said they are working to minimize.
Executive Committee Member and Chair on Security Pawala Jayan, told a team of reporters that after conducting training for over 50 security and stewards getting at games out of Monrovia is a challenge due to the cost attached.
As normal in Liberia, Pawala said getting finance is the reason fans are not seeing stewards at games.
He promised to in the soonest possible time to deploy his men at all venues in the country.
One may wonder why there are no sports medics at the other venues when the LFA has settled all of the debts of the past administration and is not indebted to the current league. The president of the Liberia Sports Medics Samuel Massaquoi said he could no comment on anything concerning the LFA.