Monrovia – Liberia’s women’s national football team head coach, Selam Kebede, began her coaching tenure with a defeat away to Cape Verde in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations 2024 Qualifying match. The Ethiopian coach quickly realized the immense task ahead as her debut game for Liberia ended in a disappointing 3-0 defeat.
BY: Christopher C. Walker 0777898224/0886723075 [email protected]
Kebede signed a two-year contract to serve as the women’s national team head coach with a mandate to build a strong national team and youth programs. Liberia had entered the match with hopes of securing at least a point on foreign soil, but their new coach made several changes to the team in an effort to rebuild, while the hosts stood their ground and secured the necessary result at home.
Criticism arose from football enthusiasts, especially women’s football supporters, regarding Kebede’s omission of Loretta Sackie and Choice Tokpah from the squad, as well as the Football Association’s failure to include several international players in the team. Liberia did invite two professional players for the match, including the unattached Mimi Eiden and Pauline Agbotus from the Kazakhstani professional football club Okzhetpes.
Cape Verde took the lead in the 30th minute and maintained it until halftime, with no response from the Liberian side. Upon returning from their respective dressing rooms, the hosts doubled their lead, capitalizing on a mistake by Jackie Touah in goal. Selam Kebede attempted to rally her team with technical instructions from the touchline, but a comeback effort did not materialize.
The home side sealed the game with their third goal, leaving the Red, White, and Blue girls frustrated as they left the pitch with their heads down following a 3-0 defeat.
Friday’s meeting marked the second encounter between both teams, with their first-ever clash occurring in the third-place playoffs of the 2020 WAFU A Women’s Tournament in Sierra Leone, which Liberia won 1-0.
Before the team’s departure from Liberia, the new Liberian women’s national team coach expressed her commitment to rebuilding the team and giving it a distinct identity. She explained, “We started by organizing travel and games in different counties that had never participated in the National team selection before. After that, we went to the community competition, then to the lower league, and finally to the higher league. In this process, we were able to evaluate more than 41 teams and over 900 players in a short time. Ultimately, we selected 28 players for regular training in preparation for our game against Cape Verde.”
Kebede emphasized the youthfulness of her squad and stressed the importance of discipline in laying the foundation for the team’s development. She stated, “Most of them are young, and I believe that the beginning of everything is discipline, and that’s where we started focusing our work. Our first task was to rebuild the team, and gradually we are trying to give the team its own identity, and we are working on it.”
Coach Selam is optimistic about the inclusion of Pauline Agbotsu and Mimi Eiden, considering their potential contributions to the competition. Agbotsu recently played for Okzhetpes against Juventus in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Meanwhile, the return leg is scheduled for Tuesday, September 26th, at the SKD Sports Complex.