By Jefferson D.Tweh
Members of Alpha Oldtimers Sports Association have named its Sport Stadium in Zubah Town, Montserrado County in Memory of the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr. From his youth and throughout his career, the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr. was an ardent lover and supporter of sports on the local, national and international levels. In 1964-1968 he was a member of the National Volleyball Team which included Granville Dennis, Eugene Peabody, Jim Holder, Clarence Acolatse, Alvin Sackor, Alfred Weeks, John Diggs and Tarpeh Roberts and won the West African Zone 3 Championship in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1964.
The team also represented Liberia at the First all-African Games in Congo, Brazzaville in 1965.The late Knuckles Jr. served as Secretary General and Vice Chairman of the Liberia Football Association (LFA),from 1972-1975 and from 1984-1986 respectively. In 1970, he was a founding member of the Alpha Oldtimers Sports Association in which he served several times as its General Captain and President.
Most importantly, he performed with dignity and respect as a Match Commissioner of the African Football Confederation in 1986 to 2001.Being a great sports enthusiast, the late Knuckles Jr. took the leadership in reorganizing the Liberia Football Association (LFA) when he was appointed as Vice Chairman of the LFA.
Though the late President Samuel K.Doe held on to the Chairmanship of the LFA, the operations of the LFA under the late Knuckles’ leadership changed the future of Liberia’s football. He was assisted by Paul E. Mulbah, as Chief of Operations, with the late Marcel E. Bertin as Secretary General and Harry M. Attoh as Administrative Secretary.
During his tenure, major reforms were introduced including the establishment of sub-committees and sub-associations throughout the country and a regular football league was put in place and Invincible Eleven (IE) versus Mighty Barrolle regulars were placed with a system that saw the creation of new teams such as Monrovia Black Star, Fulani FC, Young Eagles, St. Joseph Warriors, LPRC Oilers and NPA Anchors. With effective administrative skills backed by presidential support and funding, the late Knuckles Jr. began football competitions that brought out George Weah and James Debbah generation.
Meanwhile the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has described the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr.as Patriot, Administrator, Entrepreneur, Devout Christian and dedicated public servant.
In his eulogy, the Senior Pastor of Seys United Methodist Church, Careysburg, Rev. Sampson W. Nyanti, said the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr. was a devout Christian and a humanitarian and contributed immensely to the growth of Seys United Methodist Church.
Rev. Nyanti disclosed that the church has fasted and prayed many days for the survival of the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr. but God has taken him away. He urged the church members to pray for the late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr’s relatives who are alive.
Rev. Nyanti said the death of Willis DeFrancis Knuckles Jr.is a big blow to the nation because Knuckles Jr. was a man with good heart, loving and a dedicated public servant.