Monrovia was a place of great actions as thousands lined-up the principal streets last Friday, October 16, 2015 in jubilant mood to receive the senior national team of Liberia, the Lone Star.
The citizens’ jubilant mood in welcoming the red, white and blue outfit comes after a historic 3-1 thrashing of Guinea Bissau last Tuesday, October 8, 2015 in the second leg of the preliminary qualifier of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
The team touched down at the Roberts International Airport via Royal Air Maroc at 4:00 AM and proceeded to camp at the Executive Lodge on the RIA Highway for a brief stop.
Later that morning, the team, headed by Liberia Football Association (LFA) President, Musa Hassan Bility, Youth and Sports Minister, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, other prominent Liberian citizens and partners of Liberian football paraded from Paynesville to Monrovia and later paid a courtesy call on Liberian President and Chief Parton of Sports, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf en route to the Antoinette Tubman Stadium(ATS) to celebrate the team’s 3-1 victory over “African Wild Dogs”, Guinea Bissau on Tuesday, October 13, 2015.
Supporters of the Lone Star turned out on every principal street and corner of Monrovia hailing the red, white and blue outfit as if the team had qualified to the World Cup or a major competition.
From the RIA highway straight to the ATS, Liberians turned out in grand celebration, singing all kinds of songs in support of the Lone Star.
Most of the supporters were asking for the hat-trick hero, William Jebor, who and other Lone Star foreign- based players had to return to their respective clubs after the crucial match.
Jebor, who plies his trade with SD Ponferradina in Spain, broke record by scoring the first hat-trick ever for the National Team.
Some veteran Liberian journalists, including SKY Communication Executive T-Max Jlateh, have frowned on LFA authorities for the way the parade to welcome the senior national team of Liberia, Lone Star was done.
Mr. Jlateh noted that if the LFA is not careful, the repeat of 2001 where Lone Star failed to beat a depleted Ghana Black Stars team at the Samuel Kanyan Doe sports complex in Paynesville leading to vehicles and other properties being damaged will come to the fore.
Appearing on SKY FM sports show early Saturday morning just a day after Lone Star grand parade, Mr. Jlateh said the LFA authorities should learn to manage the expectation of Liberians by telling Lone Star supporters that the team still has a long way to go in the qualifier.
“We have Africa champions, the Elephants of Ivory Coast to play before going to the group stage if we do qualify. If the LFA can’t manage the expectation of Liberians by telling Lone Star supporters that we have long way to go, the repeat of 2001 after Lone Star failed to beat Ghana will come to the limelight,” the veteran Liberian journalist noted.
In another development, the rally that was intended to raise funds for the team’s early preparation for the crunch duel against Africa champions, the Elephants of Ivory Coast next month was postponed to a date to be announced later.
In a major press conference on Thursday at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) in Monrovia, Liberia football Association (LFA) first vice President, Musa Shannon told reporters that the rally would have brought prominent Liberian citizens and partners of the local football house as well as its biggest sponsor, Cellcom in attendance.
When asked if there was a specific target for the rally in terms of funds generation, LFA Vice President for Administration, Shannon said “There is no precise amount for the rally. We are asking all meaning Liberians to turnout in mass at the ATS to support the senior national team of Liberia, Lone Star,” Shannon said.
Meanwhile, the President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has congratulated the senior national team of Liberia, Lone Star for making Liberia Proud.
The President, who is also Liberia’s Chief Patron of sports, received in audience the senior national team at her Foreign Ministry office last Friday, October 16, 2015 where they paid her a courtesy call en route to the Antoinette Tubman Stadium to celebrate the team’s 3-1 victory over “African Wild Dogs”, Guinea Bissau on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 in the second leg preliminary qualifier of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
“This day belongs to you. It belongs to you because you have earned it,” she told the national team.
The Lone Star played the second leg of the competition at the Stade du 24 Septembre in Bissau on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 and qualified with a 4-2 aggregate after being held 1-1 in Monrovia on Thursday, October 8, 2015.
The red, white and blue outfit will now face reigning African champions Ivory Coast next month in another home-and-away tie.
The Liberian leader termed the team’s victory as a starting point for a revived national soccer team and called on all compatriots to recommit themselves to fully support the national flag bearers as they prepare for the next stage of the World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
President Sirleaf also commended the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Liberia Football Association, the Lone Star mobilization committee, the coaches and staff of the Lone Star, and particularly the Liberian people in general for their role in bringing our national team to this new level of hope as “we strive to build a new Lone Star that all Liberians can be proud of.”
She described the players of the Lone Star as heroes – some of whom travelled thousands of miles from abroad to contribute to the government’s vision for sports, particularly soccer.
Chief Parton Sirleaf asserted that the massive turnout of Liberians from all spheres of society irrespective of their tribal, political, religious and other backgrounds during the Lone Star’s match with Guinea Bissau on Thursday, October 8, 2015 and earlier with the “Eagles” of Tunisia in the African Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday, September 5, 2015, demonstrate the nationalistic and patriotic spirit of liberalism.
She observed that the Lone Star has shown that Liberians can unite for a common cause in spite of other matters that divide us as a people.
President Sirleaf said the success of the national team shows that things can happen once you have committed people undertaking a task.
The Liberian leader assured that government will progressively work to ensure the unhindered participation of the team not just in the qualifying rounds of the African Nations Cup and World Cup, but other major competitions.