The Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Andy Quanie says the annual soccer tournament, County Meet, is a political game that is played with the involvement of political actors and counties’ officials.
Appearing before the Senate’s Committee on Youth and Sports, Minister Quanie explains that the County Meet does not meet standards of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Association or FIFA; instead, it is a political tournament intended to unify the people.
He continues that the county meet is not supervised by officials of the Liberia Football Association, but is directly administered by authorities of the Ministry Youth and Sports, which gives the political favor.
During the just ended County Meet, many spectators and actors accused the Sports Ministry of cheating other counties in favor of President George Weah’s native Grand Kru County, was declared winner of the tournament.
However, Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee notes that the recent decision of the Ministry of Youth and Sports against Nimba County is a complete sabotage and unacceptable.
Speaking during public hearings held in the conference room of the Liberian Senate on Wednesday, January 29, Senator Grupee argues that Nimba County has about 1.5 million population, which constitutes a huge percentage of the nation’s 4.5 million people and during so will deny many Liberians who hail from the county an opportunity to participate in such event, considered to be a unifier of the country that had suffered 14 years of bitter civil unrest.
The Senate’s Committee on Youth and Sports had invited officials of the ministry to explain what really transpired at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex on Sunday, 26 January that led to the Nimba County football team walking out of the finals with Grand Kru County.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Conmany Wesseh of River Gee County emphasizes the hearing was important to enable members of the committee to provide detail information to plenary of the Liberian Senate.
Making his presentation before the committee, Youth and Sports Minister, Zeogar Wilson, narrates that prior to the holding of the tournament, rules were carved as guiding tools for the playing time since the tournament does not fall within the preview of the Liberia Football Association’s regulations.
He says penalty for any team walking out of the field during any game, is a fine of US$1,500 and technical staff said county is banned for two years, which the head coach of Nimba County football team suffers.
Minister Wilson cites Section19.1 of the rules that states, “Any county team that behaves rudely on the field of play and brings the match to a halt or disrepute, according to the match official’s report, shall be fined the amount of One Thousand Five Hundred United States Dollars (US$1,500.00),” while Section 16.5 of the rules says, “Any county player, coach or official of a county obstructing, delaying or compelling a game to come to a halt shall be fined the amount of Two Hundred United States Dollars ($200.00) [and] Five Hundred United States Dollars ($500.00) for a second offence. The fine shall be paid before the county’s next scheduled match, suspension for two years from National County Sports Meet.”
There have been several concerns following the ministry’s decision to suspend coach Fofana, who is also the head coach of second-division club BYC, from all football activities, when the rules of the county meet state only: “Suspension for two years from National County Sports Meet.” But, according to Min. Wilson, the decision was reached in consultation with the Liberia Football Association (LFA).
Meanwhile, the Ministries of Youth and Sports and Internal Affairs, joint organizers of the National County Sports Meet (NCSM) announced that “Grand Kru County is the winner of the 2019/2020 National County Sports Meet.”
The decision comes two days after the grand final of the tournament’s football category ended in a deadlock due to a spot-kick controversy at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.
Grand Kru County were a goal ahead from a spot-kick scored by captain Rufus Kennedy in the first half, until the controversy erupted five minutes into the second half, when referee Hassan Corneh pointed to the spot, awarding Grand Kru County a second spot-kick, protested by Nimba.
Meanwhile, Senator Wesseh says findings from the hearing will be forwarded to the plenary of the Liberian Senate for better understanding of issues surrounding the county meet tournament.By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor -Editing by Jonathan Browne