By Brima Bah
After a long lull in Sports in the Country, the Ministry of Sports is awakened by the reappointment of Mr. Paul Kamara as the Minister of Sports, now separated from the Ministry of Youth Employment. While some are of the view that separating the Ministry of Youth Employment from Sports was evidence of the underwhelming performance of the Ministry, as was constituted, others believe the action signals the President’s priority for Sports, and Youth Affairs. However, a lot of sports pundits and fans are struggling to appreciate the retention of the embattled Minister of Sports. Is the cynicism expressed on Mr. Paul Kamara’s reappointment justified?
Clearly, it is the prerogative of His Excellency, the President to appoint, retain or fire any Minister of government. The President decided that Mr. Kamara was fit enough to continue running the affairs of sports in the country. This, however, does not mean that everybody agrees. Nobody can do anything to alter the choice, but a lot of disappointment has been expressed by concerned sports lovers.
When he was first appointed, it was expected that Mr. Kamara would bring his experience and leadership to move sports up the ladder. He was an energetic, no-nonsense Minister who had come to put things right in a Ministry that dealt with sporting associations that were indeed very questionable. The biggest of these associations, the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) became his biggest target, and at the early stage with the overwhelming support of the public, and the endorsement of the press. A minister who had come to clean sports! But then, it appeared that the Ministry needed to do a lot more than cleaning; it needed a round-the-clock management of the SLFA. Thus, the Minister took to running football, and consequently paying little or no attention to the other disciplines, some of them, say volleyball and cricket with far more potential than football, but of course far less lucrative.
Football received full ministerial attention which should have elevated it way above the other sporting disciplines. But then, internal factions developed, football politics crept in, and the no-nonsense minister found himself in the middle of administrators he regarded as unaccountable, incompetent, and corrupt. He took full control of a couple of international matches to the resistance of the FA officials, but then he succeeded in subjecting them to his control. His appointed coach was left alone, and his mechanisms for hosting international matches were accepted. He took full control. He effectively took over the running of football in the country.
He got football somewhere! Away from the African Cup of Nations, 2012 and 2013. He took Leone Stars very close but not close enough! He missed by a narrow gap of three wide years! Sierra Leoneans are left to look forward to Morocco 2016. But the big question now is “what happens, in the mean time?” Are we going to see the political squabble in the FA continue, with a so-called Normalization Committee trying to figure things out, while the various sporting disciplines continue to suffer?
It is evident that we are not going to have a full football season. Although the playoffs to the Premier League have been completed, with RSLAF and the Anti Drugs the two qualifiers, we are not quite sure of when the League will kick start. The extended off-season is clearly telling on the form of the various teams in the country. The country’s two representatives at the continental club competitions, the Club Championship and the Confederations Cup, have both been knocked out. Clearly, lack of preparation and loss of form due to the absence of competitive football have been cited as two of the main factors responsible for their disappointing performance.
While there is not much to write home about football, the dominant sporting discipline in the country, it is consoling to know that other sporting disciplines like Volleyball, and Cricket, although not enjoying ministerial attention, are showing flashes of a potential. It is apparent that sporting associations would have to do a great deal more on their own, as local community football associations are now very accustomed to! Perhaps without the intervention of the Ministry, they may realize far more blessings than if they were to enjoy the attention of the Ministry.
But can the sports lovers really get accustomed to the dying state of sports in the country? One ardent fan of local sports, Philip Conteh, in a discussion, summed up the feeling of a lot of Sierra Leonean sports lovers thus: “The best sporting competitions are the ones you watch live, in the flesh. You want to be there, rubbing the sweat, if possible, touching. This you can’t do watching on screen. As much as watching games on tele is exciting, it’s nothing like being there in person. That’s why the local sports activities are important, however low the standards may be. We truly enjoy local sports for what it is.” He went on to express disappointment at the slow death of sports in the country, calling it another form of deprivation of the youths.
The stand-alone Ministry of Sports is confronted with the task of bringing livelihood in the lives of many youths of this country. It’s clear that there is a lot of potential in the various sporting disciplines in the country, and that there is a large number of fans out there who would give up themselves for the development of the games. However, much cannot be attained without support and direction from the government ministry responsible for sports not the least to provide finance for the survival of the various sporting associations. But to also ensure transparency, accountability, and competence on the part of those at the helm of the various sporting associations in the country. There evidently is a very strong need for a complete overhaul of the structure of the various sporting associations in the country as was done to separate the Ministry of Sports from that of Youth Employment which is now Youth Affairs.
After the restructuring, we would only hope that the people in the key positions translate the good intentions into meaningful actions that produce the desired results.