By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay
Mountain City were crowned champions of the COFA (Central One Football Association) Inter Area football competition, after they defeated Fullah Town FC by a score line of 1-0.
The match last Sunday was Mountain City’s first appearance ever in the final of the tournament.
Just after the half hour mark in the game, Capay Salieu scored with a low shot on an empty net, after the goalkeeper had already missed an overhead cross by City playmaker, Prince Barrie. His goal plus brilliant City defending was enough to seal their first ever COFA Inter Area trophy.
COFA is the body responsible for organizing this annual inter area tournament. The organization is one of the many football bodies under the Western Area Football Association (WAFA). Over the years, the tournament has steadily grown to become one of the biggest football tournaments in the country.
Chairman of COFA, Sama Sesay, told Politico that the secret behind their success is that the try to listen to criticisms and improve the tournament each year.
The tournament has been played in the municipality of Freetown for the best part of two decades and the absence of a premier league in the country for the last three years has created an even bigger room for it to flourish.
The premier league in the country has been defunct for the last three years. The beleaguered national football body, Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), has been locked in rows of deep controversies and this has strangled the game right to the very top.
Players and fans have used the COFA tournament to play and enjoy the sport across the Western Area. Teams from almost all the communities across the Western Area register to participate in the tournament.
“Over 43 community teams participated in the three and half month long tournament,” Sesay said.
This wider participation has allowed players from all ranks to get meaningful experience and exposure that would help their game in the future.
On Sunday, more than 30,000 people were packed at the National Stadium to witness the grand final. The competition is traditionally hosted at the Parade Grounds at Circular Road, central part of Freetown. However, in the last two years, the demand to witness the finals has forced the organizers to take the finals to the National Stadium.
The winner of this year’s competition was awarded Le 40 million in cash and a trophy and the runners up got Le 20 million in cash and a trophy to take home.
The build up to the finals was tense, mostly because both teams share the same community. This in effect made it a derby match; with a lot of emotion and pride attached to the encounter right from the start.
During the buildup, community leaders had to caution both teams to turn down the rhetoric and engage in a fair duel on the pitch. This came with a lot of support from business people, politicians and youths in the Fullah Town community.
Violent clashes during matches in the tournament had been frequent in the last three years, particularly with such big communities locking horns. With regards to this, Sesay told Politico that his association has always taken the necessary steps to ensure tight security and prevent hooliganism.
In the past, the association had fined teams and disqualified them from the tournament all together, in cases of hooliganism.
Mountain City reached the finals in controversial circumstances, after Susan’s Bay were thrown out of the competition because of fan hooliganism in a semi final clash between the two teams. Mountain City progressed then and Susan’s Bay were displeased with such outcome.
In addition to that, Sesay explained that measures such as organizing pre tournament seminars for teams and their fans has helped in fixing the problem of hooliganism during the tournament.
With 43 teams, more than 900 players from different communities had the opportunity to showcase themselves on such a big platform. In a country where many say the growth of football has stagnated, tournaments like these play a very important role in getting the national team ready for competitions.
The SLFA organized LEOCEM FA Cup is ongoing but it has been starved of the necessary attention it deserves, partly because the COFA tournament was on.
COFA has already started plans for the next edition of the tournament. The Chairman confirmed to Politico that the next edition would start in October.
However, there are plans to modify the tournament a little bit and this will include reducing the teams that will participate to 32.
Even though some communities might not make the cut for next year’s tournament, many football fans would just love the fact that they have an exciting football tournament that is ongoing.
© Politico 12/07/16