By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay
Former Sierra Leone footballer, Sheriff Suma has warned Sierra Leonean athletes not to run away in Brazil during the Olympics. He made the call in an interview with BBC sport this week.
The build up to the games has been dominated by the scare of the Zika virus in Brazil; this has seen some top athletes boycotting the games. However, the Sierra Leone delegation is willing to travel to the sporting event.
Suma’s latest comment would come as a huge concern to the active participation of the Sierra Leone delegation in Brazil.
The former FC Kallon defender said that the athletes must not put the country’s name to shame by absconding in Rio.
“My advice to the Sierra Leone athletes competing in the Olympic Games and other future events is to make their country proud and not to run away,” he told the BBC.
With the exception of the 1972 and 1976 games, Sierra Leone has sent athletes to every edition of the Olympic Games since 1968.
There has been a long standing culture of Sierra Leonean sport people absconding abroad during sporting events. This is mostly because of the limited opportunities that they will be faced with when they return home.
In 2003, Suma was part of the Shooting Stars team that represented the country in the U17 World Championship in Finland.
After being knocked out of the first rounds of the tournament, 13 of the 20 players absconded in Finland and some travelled to neighboring Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark to seek asylum.
Current Leones Stars captain, Umaru Bangura was among the players that absconded in Finland, even though he returned home two weeks later.
Mohamed Kamara, fondly known as ‘Medo’ was one of the 13 players that absconded in Helsinki and since then he and other absconded players have been called up several times by the FA to play for the national team.
Medo has recently started playing for Finland based club HJK Helsinki after moving from Bolton Wanderers in England at the end of last season.
Since 2005, Suma has gone on to play for clubs in Norway, Cyprus, Sweden and other clubs in different European countries.
He told the BBC that he had no regrets for returning home after that tournament in Finland.
“I had no regret that I stayed back, it was the right thing to do,” Suma said.
Suma, 29, retired from International football last month. He made his debut for the national team in 2006. In an international career that spanned for a decade, he played 30 games for Leone Stars, scoring 4 goals.
In the last edition of the Olympics, which was in 2012, the country sent 2 track and field athletes to compete in the games in London.
Four Sierra Leonean athletes, from athletics and swimming are set to travel to this year to Brazil this August to take part in the Rio Olympics.
Since April to now, travelling arrangements are in advance stages as the event is set to start in the next three weeks.
The Rio Olympics which will take place from August 5th to the 21st is set to attract thousands of athletes. The event is regarded by many as a global show piece.
The Olympics is a blend of sporting activities that is held after every four years. The last edition which was in 2012 was hosted in London, Great Britain. The next edition of Olympics is set to take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Sierra Leone and hundreds of countries are expected to travel to take part in the two weeks long global show piece.
© Politico 15/07/16