The President of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), Madam Isha Johansen has said that the executive will ensure that it raises awareness on the profile of former national team players, who have attained the age of forty years and above, during her tenure.
She said that this will be achieved through the setting up of a Trust Fund in their honour, despite the fact that a football veteran association is in existence, primarily to seek their welfare.
In spite of the existence of this structure, she said, most of these veterans are still being treated with “disdain, derision, condescension and utter disregard”
Therefore, she advanced, during the course of her administration, “there is going to be a paradigm wherein national veterans will be catered for, acknowledged, recognized, upgraded and incorporated into the system to help strengthen clubs and create a window of opportunity for them to share their experience or give tips and advice to the younger generation of players,” the FA President says.
With respect to the Trust Fund, the FA President added, she is of the conviction that people who have made meaningful contributions in the society, should be accorded certain rights and respect.
She noted that the FA can only extend that which it can afford both financially and otherwise.
She says “I have recommended to the Premier League Board that five per cent of the proceeds from all premier league matches go to the Veterans Trust Fund, which will be managed by their association’s executive.
And in order to ensure transparency, accountability and direct control of the funds, the veteran themselves will appoint members to oversee the fund, but with a caution that overture can sometimes be abused or misconstrued and because it is not mandatory, the FA has to be careful and deliberate on what we initiate as an incentive or extension of the FA,” she noted.
The President however stressed that the “Veterans should also find other ways and means of raising funds to manage their affairs”. Johansen said.
“The FA will issue generic passes with VIP status to national veterans that will grant them access to all SLFA matches (Premier League, FA and Ladies Cup) and free access to all Leone Stars matches. In the past unfortunately, veterans had to lobby for tickets and invitations to matches and or events hosted by the FA and would clamour fruitlessly, only to be told in the end that there are not enough passes for them.
The FA will make such habits a thing of the past by generating an ambience of respect around our heroes; the men who laid the foundation of football in Sierra Leone.”
Sierra Leone is a country where veterans and heroes in all facets of life are not recognized and respected; even the football veterans have not been spared. They have been treated as distant actors and above all, erased completely from national history books and the running of the sport, they laboured for and the association they represented.
“We have been left to depend on individuals with greater financial muscles to take care of us and though some may say our predicament is by our own design, others would say those who played and administered football in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in Sierra Leone, basked in the leisure and social congregation rather than the business aspect.
She said, “we believe in rendering our professional service to the nation first, rather than putting forward our personal benefit. And that is why most of us are expecting the Government through the Ministry of Sports and the Football Association to make us proud,” said the FA Vice President Brima Mazolla Kamara, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Football Veterans.
Few like former Leone Stars’ lethal marksman, Kama ”The King, the Hunter and the Hammer” Dumbuya, Saidu Mansaray ‘Lady Left’, Nahim Kadi, Abdulai Garrincha, the late Diamond Toes, Prince Toe, John Jebboh Sherrington, Christian Cole, Tamba Moses, Joseph Toby and now Brima Mazolla Kamara have been fortunate to be absorbed into football clubs and associations in the setting up of the National Sports Council, where they are catered for and at least given a stipend at the end of the month to meet the most basic of their needs.
By Bernard Turay
Tuesday August 26, 2014