The Minister of Education Youth and Sports Dr Minkailu Bah has told football stakeholders including the two men vying for the Presidency of the Football Association that “Sports is not like politics”
Dr Minkailu Bah said since he assumed office as Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, his office has been inundated with mixed loads of information regarding the management and administration of football.
The Minister stated that he has also taken the opportunity to obtain official information in this direction – all of which have helped him to make his own conclusion about the present state of football in Sierra Leone and the challenges that lie ahead.
As a first step, he said he invited members of the outgoing executive committee to his office and reminded them of the need to work together because he was convinced that only by working with and through people that the aspirations of the Football Association could be accomplished.
Stating that he “will be very reluctant to commit Government funds to a venture that has little chance of surviving” the Minister maintained that he has demonstrated willingness to support the association by sparing no effort in ensuring that the funds and other logistics were provided for the national football team Leone Stars, who had already been disgracefully eliminated from the 2008 CAF Nation Cup group qualifying series and the 2007 SCSA Zone two Amilcar Cabral Football Tournament in Guinea Bissau.
However with the support of his President Koroma, the Vice President and other well wishers, his ministry was able to provide the necessary support and incentives which enabled the Leone Stars to eliminate Guinea Bissau and thereby qualify for the group series of the 2010 FIFA World Cup noting “with pleasure and satisfaction that Sierra Leone is still very much a strong contender in our group.”
Mentioning how government intervened in lifting the FIFA ban on the National Stadium and the fund raising which was spearheaded by the Vice President for Leone Stars, the Minister thanked the President and the Vice President and also the team Leone Stars and officials who he said “have done us proud by their outstanding performance”
Minister Bah went further to explain that in the midst of that remarkable progress the events of the recent past over the 2008 SLFA congress left him no other option but to request a meeting in which he hope the football will interface for frank deliberations.
He challenged the stakeholders “to come together as one family, and sincerely work towards the promotion and development of football and to restore the pride of Sierra Leoneans both at home and aboard.”
He stated that “There is no doubt that whosoever emerges as President of the Association in the forth coming elections will only succeed if he has the total support of all of you football stakeholders.”
“Sports is not like politics where you need to establish parties to contest elections, in sports, men and women should work as a family for the good of the game and we as a government want to see some positive commitment towards this direction here and now.” Minister Bah warned.
He stated that “if we do this, the other challenges which I am sure you are aware of can be easily addressed. Some of these challenges can be traced back to the very constitution of the Sierra Leone Football Association regarding the Membership categories, Criteria for election of candidates for the three elective posts, the roles and responsibilities of the regional association vis-à-vis the Executive Committee, the roles and responsibilities of the secretariat vis-à-vis the statutory standing Committees and the management of the association finances and other resources in support of the local competitions, programmes and activities, which are crucial to the development of the game from grassroots to the national levels.”
Minister Bah noted that all of the above are a direct indictment on the stakeholders who approved the constitution but failed to seek the attainment of its aims and objectives.
Minister Bah mentioned that this is not the forum for the apportioning of blames but boldly pointed out that the Executive Committee cannot go blameless as they failed to work as a team to carry out the policies of the association.
“All the statutory standing committees, if they exist at all, are not seen to be functioning effectively – football cannot progress with all these challenges which I am sure you are all aware of, but choose to ignore, most likely because of the polarization of the association for and what one may personally gain from the system” the Minister noted.
Such attitude he said “is unpatriotic and should therefore be condemned.”
He went further to appeal to all to work as one football family “and let us set aside the divisive approach that has been responsible for our past inability to win the hearts and minds of our compatriots.”
Minister Bah in conclusion said “let us go to the Congress with open options ready to vote for the future of football and not on financial or material considerations. Sierra Leone should come first in your minds when you make your decisions – our success in this exercise will be regarded as a step forward in support of the call by his Excellency the President for attitudinal change in all spheres of our lives – sports is not an exception.”
Before the discussion of the stakeholders started the Deputy Minister of Education Youth and Sports Dr Algassimu Jah also noted that this division in football has caused the country to suffer.
He said if any of the candidates win the other will undermine the other because they do not want him to achieve his goals.
The two presidential candidates also made statements before the discussion started in which some stakeholders also made some vital contribution towards the development of the game.