AFTER A TWO-YEAR BREAK: LIBERIAN FEMALE LEAGUE RESUMES
Written by Danesius Marteh, Danesius.Marteh@frontpageafricaonline.com
Monrovia - The Liberia Football Association (LFA) resumed its female national league at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) on January 22 after almost three years of inactivity. Determined Girls played Earth Angels to a scoreless draw as both teams showed-up with seven players each in a manner and form reflective of poor preparation fueled by late notices. It was Determined Girls who had the numerical advantage after four of their players arrived later but they couldn’t beat a superior opponent, who have dominated the league since 2003.
As we went to press, Senior Professional Sisters and Naskids were scheduled to meet in game one while Island Queens and World Girls would have played game two on January 23 at the ATS. Addressing his first news conference for 2016 on January 2, LFA president Musa Bility disclosed that the female clubs were well prepared to commence their league
“The female clubs are the ones that have received direct support from the LFA in this league that we are starting now. They have all received their two sets of jerseys and [two pairs of] boots [per player]. And each one of them, for the duration of the league, will receive US$5, 000,” Bility bragged. But Determine Girls president Robertson Warner told UNMIL Radio’s Sports Extra program on January 23 that they are yet to receive a dime from the LFA.
“The FA assisted the female clubs with L$150,000 (US$1,666) for each club but they said sooner or later they will deposit that money into our account. When that money comes, we will be able to use it to develop our girls,” Warner disclosed. As officials and players murmured for their approved-financial assistance during the Angels versus Girls match, LFA treasurer Jallah D. Corvah displayed checks he said were awaiting Bility’s signature. The LFA last organized a female mini league at the Tusa sports pitch in Gardnersville for five teams to compete for two promotion spots on a round robin basis from October 19-20, 2013.
Naskids FC of Bardnersville, Professional Anchors FC and World Girls FC of Bushrod Island; Dolphin FC of Gardnersville and FC Bushrod of Logan Town took part in the gala. They were to join Senior Professionals FC, Island Queens FC, Determined Girls FC, Blanco FC, Tito FC, Four Sisters and Earth Angels FC. LFA executive committee member Ciatta Bishop, who is also president of the Liberian Female Football Association (LFFA), made an empty bluff to journalists that female football would have moved in a new direction with the acquisition of nearly U$25,000 to support the planned-league.
After a shambolic organization, Naskids and World Girls qualified for what should have been a rejuvenated league but the brilliant ideas never took-off from the paper works. Since 2008, a requirement has been in place for at least 15-percent of the FIFA's FAP (Financial Assistance Program of US$250,000) to be used for women's football.
According to a FIFA December 19, 2014 circular #1463, which was signed by then secretary-general Jerome Valcke and sent to all members, the FAP is "an obligatory provision and it is of huge importance to the further development of the women's game”. For the 2015 reporting year, Liberia, like the remaining 208 members, received US$750,000 (US$500,000 came as bonus from the 2014 World Cup finals). This means all members should have spent at least US$112,500 on women's football. Liberia didn’t hold a female league in violation not only of the mandate from FIFA but the March 2014 congress where delegates mandated the LFA to hold four categories of leagues: first, second, female and community division (popularly known as third and fourth divisions).
Despite an interactive forum in January 2015 for clubs, referees, coaches, medics and administrators, there was no female league while the LFA held a four-month male league it said was intended to “resolve the rough edges following an alarming and marathon break caused by the Ebola outbreak.” So where was there no league, despite funding from FIFA, for almost three years?
“We have no obligation to female clubs. Even under the FAP where we are told to spend a certain amount of that money on female football, your understanding or the lack of it of that statement should not lead you into blending us as not supporting female clubs. “We have female programs that we have integrated into our activities and we are executing it. We have no obligation [to support female clubs],” said Bility in response to a question from Sally Gaye of the New Dawn newspaper.
From an apparent lack of interest from the LFA to long-running infrastructural, administrative and technical issues, Liberian female football died in Accra, Ghana and was interred in Abuja, Nigeria. Following his celebrated-election on March 20, 2010, Bility committed the first footballing sin when Liberia accepted to participate in the 2011 All-Africa Games.
Interestingly, there was an emphasis on women’s football development in Bility’s manifesto but the LFA organized its men’s national league without the female version during the 2010/2011 season. And not only did Liberia draw Ghana but it suffered a humiliating defeat, losing 4-0 at the ATS on February 13, 2011 and going down 7-0 in Accra on February 27, 2011. In the absence of a female league, the LFA foolishly registered Liberia to face Nigeria in the FIFA under-20 World Cup qualifiers, having withdrawn from facing Cameroon in the 2016 Rio Olympics Games qualifiers. Liberia lost 7-1 at the ATS on July 12, 2015 and 7-0 in Abuja on July 25, 2015. But LFA technical director Henry Brown tried to play diplomacy on a childish decision to have registered the country in the absence of a national league.
“I understand what you’re saying [by calling it a childish error] but we had another format where we started training even before the men’s league started. So we had somethings in place because we anticipated these various competitions. “And we stopped for a while and then we picked-up again. So we knew where to start without the league,” Brown told Sports Extra program on August 1, 2015. FrontPageAfrica has seen email exchanges between Brown and Bility, which were sent to all executive committee members in which Brown was disgusted with Bility’s decision to withdraw from the ties with Cameroon.
“I don’t want to comment on the email I made with the president because the email I made with the president was very personal. What I am trying to tell you now is that you weighed the options. “The option is going in a competition with Cameroon could have seen [disaster]. It wasn’t going to help their development program. It was better to get the under-20 to go [into the competition] because that’s where the emphasis is,” Brown said.
Asked whether his contradictory comments were as a result of threats to lose his job, Brown said: “I am not different. It is like for example, if you put a proposal together, it has to have administrative backing. “If the administration said they weighed the financial cost and the effect on the FA, I, from the technical department, can’t go against that. From my department, we say more participation means advancement in women’s football. And that’s what I was trying to say.”
The fate of the league, which should have kicked-off after a July 21 workshop intended to review the global overall trend of women’s football, including the administrative, financial, psychological and physiological aspects, now hangs in the balance. And at a news conference on August 10, 2014 Bility promised that a female league would have been held.
“What we have done at the competition level is that we are trying to do the same restructuring [club license policy] we did with the [male] clubs before they started their league because what we did last season wasn’t very attractive. “We have to set criteria for clubs within the female division to operate. I think we need to add a couple of more clubs. And I think hopefully, we will finish very soon,” Bility said. Almost two years later, the story hasn’t changed and female football is still suffering under Bility, who has bizarrely disclosed that decisions aren’t unilaterally made.
“When we had our female national team playing, as a person, I wasn’t in favor of it but dah nah my one running this place [I am not singlehandedly running this place]. When the majority decided that they should participate, and they participated.
“All those games [that they played], we never received any money from the government of Liberia. The LFA did that on its own. In the end, you people don’t see that we support female football. We have female coaches. We have instructed that all of the female games be officiated by female referees,” said Bility on January 2.
While the cry over FIFA funds and its expenditure for female football continues, LFA communications consultant Horatio Willie did clarify that 13 footballs, two sets of jerseys and 20 pairs of boots were given to the female clubs while they await the first US$2,000 of their promised US$5,000.