By Kolubah Zayzay
Defending National County Meet Football Champions Grand Bassa County have been drawn in what pundits described as tough group in the 2016/2017 National County Sports Meet qualifying round.
Grand Bassa was drawn in group D against former Champions, Bomi County, Gbarpolu County and Grand Cape Mount County for the qualifying stage of the county meet.
The draw which took place at the weekend also paired two former champions Bong County, and Margibi County against Lofa County in Group A.
Nimba County who lost in the quarter final last edition will play former Champions Rivercess County, as well as Sinoe and Montserrado Counties in Group B.
Group C pairs 1989 Champions, Grand Gedeh County alongside River Gee, Grand Kru and Maryland Counties.
Grand Cape Mount County who last won the National County Sports Meet in 2013 beating Montserrado County in the final will host the qualifying round for teams in Group D.
Cape Mount failed to progress to the quarter final last season, but look set to be a contender for the title this season, according to reports coming in.
Bomi County which have failed to past the group stage in the last two editions, appear to be the underdog in the group, as the county has not shown any intend since their last quarter final appearance in 2010/2011.
Gbarpolu County, a defeated quarterfinalist last season, seem to have serious ambition to winning the title this season (year) as the county have since began scouting of players for its kickball and football teams.
Though some pundits think the three Western Liberia Counties could post hindrance to Grand Bassa County’s progress, the county authorities see the group as an easy zone.
Bassa’s dominance of the National County Sports Meet last term, gave the county officials lots of motivation to battle for a third straight title in 2016/2017.
They have maintained their setup since winning the football and basketball first place cups, as well as third place in Kickball.
They will definitely be the team to beat, though they will be among Western Counties.
Group A matches will take place in Voinjama, Lofa County between hosts Lofa, Bong and Margibi County.
Lofa, last season’s third place winners are the only county in this group yet to taste the county meet championship in both Football and Kickball.
With no active football and kickball activities in the county for the past two years, Lofa could find it tough in qualifying in their own backyard against Bong and Margibi Counties, two counties with good sporting activities.
Margibi County can boast of the best youthful football league in the country at the moment, owing to the fact that the County have dominated the National Third Division Playoff producing three second division teams in the past 24 months. They have since started recruiting players for their teams.
Bong County were beaten in the semifinal last season by eventual winners Grand Bassa county, but have never failed to reach the second round in all of the since the new millennium.
Bong and Margibi Counties are tipped as favorites to progress from that group.
In Group B, Bookmakers tipped host Nimba County and last year’s defeated finalist, Montserrado County to progress ahead of Sinoe and Rivercess counties.
Nimba is another side that have not missed out on the quarter final since the new millennium, and the county have taken serious delight in winning the title this year to end five years wait for the title.
Since showing dominance in the competition in the 1960s, Montserrado County have struggled in winning the title, but came close to winning in 2013 and 2016.
Back by huge finance, Montserrado County want to end that poor run and show supremacy as “first” and most populated county. That can only be done by winning the title this year. Montserrado County has the power to attract some of the best cream of players.
Sinoe and Rivercess Counties have not shown any serious organizational structure and preparation in participating in the competition in recent years.
It will be a surprise to many if any one of the two should progress to the second round of the competition.
Group C is open to any of the four participants to qualify, but host Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties are seen as favorites.
River Gee County could however post serious threat to them.
Grand Kru County have not been making much impact in the competition in recent time and not much is been heard in their camp about gearing up for the tournament.
Group winners and their respective runners up will advance to the last eight of the competition which will take place in Monrovia at the ATS.
The tournament according to the Youth and Sports Ministry will formally kickoff on December 3 in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, where the official opening ceremony will take place.
2016/2017 National County Sports Meet FULL GROUPING
Margibi County Venue: Lofa
Montserrado County Venue: Nimba
Grand Gedeh County
River Gee County
Grand Kru County Venue: Maryland
Grand Cape Mount County
Gbarpolu County Venue: Cape Mount