Lone Star Must Start Rebuilding
By Wleh Bedell
The Elephants of the Ivory Coast have given the Lone Star of Liberia a reality check as they finished the job they started at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) four days ago with a 3-0 demolition of the red, white and blue outfit.
A first half brace by French Ligue 1 club Rennes forward Giovanne Sio was followed by the icing on the cake from French club OGC Nice midfielder Jean Michael Cyraic to ensure the reigning African champions get the nod to go to the group stage of the Russia 2018 qualifiers.
With Debbah making two changes from the squad that fell at home in the corresponding fixture 1-0, the major talking point was the fielding of an aging midfield quartet with the combined age of 123; Al-SenyKeita, 32, Dioh Williams, 31 and Anthony Laffor and Zah Krangar 30 each.
With the match shown live on television, it was a sublime cutback from star man Gervinho from the byline that bewildered the entire Lone Star defense as Sio slotted the ball in for the opening of the flood gate.
A nice one-two variation from Saydou Doumbia and Sio got the back line wanting for the latter to get the cushion before Cyraic put the final nail on the coffin in the second period with a low strike goalkeeper Tommy Songo could not give account of as the Orange party boiled greatly.
Just like the first leg, Debbah’s team refused or failed to stop VFB Stuttgart balanced midfielder Geoffrey Serey Die from initiating his team’s play as he sprayed the passes, showed his influence, work ethic and commitment with the Lone Star looking second best.
The Lone Star gave the ball away cheaply with a porous defense, uncoordinated midfield and sterile attack. Kohn Dirkir Glay was once more erratic, Adolphus Marshall was shot of confidence, Grimes was not effective in making attacking forays, and Keita was just involved in giving sideway passes as there was no penetration, Krangar was impact less, Jebor lacked mobility as Johnson and Williams showed or created some promising moves.
With Dolley, Tisdell and Konneh introduced in the second half, the latter showed some promise. A left footed strike that bamboozled away from goal and a free kick that rattled the wood work.
The writings were on the wall for a loss as the Elephants were the favorites and did not need to go in full gear to win against their less illustrious Lone Star opponents.
As it is said, in every defeat, there are positives and the major positive was the observation that with more playing time, Konneh can do wonders and must not be overlooked. He brought life to the Lone Star attack and must be trusted.
Also, Dolley once more proved he deserves a starting place, but for the fact that he is a local lad, he is being overlooked for some misfit cum misfiring oversea based players who are given first shirt not mainly for their form or performance, but status or area they ply their trade.
Young goalkeeper Songo could have done better with the third goal, but for the first two, he was blameless and made some decisive saves to make the score line somewhat respectable, and the team unlike the first leg, this time tried in testing goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo who was forced to make a string of saves.
With the Elephants using or inviting nine players that were not part of the victorious African Nations Cup squad at the expense of nemesis Ghana Black Star, it just shows or proves that they are in an era of rebuilding and the Lone Star must follow suit. With five players on the current Lone Star squad in their 30s, there is a need to look for fresh blood. Besides, players on the national team must be the hungry ones who want to use the national team as a spring board to get to bigger leagues or clubs and not the satiable or satisfied ones who are contend with the little area they are. Also, the selection must be done on merit.
It should be based on current form with players that are active. To date, no one knows which club Adolphus Marshall is playing for. Though he is in Indonesia, it is an opened secret that there has been no league in that part of the world for close to two seasons. Thus, his selection raises eyebrows. Also, for the past two months, Kohn Dirkir Glay who was given a free clearance by Kenyan giants Gor Mahia on mutual consent, failed to make a breakthrough at Mapulanga Black Aces of South Africa and is match rusty.
Tonia Tisdell from the Turkish top flight is no doubt overweight as he has played just seven minutes so far this season. Zah is just not a playmaker but has been forced in such role in both matches against the Elephants to the detriment of the team. Then, the local players must be trusted. It seems Songo is only in goal because there is not yet a goalkeeper spotted from oversea, and once one is spotted, Tommy will be on the bench not because of his form, but his status as a local.
Though the local league might not be strong or attractive, there are however a host of promising players who can deliver on the international level.
The cameo of Oscar Dolley is a pellucid example. In the last 15 years or so, the local league had always been poor. But remember, it was this so-called not strong or weak local league the likes of Solomon Grimes, Gizzie Dorbor, Teah Dennis, Patrick Wleh, Isaac Tondo and others were plying their trade when they won first shirt for the Lone Star as they made life uneasy for the likes of Manucho, Salomon Olembe, Modibo Maiga, etc. Players should therefore be judged on what they play order than where they play.
With Debbah now playing six full international matches and losing 50% of them, there is a need to look at the locals and ready players outside with the hunger, desire, gumption and commitment.
It remains disappointing why the local league top scorer, the towering and lethal Christopher Jackson cannot even be included on the senior national team, but oversea based players ticket are bought from Europe or Asia to just warm the bench for the full 90 minutes. How come the best local finisher cannot be included on the team, but Van Dave Harmon, a striker as well whose club Barrack Young Controllers (BYC) did not even end in the first three is being included on the team? The national league should be the barometer to select players for all of the national teams.
The recent West African Football Union (WAFU) tournament in Senegal where a dip in form BYC had players dominating the list was quite astonishing as the sacking of Coach Robert Lartey just proves why we continue to say the team had a poor season, but many players from champions Nimba United were overlooked.
Runners up LISCR had just three with substitute Troko Zeon surprisingly chosen and is in fact second choice to Solomon Grimes on the senior national team; though he cannot win first shirt for club on the local scene. Where is the merit? Neither Amadiya Kawah nor any of his playmates who played a yeo man role to save Keitrace from relegation at the expense of Oscar Dolley’s Breweries were selected for the WAFU party.
No player from the likes of FC Fassell, LPRC Oilers, NPA Anchors, etc. Coaches of the national team go to see league matches with a passive nature as they already have in mind who they will select order than being keen on performance.
One other recommendation is that the Liberia Football Association (LFA) should pay the current national team coaches more attractive salaries and make it a key point for those serving as coaches of the various national teams not to be attached or under the employ of any local club in the country. In this way, there would be some level of merit in selection order than the case of Thomas Kojo for an example serving as Technical Director of BYC and ensuring that his club players flood national team listing.
With the likes of Dirkir Glay now abysmal, there is a need to start looking at Alvin Dixon who is on record of being the first Liberian defender to win top a flight crown in South East Asia. The younger holding midfielder weaka Wesseh in the Egyptian Second tier, the ruthless Roosevelt Blaty in Kenya, the need to recall Theo Lewis Weeks, and also give Raymond Fanciah, Prince Balde, midfield Doctor from FC Fassell, Orlando Hiah of NPA and many other hungry youngsters who will certainly deliver just like the likes of Teah Dennis and co.
With no competitive game till March 2016 double header with Djibouti, Debbah and co must start to get the rightful players. Search meticulously overseas and trust the locals.
Finally, the LFA must not just focus on the senior national team, but put more emphasis on youth football. All the various youth teams must be active irrespective of them playing in competitions.