LFA hopes for the best; team leaves Thursday; Idrissa Kaba in Ghana
As African countries strive to secure slots to participate in the 2018 Russia World Cup, Liberia will join seven others to fight for honors in the West Africa Football Union (WAFU) in Takoradi, Ghana. The national team, made up of local stars, is expected to leave Monrovia on Thursday for Ghana. The team will play Senegal in their first match. The tournament is from Sept. 9-24. Other teams in the Liberian group are Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania and Sierra Leone. The other group members in Zone B, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Niger, and Nigeria.
The technical director of the LFA, Henry Browne, told the Daily Observer yesterday that the national team is going to participate in the tournament with the hope that they will represent the country well. The players, meanwhile, are aware that the winner of the tournament will be rewarded with US$100, 000, the runner-up will receive US$50, 000, and third place – US$25,000.
According to the organizers (WAFU and Fox), air travel and accommodation and local transportation will be provided to all participating teams. Additionally, during the second round, in the 1/8th finals each country will receive US$10,000, including other financial awards. The 1/8th finals are competitions held at a single venue at the Takoradi Sports Stadium. The other 1/8th finals will be held at the Cape Coast Stadium.
For example, if Liberia qualifies from the 1/8th finals, she will proceed to the next finals (the knockout round). If Liberia is successful as winners in their next game, they will be paired with other teams from the next group, for which they will then receive US$10,000. This system of competition goes by several names, including single-elimination tournament; Olympic system; a bump-off; a knockout (or, knock-out); single penetration; and sudden death tournament. From there, they will proceed to the play-off, where the real money will be.
And so, how prepared are the members of the national team for the WAFU Tournament? While the team had some initial problems, the players’ previous two-tiered games against Mauritania, losing at home and winning away, could be used as part of the preparation. They won against Mauritania in Nouakchott with limited number of fans, but lost their first leg match at home, where there were hundreds of supports. It is clear that the tournament is loaded with all the West African giants, though they only will field local material, and it indicates also that success in such a tournament would require team and psychological preparation.
To date the local Lone Star has not played any friendly or test match to evaluate their preparedness, so we can only assume that with Thomas Kojo in charge, he could repeat the Mauritania surprise in Ghana, particularly in their first game against the Terenga Lions of Senegal, and ensure his boys are set to earn some of the money at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, WAFU Referees Committee chairman, Liberia’s Idrissa Kaba, left Monrovia for Ghana yesterday in his first official assignment. Kaba is to supervise referees that are selected to handle all the games in the WAFU Tournament.