By Hawa Wesseh,Monrovia
Reports have it that Liberia-the national team, Lone Stars and delegation that flew into Kampala on June 6th are enraged over Chadian referee, Adam Cordier‘s handling of the Cranes- Stars match at Mandela Namboole Stadium in Kampala a fortnight ago.
This is a match, according to Ugandan media reports, that Liberia dominated from start to finish with most of the game being played in the Cranes’ half of the field.
John Vianney Nsimbe, writing in The Observer calls the Liberian players’ protests “somewhat contemptuous,” but he gives in to journalistic nerves when he admits Liberia were the better team. The largely allied Kampala football reporters under reported the Stars-Cranes match the whole of Saturday, June 8th , when the game was played so I kept looking for Nsimbe story, and there it was to a delight on Sunday June 9 at 7:10 Greenish Mean Time(GMT), a day later after the match and he was honest. He is probably the best football reporter in all of Kampala. [It was on the strength of his writings and recommendation that ‘Micho’ was hired].
He said “Cranes looked so timid in approach and because of that, they failed to dictate the course of the game.” He goes on to say, “Liberia played much of the game as though they were the home team. This wasn’t in small part to the fact that they, from the look of it, had more ball possession, much of which they used in Cranes’ own half. They easily passed the ball around and moved off it expertly although they just failed to create any significant scoring chances.”
Says Nsimbe of the Lone Stars-Cranes game, “One of the struggles from this match was picking out a player with an award-winning display, matters aren’t helped either by the fact that Liberia played the better football than Uganda,” despite Liberian best forward Francis Doe, and a really reliable defender Teah Dennis missing from the match. There were lots of hurt feelings from the game, judging from Liberia’s reaction.
Liberia felt they were undone by the referee, and the feelings among the Liberian players were mutual, their anger was unhidden; it was passionate enough to send the point home. So furious was Omega Roberts particularly whose stellar performance was noted and even George Weah, the former 1995 world player who usually keeps his cool, was unhappy.
“After the final whistle,” a Nigerian paper said “Weah followed the referee from Chad, Adam Cordier, as he walked to the changing rooms and tried to attack him only to be stopped by security. Weah, who was the leader of delegation of the Liberia contingent, was reportedly not amused by the level of officiating.”
And that’s news right there, if you know anything about news! A former World Player, European Player and African player of the century goes out of his way, in a show of protest, to the game he respects and contributed so much to show public anger. The officiating must have been bad, so furious was Weah that he wants to attack a referee. And that is not Weah.
He is a disciplined footballer. Another report said “Upon the final whistle, Liberia’s giant forward Patrick Wleh confronted the referee about what he classified as biased officiating against his team. This didn’t stop here.
In the post-match press conference, Liberia’s Captain, Anthony Laffor continued to vent his anger towards the referee whom he said just didn’t allow them to get into Uganda’s penalty area.” Or, where they did, the referee ignored the fouls committed against them.
It is interestingly, the Liberian players are not known for protesting frivolously when they lose matches, as the Kampala contest shows. Recently, Liberia lost 3-1 away, at the hands of Senegal, after putting their noses ahead first in the early second minutes through a Francis Forkey Doe clinical finish. They took the defeat graciously and came home respectable sportsmen. Again, in what was a massive lost to the Super Eagles last year; the Liberian Lone Stars took a 6-1 whipping at the hands of Nigeria in Calabar, in an Afcons qualifications that saw Nigeria finally through to South Africa, they would eventually go on and win the continental title. Of course they never said a word about the loss and of being cheated. Liberia quietly replaced their coach, Kaetu Smith, which saw Jericho Nagbe took charge.
“Uganda was lucky enough to have gotten on the score sheet as early as the fifth minute; the flank from which the goal came through Emmanuel Okwi cross was left vulnerable by Teah Dennis absence, says a member of the Lone Stars coaching staff. He said, however, “take nothing away from the Ugandans.”
George Weah is not a sour loser and complainer, even as Lone Stars’ captain and an exceptional maestro for AC Milan, Monaco, and Chelsea, he never protested giddily. Among the many awards he capped, was the FIFA FAIR PLAY AWARD, given to world class players who respect the game and their opponents. He is not known for unreasonable complaints when his teams are defeated…so what really happened in Kampala for which this exceptionally gifted former African and world football giant went out of his way to confront a Chadian referee?
Cafonline.com: Where do you think it went wrong considering you had the upper hand? Laffor: It is part of football, sometimes not always the best side which wins.
“By all accounts, the lads put up a respectable performance away to Uganda. They dominated plays and ball possession, and played hard for the entire ninety minutes with no signs of giving up.” said Joe Baysah. Baysah said two clear penalty breaks were denied Liberia. He however went ahead to chastise Liberian players for their attitude which he calls “unbecoming.”
These games are very important, national hopes and pride hang on them, and so much is usually invested in these encounters, preparations take months. Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) must investigate the matter, and if Liberian players were complaining un-necessarily then they must be punished and if Adam Cordier is found liable he must be sanctioned. If Liberia truly believe they were cheated by the whistle in Kampala, then they must take up the matter with FIFA.
It is just but appropriate, perhaps George Weah, who so knows the game, might t not know what he is talking about when he followed Adam Cordier in the belle of the stadium where the dressing rooms are located. I doubt so though, that’s not in his character to protest flippantly, it’s your call.
Wesseh is a freelance writer