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Leone stars and the foreign coaches

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Leone stars and the foreign coaches

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After every election of a new President the disunity multiplies and trickles down to the mini league structures. The winners always take all and will do little, if anything, to unite the family; while the losers keep off everything that has to do with national football, except scheming for the next elections.

Others often say Sierra Leone hardly produces professionals but ‘foreign based’ players. The local league is as good as dead, which makes selecting players always a problem.

Some others will accuse the coaches, but let’s look at the coaches and see if they are the real problem. The coach is supposed to be the manager, the person in charge of selecting the best players available and manage them well.

Since 1996 the national teams have passed through the hands of four foreign coaches. Roger Palmgren, Lass Olof Mattsson, Johnny Mckinstry and Sellas Tetteh.

Lass Olof Mattsson took the coaching job in 2011 with the aim of securing qualification for the team at the African Cup of Nations. Some people believed he was appointed because of the Swedish relationship between him and the husband of the FA president. The Ministry of Sports and the FA were comfortable to pay him close to 10 thousand dollars per match. This raised a lot of debate, some questioned his coaching credentials while others described the amount
as a waste of much needed resources.

In 2013 Mattsson resigned, accusing the FA of failing to organize international friendlies. However, the public knew it had to do with lack of results and his huge wage bill which the ministry failed to foot. Mattsson was in charge of 11 matches with Leone Stars; he won 4,
drew 4 and lost 3.

Following the resignation of Lass Olof Mattsson, Johnny Mckinstry was lured from the Craig Bellamy Foundation and appointed as a replacement. His appointment was greeted with shock, as many people pointed to his inexperience at that level.

However, sport analysts suggested the FA was cash trapped and couldn’t afford to pay a foreign coach (especially after the Mattsson experience) and that they were not in good terms with local coaches at the time. Yet Mckinstry led Sierra Leone to their highest ever FIFA
world and Africa rankings (7th in Africa and 50th in the world). He was the youngest active head coach in international football at the age of 27. He played 8 games, won 3, drew 2 and lost 3. He was unable to control certain players, and because of his inexperience the result
was counterproductive. Mckinstry was sacked because of poor performance.

The country was still desperate for a coach to qualify them to the nation’s cup. Instead of signing one, this time they went for a loan.
Arrived Ghanaian born Sellas Tetteh, who was named as caretaker coach in 2015. The FA told sports journalists that the coach was here on a three month contract and that there were no financial implications; only that the FA would take care of his feeding, accommodation and
tour guide.

He’s now over three months in charge, no formal explanation has not been given regarding his contract extension nor was the public informed about his salary (sources say he is now very well paid). He has played 6 games, won 3, drew 1 and lost 2.

Since 1996 to date Sierra Leone is still struggling to qualify for a major competition. In spite of all the millions of dollars spent on foreign coaches there seems to be no head way. Or maybe there is; the country will play Ivory Coast in a decisive match in August. A win for the Leone Stars will see them through to the finals of the nation’s cup. The coach or team should not be happy about this because the Leone Stars have missed out in a similar situation about four years ago.

The triumph of Leone Stars does not seem to lie in a foreign coach. Or may be the ones that have so far served the country have not been the right coaches either because they were handpicked because of familiarity or personal gains or the FA is still comfortable with the
state of football in the country. So should we turn genuine attention to our local coaches?

(Watch this space for part two of this article).

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