Liberia kicked off its 2018 African Nations Championship or CHAN qualifying campaign on Saturday, with a 2-0 home defeat to Mauritania at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
The visitors dominated ball possession in the first half and were rewarded for their efforts with the match’s opener in the 35th minute, courtesy to a Yali Mohamed Dellahi’s strike.
Boubacar Beiguily’s ‘well curve’ free kick from 22-yard worsens matters for the home team and send the visitors into celebration for the second time, on the hour mark.
Down by 2-0, Coach James Debbah’s boys tried to get back into the match, but they struggled to break down the Mauritanians defense.
David Toweh, who was outstanding during the match later missed out on Lone Star brightest chance to cut down the scoreline from the penalty spot, after Mustapha Lomell was fault inside the opponents’ box.
The BYC midfielder feeble penalty was knocked across the goal-line by excellent Salamane Brahaim in goal for Mauritania.
Devastated by Lone Star’s dismal performance, Liberia Football Association president, Musa Bility, redundantly abandoned the match, immediately after the visitors scored their second goal.
Sunday’s result at the ATS gives the Mauritanians a solid two-goal advantage heading to the second leg scheduled to take place in Nouakchott on July 23.
Malian referee Boubou Traoré has been handed the task to officiate that decisive encounter, which Liberia needs to win by three clear goals to remain in contention for CHAN finals in Kenya.
However, many see that as impossible, because Lone Star’s last-minute preparation leading to the first leg, was reportedly outshined by political rivalry between LFA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports; the Government regulatory arm of sports.
In actual sense, it is LFA boss Bility, an executive of the opposition Liberty Party against the sports ministry, allegedly headed by supporters of Joseph Boakai, Vice President of Liberia and standard bearer of the ruling Unity party.
Owing to the Political wrangling between the two, Coach Debbah’s boys moved to camp on the eve of Sunday’s game, after holding just eight training session at the George Weah Technical Center in Careyburg.
Government has reportedly reneged on it responsibility to bankroll the national team, which belongs to the people of Liberia, though blaming the LFA for failing to live up to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
There are also reports that LFA did not received a dime from Government for Liberia’s opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers fixture against the Warriors of Zimbabwe in Harare.
Embarrassingly, Bility had to borrow US$ 15,000 from Zimbabwe football chief, Phillip Chiyangwa to settle Lone Star players’ allowance on the eve of Lone Star 3-0 defeat to the Warriors.
Amid these challenges, the LFA boss, who is also an Executive Committee member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and President of the Organizing Committee or CHAN, sanctioned Liberia participation in the competition meant exclusively for players playing in their countries domestic leagues.
Bility was very much optimistic of Lone Star chances against a well-prepared Mauritania side that recorded a convincing 2-1 win over Senegal in a warn-up match before heading for Liberia.
Confidence Bility deserted his VIP’s chair and took a seat on Coach Debbah’s bench, few minutes into the match, hoping for miracle to silence his critics and at the same time shame government for failing to honor its responsibility.
But as football pundits early predicted, the visitors were the better side and the Liberian football chief, completely disappointed by Lone Star failure to match the opponents’ pace, had to shamefully leave the ATS with his head bow down.
Political tension seem to be mounting as Liberians prepare to go to the poll to elect a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who two terms expire next year, and also elect members of the House of Representatives.
The LFA boss, a onetime confidant of President Sirleaf, is head of Liberty Party campaign team that wants to topple the ruling establishment, which he [Bility] supported in the last two elections.
None of his colleagues in government showed up at the ATS yesterday to watch the national team game, aside from Grand Gedeh County Representative, Zoe Pennoh, who heads Lone Star Mobilization Committee.
Regular faces like Information Minister and Unity Party Secretary Lenn Eugene Nagbe, former LFA president and Montserrado County District Six Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe, Deputy Sports Minister Henry Yonton were all absent.