By Wilfred Kabs-Kanu
With the disastrous helicopter accident that soured everybody’s mood further under investigation , it is time for a postmortem on that unacceptable 0-1 defeat suffered by Leone Stars at the hands of the Togolese national team in the African Nations Cup last Sunday
The point is not that the Sierra Leone national team was worsted once again in battle. That they were defeated at home is not also the main issue. Even the best soccer teams get thrashed at home at times .The fact that is bugging the minds of all soccer fans is how a team could play so dominantly, appear to be completely on the driver’s seat , create so many beautiful scoring chances and yet turn out to be losers as Leone Stars did last Sunday .
The undisputable fact is that not even the Togolese believed that the Leone Stars would have let them off the hook the way they did.The opponents came into the match clearly disoriented and unsettled and Leone Stars hit them with waves and waves of attacks .But the prediction made by COCORIOKO in our preview of the game last Saturday came to pass. If Leone Stars must ever achieve laurels , they have to do something about their finishing.
Having watched the Leone Stars in and out of Sierra Leone, I made bold to say last Saturday :”Hitting the bulls’ eye ! ! Fire-cracking, sabre-rattling marksmanship or simply call it beautiful finishing and you know Leone Stars’ biggest problem that has kept them out of the portals of international glory.Yes, firing on target and getting those nets quivering has been our greatest ailing and it is this setback that will stand between victory and defeat for the Leone Stars against Togo on Sunday”
Oh, how this malady came back to haunt the Leone Stars again last Sunday. They dominated the Togolese so badly in the first half that they had one sitter after another and if they had converted their chances, by halftime they could have been leading by at least 3-0. But for reasons that perplexed everyone, the Sierra Leone players took their opportunities like they did not need goals. And so once again, glory eluded them, glory that was within grasp and that everyone thought they would have grabbed.
If any coach would ever make any mark on our national team, our players have to be taught how to shoot. It is not known whether it is stage fright, inferiority complex or lack of confidence, but it has happened once too many .Leone Stars would dominate a match even in Conakry or Monrovia or Accra, and still end up at the wrong side of the game–Defeat.
Also, it must be conceded that another major reason why Leone Stars were all at sea last Sunday was the absence of their playmaker and triggerman, Mohamed Kallon. All teams have their talisman and for the present Leone Stars team, the man whose brilliant touch they dare not miss at any time is Kallon. The Monaco striker is an excellent motivator and prime mover of opponents.His presence would not only have made a difference–It is safe to say that at the worst, Kallon could have converted at leat one of the many scoring opportunities the Leone Stars fluffed during the first half when they had the Togolese on the ropes And any goal at that time could have demoralized and taken the fight out of the Togolese. .However, as it often happens in soccer, once the Togolese found out that the Leone Stars were toothless bulldogs , they grew in confidence and boldness and pulled a fast one on the Sierra Leoneans by scoring against the run of play early in the second half.
And another problem that affected Leone Stars was that once the Togolese had scored, they gave up the battle too soon. If they had continued to dominate like they did in the first half, at least they could have forced a draw, which could still not have benefited them but could have saved some national pride, at least.
At a time when sports have a telling impact on national pride, the repeated defeats of the national team have shattered the morale of soccer lovers. It is not the wish of Sierra Leoneans for their national team to become a punchbag for other countries. Leone Stars have to rise again and start to shine and win .Lat Sunday is gone with any chance we had of sneaking into the Africa Nations Cup, but a stronger and better and more winsome Leone Stars must be produced by Sierra Leone. We have the means and the resources. I will revist some suggestions I had made before about how Sierra Leone can become formidable once again as in the days of King Kama Dumbuya, Christian Cole, Chicko Cole, “Lady Left ” Saidu Mansaray,” English Footballer”, Bai Kabia, Abdulai Garrincha Sesay, Manneh Peters, Sentu Johnson, Akie Noah, Brima Mazolla Kamara, Joseph Toby ,John Jeboh Sherrington and others. I will look at some famous victories scored by Leone Stars in those days and examine the formulas that helped them win them.