Saturday September 4 : An anniversary East End Lions will always cherish and one rivals Blackpool will ever rue

Published on September 4, 2010 by Cocorioko News   ·   6 Comments


By Kabs Kanu

Today is Saturday September 4, and for veteran Sierra Leone soccer fans like me, it is a big and significant day because  today conjures memories of one of the most  memorable  days in the overall history of Sierra Leone football  .Yes, indeed, Saturday September 4, 1964 is the date  and incase you don’t know this , it  will remain etched on the minds of Sierra Leone’s football fans forever .  Fathers who had stakes in what happened that day would pass on the story to their children and their children will tell their children  and the story will go on and on  , with  memory of the event lasting   forever . In my mind’s eye, I can see Ahmed Stokes Koroma of Leonenet -TAMU  rubbing his palms with excitement , waiting to hear what I am about to narrate.

Well, if you were not alive that day, 46 years ago, I can see  that you are itching too  to hear what happened that unforgettable day in 1964 , but before I do that let me put it in a context and create an atmosphere for you to understand and appreciate the significance of Saturday September 4, 1964.

Everybody who is a Sierra Leonean knows  that in the chequered history of our nation, there is a famous football rivalry going on.  It is  between two of the nation’s leading soccer teams—Red Roaring East End Lions from the sprawling East End of Freetown and Mighty Blackpool from the West End of the capital. It is a cut-throat rivalry that had been in existence since soccer gained foothold in Sierra Leone almost a hundred years ago. We who are alive met it and we will die and leave it for our children and their children and their  children’s children to savor.

Whether you are a football fan or not, if you live in Sierra Leone  , when the day comes for a Lions/Blackpool match, you will feel  the live-wire  tension, the excitement, the ambiance, the  bitter rivalry and all the thrills and controversies that accompany such a rivalry. In buses, poda-podas, taxis; in drinking shops and clubs, on street corners and highways,  about as much as they do nowadays about day-to-day survival. On the eve of a Blackpool/Lions encounter , wives will find it difficult for husbands to listen to them discuss anything other than soccer. In those days , when Sierra Leone was blessed with quality and accomplished sports writers like the late Zac.Humphrey and Khalil Kamara of the DAILY MAIL  ( 1960s to the early 70s ) , the late John Kolossa Kargbo of WE YONE ( 1970s to early 1980s ) , the late Foday Kandeh of the PROGRESS newspaper ( Late 1970s to early 1990s ) , Wurie Jalloh ( same era) and colorful radio sports commentators like the immortal Willie Pratt (One of Africa’s best football commentators of his time ) , Gypu Felix-George , late Ronald Malamah-Thomas , late Edward Akar etc. etc, the media will be buzzing with sensational headlines and  radio features .It was those days when kids would harass their mothers or fathers for their last pennies to buy the DAILY MAIL to read the gripping previews by Zac or Khalil.

In the glorious Sierra Leone of yesteryears, certain momentuous events happened only once a year but would  then be talked about for the rest of the year (For example, the PADDLE Masked Devil procession and street festival)  . You could put the Blackpool -East End Lions showdown in the same category . They met in the old Western Area Football Association ( WAFA) , later the Sierra Leone Amateur Football Association (SLAFA ) League only once a year (Counting out the knock-outs or F.A.Cup competetions where they rarely clashed as one giant-killing team like Regent Olympics, Edwardians, Caxton, Kingtom Rovers, Railway Games Club, Prisons FC or Police  etc would eliminate one of them or both before they have time to meet each other ) . That meeting would be talked about for the rest of the year and supporters of the winning team would enjoy the bragging rights for one whole year.

A similar soccer rivalry exists in other African countries . Guinea ( Hafia Vs. A. S. Kaloum ) ; Liberia ( Mighty Barrolle Vs. Invincible Eleven-IE ) ; Ghana ( Kumasi Asante Kotoko Vs. Accra Hearts of Oak ) ; Gambia (Real De Banjul Vs. Wallidan ) ; Ivory Coast ( Africa Sports Vs. Stade D’ Abidjan ) ; Zambia  ( Mufulira Wanderers Vs. Red Arrows );  Egypt ( El Ahli National Vs. Zamalek  ) Kenya ( AFC Leopards Vs. Gor Mahia -before Gor got demoted from the Premier division ) etc .
In those days, footballers did not migrate to Europe , Asia or other African countries and so all the nation’s best soccer stars stayed in the country , creating a pool of soccer heroes that fans virtually worshipped. In those days, one thought that his country had the best footballers in the world. When we heard names or saw players  like King Kama Dumbuya, Christian Cole, Chicko Cole, Boye Johnson, Gbatieh Davies, Manneh Peters etc, we thought that they were the best in the world only to be brought to reality when Liberia with their Mass Sarr, Monkey Browne, Jadey Williams, Sam Burnette , Wanibo Toe or Guinea with their Petit Soure, Papa Camara , Cheriffe Sulaymane,  Allie Tostao etc .  played in Freetown. Saturday September 4, 1964 happened thus during the golden era of Sierra Leone football.
Now that I have created the atmosphere and context for the story , I can now tell you what happened that day in 1964. Mighty Blackpool, the favourites to win the championship that season , and with almost all the big names in soccer, were flattened and humiliated that day by their traditional rivals East End Lions , by the staggering score of  4-0 , the scoreline becoming significant and historic because it matched  the day’s date. As soon as Referee T.M.P.Moore ( the white man who in those days handled almost all matches ) blew the final whistle, Lions supporters started chanting the song that Blackpool fanatics have rued for 46 years and will forever have to endure : SEPTEMBER 4, BLACKPOOL 4. From that day on Saturday September 4, 1964, Blackpool supporters have faced ridicule and taunting from their rivals for the scoreline that matched the date.

It was not only an interesting result; it was surprising  because matches between Blackpool and East End Lions had always been so tough and well-fought that they were decided by the odd goal. It was rare for one team to win by a two-goal margin, not to mention 4 . And often their matches had ended in controversial but dramatic circumstances , like in 1967 when Blackpool cheated Lions of a deserved  and dramatic 3-2  victory with the last kick of the match–a stunning free kick in the last second by James Barnett , a player imported from Bo, who was very good at scoring set-pieces like the legendary Edward Kiester and Weah Sawyer, whose corner kicks had “goal”  written all over them and who could score from free kicks taken even 45 yards away. Barnet’s goal was so stunning that  it caused a pitch invasion, but by then time was over as the Referee blew both for a goal and the end as the ball was being taken to the centre for restart.

The result was also surprising because the Blackpool line-up was a roll call of the best of the best football names you will  ever hear  anywhere : Goalkeeper George Ola Taylor (Who will later go a whole season without conceding a single  goal ) ; Samuel  Opombo Kamara, Collins Thomas , Anum Tetteh (A Ghanaian linotypist who then worked for the DAILY MAIL),  Nyafoh George, Boye Johnson, Conton Sesay, Abdulai Garrincha Sesay, Saidu Mansaray (Lady Left ) ,Eddo Wright (A goal machine ) , Weah Sawyerr etc, though Lions had a share of the big names like Goalkeeper Chrispin Oneill, Johnny Cole, Momoh Marray, Santigie Sesay, King Kama Dumbuya, Christian Cole, Chicko Cole etc. It was King Kama who destroyed Blackpool that day, scoring two goals that will ever remain fresh in the memory of the fans–the first, taking a pass off the air with his famous chest, trapping it and then weaving a magical dribble through the entire Blackpool defence to tuck the ball through the legs of the onrushing Keeper Ola Taylor.  His second of the day was the work of a soccer artist  on the right flank where he left the Lions defenders for dead and struck a cheeky shot beyond the gaping Ola Taylor.

4-0 was not a true reflection of the game that was played at the old King tom Association Grounds that day  because Blackpool fought in their traditional do-or-die spirit  , but it looked like a day set apart for Lions to achieve glory that will remain the stuff of legend.

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