MONROVIA, Montserrado – Ahead of the crucial 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against D.R. Congo in March, a planned two-week training camp in Morocco for the national football team has been canceled.
The initial announcement for the trip was made by the minister of youth and sports, D. Zeogar Wilson, who told reporters that the team was scheduled to depart Liberia for Morocco on Thursday, January 24 for the training camp.
However, the much-publicized training camp was called off at the last minute, leaving disappointment among several players. The youth and sports minister described the training camp as senseless since it will only comprise of home-based players.
“The Lone Star was expected to leave today, the 24th of January for Morocco. But unfortunately, the team could not go because we could not get our professional [foreign-based] players to join the team. From an economic point and a technical point, we didn’t think it makes sense to send the team to Morocco as we prepare for such a major competition. The team that will be playing in Zaire will not be available to train so we didn’t think it makes sense from a technical point to send local [home-based] players to Morocco,” Wilson said to reporters.
He further stated that there are other plans to have the team playing few international matches before the crucial game in March.
Liberia is second in Group G with seven points and stands a chance of qualifying to the 2019 Nations Cup because of their recent victories over Zimbabwe and Congo-Brazzaville and the draw against D.R. Congo, which earned them seven points. Those victories were achieved with a starting team that comprised of five home-based players plus six foreign-based players.
One of Liberia’s major problems has been with the goalkeeping position, which is currently occupied by LISCR FC goalkeeper Ashley Williams who has kept two clean sheets in three games. Since Williams made his competitive debut against D.R. Congo, the Lone Star has won two and drawn one from the three games played.
Williams is not the only home-based player who has brought positive changes to the national team of recent; right-back Joel Johnson is the only foreign-based player among the four starting defenders. The left-back position is being occupied by LPRC Oilers defender Aloysius Simujla, while the center defense roles are being played by Barrack Young Controllers’ Teah Dennis and LPRC Oilers’ Alvin Maccornel.
Liberia outclassed their opponents in their last three games with the help of the midfield, which is being described as the most improved area under Thomas Kojo. With Liberia playing the 4-4-2 formation, which features two wing players and two midfielders, the team has been strong in central midfield, where Czech Republic-based midfielder Murphy Oscar Dorley and LISCR FC midfielder Allen Njie play. Njie was named the most valuable player in the 2018 WAFU U-20 Nations Cup that was hosted in Liberia.
Njie’s partnership with Dorley in the midfield has been one of the key reasons behind Lone Star’s recent success. Apart from the five players making the first eleven, the team has been beefed up with four home-based players making the substitute bench out of the seven substitute players.
When the minister announced that the team would travel to Morocco for the training camp, excitement grew among fans who were glad to see their home-based players encouraged in such manner. Many described it as motivation for the team, as it was done in 1986 under the leadership of former president, Samuel Kanyon Doe, who made sure a team of local players, which included the likes of now-president George Weah and Joe Nagbe, traveled to Brazil for a training camp. Some members of the team that traveled to Brazil in 1986 turned out to be the players of the golden generation that played two Nations Cup for Liberia.
The Morocco camp cancelation also disappointed players who would only speak anonymously for fear of retribution.
“We had the hopes of going for the training camp in Morocco. We were set and we saw it as motivation,” one player told The Bush Chicken. “Unfortunately for us, we went for training few days to the departure date and we were told that we won’t go again. We had to train because we were present, but we were very downhearted. At least that would have motivated us a bit.”
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley Jr.