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FOUNDING OF  LIBERIA FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION

By John Howard  (deceased)

"Father of the LFA"

(Culled from the X-Ray Magazine, June 1986, Monrovia)

Football started in Liberia long before I spearheaded the formation of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) in 1936. Even before the 1920's, to the extent that it is difficult to trace its origin, the sport was popular among the settlers (Liberians who returned to Africa from the United States, and later the West Indies in early 19th century). But the general consensus is that football originated from Britain. From there it spread to the rest of the world, especially territories. It may have been possible that the settlers introduced football into Liberia from the West Indies, since football or soccer is not that much popular in the USA where most of the settlers in Liberia came from.

Those who were playing football in those days included David Moore, C. T. O King and Joe Dennis. The football field was at Benedict Part, the present site of the C. D. B king School in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Warren St., Monrovia). We played teams coming from the British ships that anchored at Liberia's ports, with several teams competing against each other.

When I returned from Grammar School in Freetown in 1936, I found out that there was no central organization to monitor the activities of the various teams, which were already in existence. I then called a few football enthusiasts to a meeting at the home of Anthony Barclay (cousin of President Edwin J. Barclay) on Broad Street. Those in attendance included Lawrence Gbehyon, George Padmore, Isaac Davies, George Terrence, Jacob Brown, J.D. Brown, Urias Brown, McKinley A. Deshield, Sr. 

It was at that meeting that I tabled the idea of founding the LFA, which would be charged with formulating rules and regulations regarding football in Liberia. The idea was studied carefully and after several subsequent meetings, the founding of the LFA was materialized. We also unanimously agreed to appoint Anthony Barclay as the firs President of the LFA. We agreed to arrange teams such as Bame, Iron Side, Mosquitoes, Central United, Olympics, under the supervision of the LFA.

Barclay Trophy

Moreover, we resolved to have a trophy, and the implementation committee went to President Edwin J. Barclay, who graciously donated to us a trophy after having been briefed about our objectives. This trophy, which was called the "Barclay Cup," became the first cup of the LFA. We continued to play for that trophy until later on other cups were donated to the LFA for competitions.

Sports Commission

By the time President William V. S. Tubman took office, the enthusiasm in football had assumed higher dimension. The LFA was no longer able to monitor football activities alone, so President Tubman inaugurated the National Sports Commission, which is today the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The first Chairman was George Padmore, followed by me, for eight years.

Among the Presidents (or later Chairmen) of the LFA besides Anthony Barclay were McKinley A. Deshield, Lawrence Gbehyon, Charles B. Roberts, Sr. Joseph S. S. Chesson, John Payne Tucker, Hilary Wilson, John P. Beh, Sam Burnette, Marcel Bertin, and Samuel Kanyon Doe. ************************************

LFA ON THE MOVE

The Liberian Football Association (LFA), likes many other voluntary organizations, is non-profit and is an association of football development in the country. In 1936, the LFA was founded to become the sole supervisory board for football in Liberia with the late Anthony Barclay as its first President. The time of LFA's formation was the days when only few football teams and clubs existed. So the first few teams that enjoyed the early supervision of LFA were Bame, Iron-Side, Mosquitoes, Central and Olympic.

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Late Thelma George, considered Mother of  Liberian Soccer, became the first female to rise at the top in the all-male soccer arena. She was VP of the Liberia Football Assoc. & President of Champion Barrolle. Passed 1986.

National Body

The LFA continued to be autonomous in its operation until 1980 when elections were suspended under the military regime. The Liberian Football Association however continued to be recognized by the government as the highest single national body in the country responsible for football. Therefore, all recognized football programs and activities are either operated by it or channeled through it and carried out with its approval and supervision.

Because the LFA is a voluntary set up, its operations slowed down along the line, and that called for resuscitating which is said to be the reorganization of the association in 1984, October. Head of State Samuel K. Doe assumed the Chairmanship and Mr.Willis D. Knuckles, was made the Vice Chairman of the executive committee with the responsibility of supervising all the works of the working committees that make up LFA.

The fact that the LFA's work is not concentrated only in Montserrado County has been demonstrated in recent times. LFA has involved all the countries in the country, with the executive committee visiting all regions of the country to organize football activities.

Some believe LFA, since its re-organization, has worked tirelessly to put football above other sports as some Liberian teams are presently on the same level as some teams in neighboring West African countries who some years back were feared by the local teams.

League

Notwithstanding, the improvement of the local teams has also come as a result of the enthusiasm from all organizers of the local competitions among teams. The series of local competitions that involve all the local teams, which are currently under the LFA, are the national league, national knockout and the country meet.

The national league is, as football fanatics say, " the yardstick" to determine which team is the strongest and will go for the African Cup of Champion Clubs. This 'Who is Who" competition has the twelve first division teams as well as the fourteen second division teams participating in it. The competition is mostly held from December to May. The Knockout, which consists also of first and second division teams, is played by elimination. And whatever team turns out to be the winner goes to the annual African Cup of Cup Winner's Competition.

The last of the local competition, which is the county meet, is the nation's most prestigious. It is an annual affair where political sub-divisions of the country participate. It is a round robin tournament where participating teams are divided into groups with restrictions on who is to participate with reference to players of the national teams and the first division teams.

This is not a denial but rather to allow an equal participation and display of young aspiring players, who will have chance of being tried in the big teams.

With all these efforts, says Vice Chairman Knuckles, Football does not rest on the shoulders of only the LFA nor the responsibility of all Liberians. Football has not gained its height because of from the public, among other factors.

With this the LFA has realized that the foremost thing to do is to educate the Liberian people about what is football, says Knuckles. From the response this year, it can be well said that the awareness is gradually taking roots and a lot more people now appreciate the sport unlike the previous years.

Again, good sport can adequately be maintained when better facilities are supplied as well as some incentives system is set for the players. With the advent of the new national sports complex, soccer executives hope more teams are going to spring up to the top. But this lone sports complex should not be overworked to facilitate a speedy deterioration of it. Building smaller facilities throughout the country will help make the sports complex more useful, said an LFA official

International

Since football is an international sport widely played by over 150 countries, the LFA as a matter of principle has developed enthusiasm within the association to cater to international relations. Because of this scope of participation there are a number of international bodies with which LFA is affiliated. They included the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), the African Football Confederation (CAF) and West African Football Union (WAFU).

CAF and WAFU, unlike FIFA, organize frequent competition among member countries. CAF organizes yearly matches of two kinds- the African Club Championship and African Cup Winners cup, while the African Nations Cup, the third, is on BI-annual basis. WAFU organizes one competition a year for the Eyadema Cup among the runners up in member countries. Although soccer is said to be relatively new in Africa, CAF has the highest numbers in FIFA (40) among other continental federation.

Chances

Barrolle and Invisible Eleven, the strongest teams of the country at present, displayed signs of ambition last year and this year winning almost all their matches played against outside teams. This is typical of how effective and organization such as the LFA can be.

Notwithstanding, what chances do Liberian teams have in winning more international matches, and the Lone Star winning significant international matches?

Mr. Knuckle's comments: "One must be relative; anytime one country meets the other you have an international match. But it depends who your opponent is. There are about five categories of countries of countries when it comes level of performance in international football competition. We find ourselves almost at the bottom of the ladder, and there are many reasons for that, which I cannot deal with now. But among these reasons, we have the lack of facilities, inadequate support from the public and lack of incentives for players. Liberian teams have been doing well for many years, but they did not do very well when they play against teams from Northern Africa, for example. A whole lot of investment is put in that area of the continent, which is so far beyond what, we have been able to put in sports here. You see he the results when we meet such opponents and some of our West African neighbors. Nigeria, for example, is really leaving the rest of West Africa behind. In during own case, we are a little farther behind than some of the other countries. So what the other chances of winning international club matches and the Lone Star winning international significant matches, the answer is relative. We do very well against teams from Sierra Leone and the Gambia all the time. Though those are international matches. I do not consider that as any significant achievement. When we do well against Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and countries from North Africa, then of course we do well.

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