FOUNDING OF LIBERIA FOOTBALL
By John Howard (deceased)
"Father of the LFA"
(Culled from the X-Ray
Magazine, June 1986, Monrovia)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
what chances do Liberian teams have in winning more
international matches, and the Lone Star winning
significant international matches?
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.