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Soccer and Fans

(Culled from X-Ray Magazine, June 1986)

Posted July 26, 2008

Football, called soccer in the USA, is believed to have originated from Britain, from where it spread to the rest of Western Europe and the world. Today the attachment to the love for the game has become a universal disease without cure. It drives despondent fans to suicide, inspire joy, where there is sadness and trigger mindless jingoism.

In 1984, reports came of soccer casualties from a burning stadium in Britain and a crumbling stadium in Belgium, killing scores of spectators. 

Liberian fans are generally well behaved. They have long had a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most disciplined in Africa. Such a rare compliment is perhaps because Liberia is a "Peace Loving Country."


During home matches Liberians do not throw bottles and stones at players and police personnel, nor walk across the pitch or engage in other forms of rioting. The fans normally admire and cheer teams that exhibit the spirit of good sportsmanship and satisfactorily give them their money's worth. The only expectation, perhaps, was the 1980,encounter in Freetown, Sierra Leone, when the Liberian teams and fans were jeered at and stoned.

Barrolle and IE undoubtedly have the largest fans today among football clubs in Liberia. Perhaps the reason lies in their being old and well established teams. Moreover, there is the psychological effect on the other teams with the idea that no matter how they try, they cannot make it with IE and Barrolle.

The manner in which the teams were formed has a lot to do with the type of fans and supporters they have. Bame was started by the Kru people and so it draws most of the fans from the Kru ethnic group. Students of CWA who were mostly "Congo" started I. E Majesties and so up to this day it is regarded as a "Civilized" or Congo team. Its archival, Barrolle was started mainly by residents of Grand Bassa County, and so it is regarded as a Bassa or " Country" people team.


 Nowadays the trend seems to have changed dramatically. For all the teams now have broad-based fans from a cross-section of the country and the citizenry. Bame is no longer a preserve of the Kru, nor I.E. only for Congo people or Barrolle for Bassa people. All the football clubs draw up their fans from all the countries and ethnic groups.

Price N. A Brown recalls an incident, which manifests the glaring ethnicity attached to football by the fans in the late 1940s, during a match between I.E and Bame. As he was a Kru the and a player of his family advised him not to play against Bame, except for one of his sisters. It was a tough decision to make, and at last he decided to play against Bame even though Bame fans threatened him that his legs would be chopped off if he played. Another Kru player, Tugbeh Anderson gave in, and played for Bame instead of I.E. His team, as a result of this match, which was among the earliest played by I.E, Prince N.A Browne never, had his legs chopped off, and Tugbeh Anderson was still given blame not for playing for I.E, but for not playing his best on the side of Bame.


Another Barrolle-I.E syndrome that now seems to be dying out among Liberian fans is the belief in witchcraft. "Rain" symbolizes victory for Barrolle and "Sunshine" for I.E. But experience has shown that this assertion is not always true. However, both teams have maintained specific colors of jerseys. Red for Barrolle and Yellow for I.E. This has resulted into giving IE the name "YELLOW BOYS" and "DARLING CLUB," while Barrolle carries the name "ROLLERS" AND "READ BOYS." There is also the element of who owns the land and who has the " deed" that erupted soon after April 12,1980.

Perhaps these are some of the factors that contribute to Barrolle -IE rivalry when they meet to prove their supremacy and progress in soccer. Certainly whenever there is an encounter between the two teams, the field is jam- packed and nightclubs to engage in a drinking spree.

Yet other teams like St. Joseph Warriors and, of late, Fulani, have registered quite a large following. Perhaps the capturing of the national league trophy consistently by teams other than Barrolle and IE may one day change the pattern of hungry fans in Liberia.

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