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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
LIBERIA ORBIT has obtained permission to publish a series of articles
first carried in the X-RAY Magazine, published in Monrovia May/June
1986 to commemorate sports in the country. LiberianSoccer.com obtained