Wounds Deepen Following Defeat to Traditional Rivals in
Invincible Eleven (IE) President Richard Tolbert
Written by Danesius Marteh
What moment of the 19-month-tenure of Invincible Eleven (IE)
President Richard Tolbert has made you cheer?
Or have the events of the last one-month left you as sick as
the proverbial parrot?
Well anyone, who is familiar with the yellow family’s
internal and external problems, can probably response.
IE, depending on who you are and your analysis of things,
are a club either on the brink of a crisis or experiencing
It received a hat-trick of defeats in three important
off-season tournaments in recent days.
During the FC Fassell-Liberia soccer for peace tournament,
IE topped group one with four points after drawing 1-1 with
the hosts on November 2 and pinning Watanga FC 1-0 a day
later at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) respectively.
But they suffered a humiliating 0-5 defeat to Barrack Young
Controllers (BYC) in the grand-finale at the ATS on November
6 when all hopes were high for silverware.
It was an incredibly eventful night for BYC president Sekou
Konneh and a terrible night for Dr. Tolbert whose team beat
BYC during the knock-out finale last season.
IE slumped to a 1-2 defeat to LISCR FC in a Super Cup match,
the traditional curtain raiser, which pits the winners of
the league and knock-out competitions, at the ATS on
And the final string was pulled when IE, who had to wait on
traditional arch-rivals Mighty Barrolle for more than 15
minutes, lost 5-4 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw
in the President’s Cup on December 1 at the ATS.
Those events have exposed two things: a leadership turmoil
and the lack of manpower to deliver the goods for
stand-in-coach Gray Hazel. Since the self-imposed sabbatical
taken by Vice President Alfred Sayon on July 24, some of the
players, he either personally recruited or believed in him,
have seeking loan moves to rival teams.
With the resignation of Coach Clarence Lee Chea two games
after guiding his side to last season’s knockout win over
BYC, midfield prodigy Nana Gibson joined him at FC Fassell
where he serves as director of football. On November 17,
midfielder Momo Blamo, Jr. left Monrovia for Kuala Lumpur to
play for Sime Darby FC in Malaysia for a year.
FrontPageAfrica (FPA) understands that goalie Clarence
Roberts, defender Emmanuel Wanneh and striker Matthew Dede
are unwilling participating in the new season amid the
posture taken by Sayon.
IE is arguably one of the big teams who are yet to buy new
players, thus forcing coach Hazel to rotate his limited
squad. A visibly unpleased captain Trokon Zeon (rumored to
be on his way out) openly asked Tolbert, who had gone to
console the lad following their defeat to LISCR, about new
faces. And this was the same view shared by the coach when
he was asked what led to their defeat.
“It is the same aged old problem I have had since I took
over [as acting coach of] the team. We need certain players
for strategic positions. If you look at IE right now, we
need a goalkeeper, central defenders and a midfielder
because Momo Blamo just left the country.
“And we need a real striker who can punch for goals. So that
is the reason for what we are going through right now. It is
a phase and if you look at the whole structure of all the
teams in Liberia, IE is the only team right now who have not
even tried to buy a player yet and the league is about to
start in two weeks.
“We heard that LISCR bought 15 players and the other people
[are] building-up their teams. When will we start doing
this? It is getting late. We got two weeks before the league
can start,” Gray told FPA.
According to him, Tolbert has been told about the
deficiencies within the team because results depend on how
well and fast these problems can be resolved. But Tolbert
has assured his technical that the needed manpower will be
brought in time for the league.
“Well, I am very happy to be frank with you. You saw a lot
of my old players today. They came together [against LISCR]
but it was just a little bit of bad luck. But I saw a good
“We know that there are some holes that need to be filled.
We need four or five players in key positions: strikers,
midfielders and maybe a defender. We got our eyes on the
ball but I think the team that you saw playing today was not
bad,” he told FPA after the match. But he tactfully ignored
the idiomatic expression which says time and tide wait for
“Don’t worry, we are working on it; we are working on it. We
have executive meetings almost every week and we know
exactly who we want. But you will see the new players when
we start the league,” he responded. Gray and Zeon must rely
on faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence
of things not seen, according to Hebrews 11:1.
Aside from Sayon, Tolbert was probably the only top official
seen during those defeats since secretary-general Momolu V.
O. Sirleaf was banned in June by the Liberia Football
Association (LFA) from all related activities for two year
for “making unsubstantiated allegations against LFA
president Musa Bility and his executive committee,” a
decision Momolu vehemently challenged.
In July, FPA wrote a news analysis that the ban was taking
effect on Momolu as he has not been seen at LFA
related-activities (Ganta-congress, league closing ceremony
and Gambia, Angola, Niger and Mali international matches)
but he accused this writer of feuding more problems than
solutions because he’s friendly with Sayon.
When he was texted in August as to why he has not attended
any LFA program, Momolu responded that he has either been
out of the country or out of Monrovia attending to
governmental-activities since he heads the Ministry of
Health & Social Welfare’s external coordination unit.
Momolu and Sayon may not have had a good working
relationship as the latter has read or heard most of his
decisions challenged in the media over matters concerning
IE, probably with Tolbert’s acquiescence.
According to Ecclesiastes, there is time for everything and
Sayon’s time to temporarily leave IE came when his decision
to interpose no objection to Momolu’s ban as acting
president (backed by board chairman Dr. Eugene Shannon
during a board meeting) was overturned by Tolbert, upon his
return from Nigeria.
So how does Tolbert, apparently running the show alone,
intend to deal with the issue of his secretary-general?
“We are working on it internally; we are working on it
internally. I don’t like division air in public. We are
working on it internally. I am sure things will be worked
out it with the FA,” he answered. Tolbert is upbeat that
Momolu will soon regain his status but played down
suggestions that his absence has affected the team’s morale.
“Well, I won’t say that. Nobody is key; nobody is strategic.
The club can run without me. There is nobody indispensable
to any club, no player [and] no management. We need him back
[and] we are doing our best to get him back,” he added.
Asked what he’s doing to persuade Sayon to end his leave,
Tolbert abruptly ended the interview by saying: “[You] go
and ask him. He’s the one who took his own leave, alright.
Thank you very much [and] and have a good day.”
The paper has been unable to verify how many board members
do attend meetings regularly.
In all, Maryland County senior senator John Ballout, Finance
Minister Augustine Ngafuan and his deputy for revenue
Alfreda Stewart-Tamba as well as her husband Kollie Tamba;
outgoing Margibi County Representative Saah Gbollie, Deputy
Speaker Tokpa Mulbah, John Barkamini, Ophelia Hoff-Saytumah,
Princeton Miller, Dorothy Sheba Brown and Joseph Farkollie,
among a host of board members, have been silent since Momolu
was banned and Sayon took his leave.
Cash has also been a problem too for Tolbert and his
decision to deduct US$8,000 from the prize money given by
Cellcom GSM, the sponsor of the league, for winning the
Super Cup have not gone down well with top brass. He
certainly needs help so as to resolve some of these burning
issues but the big question is when and where will it come
As always, only time will tell to what extent will it hurt