Abu Bakarr Buzzo Kargbo, Sierra Leone
Ahead of 2021 AFCON qualifiers between Sierra Leone and Nigeria, Football lovers in Sierra Leone have declared that the team will draw in Nigeria and go for a win at home, Nairasports.com.ng reports
NAIRASPORTS reports that Football was suspended in March in Nigeria as part of measures to prevent COVID 19.
The double header encounter is the first super Eagles of Nigeria and Leone Stars of Sierra leone competitive match since the outbreak of COVID-19.
First leg will take place on November 13 in Edo while the return leg will take place on November 17th.
Reacting to the expectations of Leone Stars against Nigeria, the candidate for the Sierra Leone football Association president in 2013 Rodney Michael believed that the team can pick a draw in Nigeria and win at home adding that his Expectations and the expectations of many Sierra leoneans could not be deferred
According to him, “Many people hope Sierra Leone will settle for a draw and a win against Nigeria, it was in 1994 and 1996 when Leone stars qualified for the African Nations Cup consecutively. President Bio was then Deputy Leader of the NPRC in 1994 and Chairman in 1996. He was primarily commended for those two successes
“It was in 1996 Kallon was identified and became the youngest player in history to score a goal at a major tournament. He was only 15 years old.
“In 1994 Sierra Leone was one of the 12 teams who qualified for the finals in Tunisia. We were grouped with Zambia and Ivory Coast. We had a goaless draw with Zambia after being trashed 4-0 by Ivory Coast. Nigeria beat Zambia in the finals with Rashidi Yekini scoring 5 goals in the tournament and awarded best player of the tournament. Our first point at the African Nations Cup Finals was in the 1994 tournament.
“The 1996 Nations Cup was won by the hosts South Africa after beating Tunisia in the finals 2-0.
“Sierra Leone won its first match in the African Nations Cup Finals, beating Burkina Fasso 2-1, with an 89th minute goal from its most successful and recognisable legend, Mohamed Kallon” he said
However, Sierra Leone will be making her 12th attempt at qualifying for the tournament. The team have had some close calls since 1996 but failed to qualify.
Leone stars are not in a good position and failure to beat Lesotho at home was a massive blow which could come to haunt the team.
Many have their views on why the team have failed so miserably over the years and how teams who were of no match for our darling Leone Stars in 1994 and 1996 are today way superior.
Imagine Cape Verde, a tiny Island of around 500 000 people, who gained Independence from Portugal in 1975 and played its first football match in 1979, qualifying for multiple African Nations Cup in this decade, in comparison to one of the oldest members of FIFA AND CAF in Africa – Sierra Leone Football Association, which officially was founded in 1960.
CAF has expanded the current AFRICAN NATIONS CUP and as such qualification is less difficult for the 2021 Nations Cup which will be played in 2022 because of the Covid – 19 impact on events.
The top two teams from a group of four will qualify for the finals and because Leone Stars was drawn with Nigeria, Benin and Lesotho, the FA officials and majority of us the fans were extremely optimistic this was going to be an easy passage to qualification.
Many ignored the incredible results Lesotho had in recent years and others dismissed Benin naively.
True Leone Stars had a solid chance and had every right to be optimistic, but optimism does not justify being over confident and dismissive.
As it is with just few days to go before playing the first of a double header against Group Leaders Nigeria, on the 09/11/2020 away and 17/11/2020 at home, Sierra Leone has a tough BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE TASK.
With Nigeria on 6 points, Benin on 3 points, Lesotho and Sierra Leone on a point each, leone star must get at least one win from the two matches against Nigeria or qualification could be out of reach by end of November, especially if Benin are able to accumulate 4 or 6 points against Lesotho in their double header.
This is not an impossible task but without doubt our most difficult position for a very long time after 2 matches in the group stages.
The new local coach John kister gets another friendly with the Home base team on Friday with the national U20 shooting stars but the result shows little readiness to face the almighty Super Eagles as they settled for a one all draw in a closed door match. But optimistic with the additional of the foreign based players which is yet to be announced.
Many people hope Sierra Leone will settle for a draw and a win if we are to make it to Cameroon.