The National Stadium pitch is perfect and prepared for its first international football action once again since the Ebola Epidemic that ravaged hundreds of lives in Sierra Leone .
Sierra Leone’s friendly with Malawi today at the National Stadium Freetown will be the first on home soil after the country was officially declared free of Ebola in November 2015 and the third meeting between the Flames and the Leone Stars.
The 18-month ban had forced the national team to play all their home matches on the road on neutral venues. Sierra Leone last played at home soil defeating Seychelles 2-0 July 19, 2014.
The newly appointed Sports Minister Ahmed Khanou in response told footballsierraleone.net, “Leone Stars will and should shine again through mutual respect for all – athletes, administration, stakeholders etc. We would professionally work to strengthen our relationships with our local and international partners. We would reconcile and work with an aggregated position and pursue a common agenda and not an individual’s agenda.
“Sports are about building bridges to cement the social fabric and not exclude anybody because of reasons that are far from necessary. The previous wrangling in football is about egos and personal claims to being right and these challenges are surmountable.
“It is sad that in a country where over half the population is made up of young people with enough energy, we still cannot boast of highly placed professional athletes on the global sporting platform and we do not have an organized scientific system of identifying our athletes in the name of an academy.
“My administration will focus on laying the framework that will include the structural and statutory/regulatory arrangement in which all sector players would operate. This, of course, should stem from a national audit of the sports sector and informed by a national conference on sports development and growth sponsored by the corporate sector.
“We are in an industry which has incredible powers to bring nations and cultures together and that is exactly what we are going to do tomorrow and on the 28th. Football is coming home.” SLFA boss Isha Johansen was quoted as saying.
Director of Sports Ibrahim Bangura, said: “I am very pleased that after the Ebola international football is back on the shores of Sierra Leone. We are calling on all parties to exercise calm as to enable peace reign in football. Fighting one another will continue to destroy football in the country and affect youth development in Sports. The Ministry is determined to ensure the expeditious development of Sports in Sierra Leone regardless of age, sex, religions and disabilities.”
Deputy Minister of Sports Al-Sankoh Conteh: “This is a welcome news and its will send a positive impact in the post-Ebola era as a government we are happy to see our national team playing at home in front of our national fans.
“We want stability and peace in football and government will foster fair play in ensuring that a congress for the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) is held within the shortest possible time.”
The Flames defeated Leone Stars twice on the 6th and 9th July 1978 5-0 and 4-2 the same year respectively in International friendlies.
The Leone Stars upcoming matches against Gabon also slated to be played in Franceville on 25 March and in Freetown on the 28.Leone Stars currently bottom of Group I with a single point behind Sudan and Ivory Coast.
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