Corporate struggle between the nation’s two leading mobile companies and a protest ruling disqualifying Grand Bassa are stinging the ongoing National County Meet matches, taking place at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) in Central Monrovia.
The tournament is annually organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) to “foster National Reconciliation and Unity”. The preliminary matches of the gala normally begin in the leeward counties before the knockout stages (quarter ﬁ-nals onward) are brought to Monrovia.
But what appears to be a major distraction and sting to the tournament erupted before and during the quarter ﬁnal match between Lofa (eventual winners) and Gbarpolu Counties on Thurs-day January 7, when Cellcom GSM reportedly threatened a lawsuit against the Liberia Football Association over “breach of contractual agreement” on the placement of paraphernalia at the ATS-match venue by its rival Lone Star Communication.
The situation got ugly when LFA authorities removed the paraphernalia of Lone Star Cell that had defaced that of Cellcom’s presumably because of threats of a lawsuit against the Football House.Speaking to a local media, the Corporate Communication Oﬃcer at Lone Star Cell, Zenue Miller said the country’s oldest GSM Company was alarmed that MYS could not protect its the agreement with Lone Star.
He said Lone Star Cell and MYS consummated a legitimate contract for the former to sponsor the 2015/2016 National County Meet. Ze-nue said the agreement gave Lone Star the right to rebrand the ATS for commercial purposes.
Cellcom GSM remains the lead sponsor for both the LFA National League and the National football teams of Li-beria. However, in 2010, LFA president Musa Bility and then Minister of MYS Etmo-nia Tarpeh, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that gave the Ministry exclusivity over the organization and execution of the National County Meet.
Though the ATS is owned by the Government of Libe-ria, the LFA manages it. This also means the LFA did agree that the County Meet would move to the ATS given that the SKD Sports Complex-the usual venue-is undergoing renovation.
Soccer pundits are therefore wondering why then did the LFA wait after two matches (Bong vs. Maryland and Bas-sa vs. Nimba) before moving in to take down Lone Star cell’s promotional materials? Besides, why would the LFA be concerned when it did not enter into contract with Lone star?
Why is the MYS tight-lipped on the issue?
The National County Meet remains the country’s foremost crowd-puller, next to the senior National Team Li-beria’s international matches.
Semi ﬁnal matches
What is also crawling and potentially capable of derailing the traditional tournament is the protest ﬁnding that has robbed Grand Bassa County of their hard-earned semi ﬁnal berth.
The organizers Saturday ruled that Grand Bassa, having defeated Nimba 1-0 in the quarter ﬁnal, was guilty of ﬁelding an illegal player, thus forfeiting the semi berth to Nimba, who now meet Bong on Thursday of the week.
Capitol Times gathers that Cllr. TC Gould and others are contemplating moving to court to challenge the ruling against Bassa, the last winner of the title.
The semi ﬁnal ﬁxture remains: Nimba vs Bong on Thursday January 14. Bong defeated Maryland 3-1 to move to the stage, while Lofa County defeated Gbarpolu 1-0 in extra time on Tuesday January 7 to advance for a showdown against Montser-rado County who defeated Grand Gedeh 4-2.
The National County Meet has never been free from controversies, and the latest brouhaha could just fade away.