Diaspora soccer tournament needs more positive support

12 August 2009 at 05:16 | 2409 views


By Sanpha Sesay, PV Corespondent, Texas.

It is continuously proven that wherever we go to have fun and entertain ourselves, there is always a tendency that we Sierra Leoneans (some of us) will display behavior that will cause violence leading to the eventual emergence of police intervention.

It is a shame, completely shameful in our culture, to note that the curse of violence and indiscipline in our communities could not allow a peaceful end of events at Columbus, Ohio, where Sierra Leoneans from 13 states recently assembled for the final event of the 2009 soccer tournament.

Community violence is prevalent and continues to be a significant problem in our public gatherings. A report by the Texas soccer organizer, Patrick Dangawalli, stated that raging emotions spilled over into the vicinity of the dance hall where an award ceremony was supposed to take place causing different forms of disturbance that eventually alerted the police who came and expelled everyone from the area. Quite a number of police vehicles could be seen and helicopters were in the air actively searching for trouble makers.

For more than thirteen years since the inception of the Sierra Leone annual soccer tournament that falls between July and August in the United States, only a few member states have reportedly handled it successfully without a major turmoil.

Patrck Dangawalli, left, and Sybil Decker at the Texas conference. Top photo, left to right: Patrick Dangawallie, Darlington Tucker, an executive member, Foday Sesay(chairman) and tournament founder Sento Johnson.

The most succesful one was the 2008 tournament in Texas according to the views of fans. Some of the reasons why the tournament failed to accomplish its goals so far have been highlighted by Patrick Dangawalli, President of the Sierra Stars Soccer Association in Texas.

According to Dangawalli, the general purpose of meeting together in order to share our unique cultural values of what is good, appropriate and worthwhile for us as Sierra Leoneans is no longer put into perspective. The soccer tournament was designed only for Sierra Leoneans and not for West Africans who have now dominated the field of play, Patrick said. That was quite evident in this 2009 tournament of August 1st at Columbus, Ohio, where some of the participating teams featured quite a number of Liberians and other nationals breaching the objectives of the tournament.

This tournament was formed by the famous former Leone Stars attacker, Sento Johnson, with the primary aim of bringing Sierra Leoneans together and to socialize. Using one or two other nationals in one game could be understandable, Dangawalli noted, but up to seven or more foreign players as he put, it is a complete violation of the rules of the tournament.

Another obstacle to the success of the Sierra Leone Soccer tournament in the U.S is lack of leadership. Patrick Dangawalli believes that the five man experienced soccer maestros chosen to man the affairs of this traditional annual competition as an interim body proved ineffective. Presently, only three people, Sybil Decker, Didi Abu and himself (Dangawalli) are effectively communicating to maintain the tournament on a round-robin basis across the cities of the United States. The reason for the other interim members not co-operating is not known, according to Patrick.

Patronage and participation of Sierra Leoneans is another central problem in our Sierra Leone communities in the Diaspora. We have the deficiency or inability to participate amicably in a community. One focal point is that Sierra Leoneans like to harvest but do not want to farm. The attitude of not wanting to work or start a project and sustain it for social development always leads us to failure and under-development.

Indiffernece and apathy are other impediments in our desire to build a social community. When the interim body that effectively handled this annual tournament requested that every interested person should participate in a forum in order to elect a permanent executive, no one ever showed up. No one has also ever brought out any idea of building this community to a significant one. Instead, people are going around to influence others to divide the community, perhaps because of positions being expected not achieved.

If that is the case, Dangawallie wanted to know why people did not come on the forum to speak out their minds and then call for a consultative conference to put together bye-laws that will enhance their potential of holding key positions? Everyone should call one of the interim executive members and propose ideas that are worthwhile for the good of all, he suggested.

The interim body is trying to increase community participation in the tournament but this seems really not well received. People participate only for their own benefit or because of nearness to the tournament venue. This has upset Dangawalli because his group from Texas always travels to participate in any of the states without thinking about distance. When it came to be the turn of Texas in 2008, many people did not show up because of distance. If Texans travel to California, Washington and Atlanta, I see no reason why people in those states should find it difficult to come to Texas. After all, it is an annual event that gives enough time to prepare.

Behavioral changes are vital for our success in America. We need to adjust and maintain the American value of discipline. It is disgraceful to our national flag of Sierra Leone to be expelled most of the time from our gatherings by the police. We do not need the police to maintain law and order in our community. We have to create strategies that will keep away our bad behavior from public view. Dangawalli is appealing to soccer fans and all Sierra Leoneans for their candid support for this annual occasion. God bless Sierra Leone.