By Lamin Costo Daramy
Football has the power to unite Sierra Leoneans, regardless of age, gender, tribal, political, regional or religious affiliation, and that is never truer than each time Sierra Leone qualifies for a major tournament.
Football is the most played and watched sport in Sierra Leone, and because of that, a major football tournament is the most anticipated event in the country. I am yet to see any other sport that would rival the popularity of football in Sierra Leone.
The African Cup Of Nation (AFCON) qualifier between our darling Leone Stars and The Squirrels of Benin yesterday was shown around the country, across the 16 districts in the North, East, West and South. Millions were glued in front of their tellys rooting for our darling Leone Stars to book a place at the 2022 AFCON tournament in Cameron.
When our match with The Squirrels of Benin was on and got a penalty in the 19th minute, the nation went into ecstasy. After the goal was scored by Kei-Kamara, we had the longest remaining minutes ever in the history of the game because we just could not wait for the final whistle. After the final whistle, there were hundreds of people in the streets celebrating. I was swamped with clips depicting how people celebrated our victory, ataya bases, homes or where people watched went crazy. Everyone had a fantastic time, enjoyed the match, the company they were and certainly our sweet victory.
What we never experienced for over quarter of a century (25 years) is to see football lovers from the North, East, West & South, SLPPians, APCians, NGCians, C4Cians, Mendes, Temnes, Madingos, Fullahs, Limbas, Krios, young, old, Muslims, Christians, male and female of Mama Salone unite to support our darling Leone Stars, all banded under the 🇸🇱 Green, White & Blue. Irrespective of our political, tribal, regional or religious affiliations we all came together to support one cause.
I saw electrifying and incredible atmosphere and the high spirit of hope for better things ahead yesterday. I almost got teary eyes because it has been over 25 years that we all came together with pure and genuine love in the best interest of Mama Salone. My heart was filled with so much joy to see President Julius Maada Bio, his Vice President, Juldeh Jalloh and other dignitaries in a motorcade celebrating Leone Stars' victory.
For many more years to come, Sierra Leoneans will live to reminisce about where they were when our darling Leone Stars booked their ticket to Cameron AFCON 2022 tournament for the first time in over 25 years. Kudos to the lads for doing the nation proud, kudos to the magnificent Coach, John Keister and his entire staff for a fantastic job done. A special thanks to the government for investing in football and helping to unlock the potential of the boys. I watched Mohamed Kallon (former Leone Stars Captain) saying on national TV that His Excellency Julius Maada Bio promised that the lads will never have to worry or complain about their salaries anymore.
Leone Stars victory has truly succeeded in easing political tensions, restored hope and most importantly united us once more as a nation. Significant events are often preceded by signs that they are about to happen. Sierra Leoneans, let us be hopeful. If we pay attention to how things are unfolding, we can generally tell that something momentous is about to happen in Sierra Leone. Let us continue to unite in our efforts to make Mama Salone a promise land for us all.