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Prison Watch monitor Sport The impact of Corona virus on Football in Sierra Leone

By Mohamed Konneh

Empty national stadium

The corona virus pandemic that is currently ravaging the world including Sierra Leone has already turned off the windpipe and the money hole is already starting to close up. Even the wealthy clubs are looking nervous taking into account the closure of the league and other football related activities.

In Sierra Leone, it is no different. In fact, when it comes to the Premier League’s top clubs, the lower clubs are perhaps going to be hardest hit in the short term by the Corona virus crisis.

I am currently standing at the middle of the National Stadium in Freetown, where major Football activities take place. The pitch is blossom with fresh green grasses. Lying idle there is no activity since the threat of the corona virus pandemic. Apart from the empty pitch, the stands are also empty with no single individual around or athletes who run around as part of their daily routine training.

This is happening because of the Corona virus disease that is now present in Sierra Leone with the country recording over four hundred and more cases at the moment.

Football is one sport that brings lots of fortune to young people and the country. With the absence of football activities and sports in general a number of sectors continue to experience economic hardship. With Football playing before this time, businesses were striving including petty traders who go to Football venues to sell their wares.

Here at the frontage of the National stadium, business activities have so far vanished. The perimeter that was overwhelmed with traders are virtually empty. Market stalls at the stadium are empty and some no longer exist.

Football clubs are the biggest losers including players who basically relied on proceeds from the game to feed and take care of their families.

Emmanuel SafaAbdulaiis the Chairman, Old Edwardians Football Club and has invested hugely in the country’s Football sector.

“The impact of corona Virus has been devastating. The situation has sent hundreds of young people who were engaged in football back on the street.  These boys are back on the street because their clubs could not provide for them, Abdulai said.

For us as clubs we provided one month salary for our players and when we received money from the FA we provided them again with half month salary. At Luawa FC we gave one month salary to our players and open bank accounts for them. This is something we are hoping to take forward, he said.”

Mr. Abdulai said every day when people do not play Football it’s becomes a tremendous problem.

‘’The human capacity is lost as we all know young people are not getting younger. The new league has brought back life in them but the situation has let them elapsed back to their problem. Financially, it is a huge loss to market women and football administrations. The gate takings we used to get is no longer forthcoming and even those who organized the leagues no longer realize anything, so economically it’s devastating. Nobody is willing to bailout clubs and this is like business as usual,” Mr. Abdulai explained.

Emmanuel SafaAbdulai-Chairman Old Edwardians FC

 

Mohamed Kallon is the owner of FC Kallon who also continues to invest in young people and football in general. Though clubs in the country do not make much money yet when the game is playing we do realized some amount of money that is used to care for the players and pay staff. Most clubs if not all are not financially strong and in time like this, it is the players that suffer the more, he said.”

The Sierra Leone football Association (SLFA) suspended all Football related activities after government put out regulatory measures to fight the corona virus. The FA has so far reach out to clubs with message of hope and also supporting district associations so as to be able to run their administration.

Ibrahim Kamara is the Marketing and Media Officer at the FA. He said the FA was receiving five percent of proceeds from gate takings when football was playing. This is no longer forthcoming because of the absence of the game.

“This is a huge loss to the FA. This money was used to cover gaps that the funding from FIFA is not taken care of. We have auxiliary staff that are paid from this amount. We all know that when football is playing you need more people to do the work. For example we do not have a budget line to take care of funeral if any member of the football family dies or bereaved, Mr. Kamara said.

Mr. Kamara added that the FA on most occasions reaches out to bereaved Football family members and sometimes take care of the entire funeral. These are activities we do not budget for.

“We also have a number of secretariat work that are not budgeted for and some of the cost involve do not come from FIFA. FIFA’s money to the FA is meant for the running of the administration.

Mr. Kamara said the FA continue to reach out to Football clubs and render whatever little help they could during this period.

Popular Petty Trader Tity Bangura is a long standing trader at the National stadium. She sells fruits and raw cassava along the long stretch towards teams dressing rooms. Tity now roams the street of Freetown with her fruits just to make ends meet.

She said when Football was playing business was good because of fans who go the stadium to watch the game of Football.

“I sometimes go to town twice, buy more fruits especially on days when Football will be playing. Business was good and I was able to support my family. I am a single parent and I survived through this petty trading, she said.

Today, I can’t go to the stadium for the simple reason that Football is not playing. Even if I go there, there are no customers not even young people who go the stadium to train. We pray this corona goes away quickly for us to be able to get back to business,” she said.

As the corona virus continues the National Stadium and every other Football venues are virtually empty. Football is not playing because of the virus that is killing people across the world. The impact of Corona virus on football is huge. The economic and social impact remains some of the difficult challenges this country will grapple with for a long time even after.

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