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Sierra Leoneans target Canadian Trophies

3 February 2007 at 23:43 | 1371 views

By Abayomi Charles Roberts in Edmonton, Canada

Edmonton can be really cold but Sierra Leoneans here refuse to let it dampen fraternal/sporting spirits. We now have a formidable soccer squad ‘Leone Stars,’ formed a few years ago.

In its debut in 2005, the team beat their Liberian counterparts 2-1 to win a three-tier mock African Nations Cup to commemorate Liberia’s national day in this city. The other team was Zimbabwe.

Last summer, Sierra Leoneans hosted a similar tourney, this time teams represented African-Canadian communities like Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia. Though our boys were ousted early, Damian Marah won the youngest star player award for the Green-White-and-Blue.

“We were hot favourites but the boys were nursing injuries or too busy schooling/working at the time,” says Coach Foday Samura “ but I trust my team and we’ll be back better than ever.” The brutally cold winter does not allow outdoor games so the team hibernates until summertime when the weather is warmer and the turf is lush.

Players of Promise
Alimamy Papani Samura is the agile goalie and Ivan Jackson is ace defender. Others in the squad include Captain, MacDad Noonoo; his brother, Junior; sturdy Kevin Kamara (Asst Capt.); diminutive Mustapha Turay, fleet footed David Dominic; and lethal Lawrence Sandy. Add to these young talents like Zac, Ziggy, Jacob, Bakarr, ‘Small’ Junior and brothers Gibrilla and Hassan Kamara and you have a team every true Sierra Leonean - here and there - ought to be fiercely proud of.

The team Manager is John Elliot while Arthur Roberts is Technical Adviser. “The idea is to fly the flag while keeping our youth from straying,” Coach Samura told me in an interview after a fund-raising dance hosted by the team on New Year’s eve. “We want to build leadership and trust while having fun,” he says “because to stay together we have to love and trust each other.”

Samura confirmed that the dance was a rousing success saying the team’s net takings exceeded the target. “Our patrons, including Canadians and other immigrants had a good time that night,” he says proudly, adding that funds are for registration of the team with the Alberta Soccer Association in the near future.

Samura played for Bombali’s Wusum Stars before he moved to Freetown in 1986. Nicknamed Odoma, he continued playing while he worked at Sierra Leone Lotto Company during inter-departmental contests which featured Sierratel, Salpost, the central bank and commercial banks and other establishments, until he fled Sierra Leone during the war. He arrived in Canada from Guinea a few years ago. Samura counts on Canadians and Sierra Leoneans alike for moral support and advice as he concedes that sustaining a competitive team would be quite a challenge.

The Scene, Trials and Triumphs
Soccer, as FIFA football is known in North America, has caught on in Canada, especially after the Women’s national Under-20 squad put up a sterling performance as hosts, losing in a keenly contested final with the USA, and watched by millions across the globe.

The city started a men’s team, the Aviators, but it failed to be launched. Yet diehard soccer enthusiasts are optimistic and hopeful, with leagues like EIYSA (Edmonton Inter-district Youth Soccer Association) and EMSA (Edmonton Minor Soccer Association), which have had well-organized leagues for youngsters, for both boys and girls, for many years now.

Canada has played in the FIFA World Cup only once, in 1986 in Mexico when they hung their boots without netting a single goal. According to Wikipedia, the Canucks’ first game (under modern rules) was played in Toronto in 1876. A year later the first league, the Dominium Football Association was formed. Canada took gold in the 1904 Olympics in 1904, the search engine says.

Amazons and Gladiators of Canuckia
On the women’s terrain, stars like Christine Sinclair raised the Maple leaf to higher heights as Canada took silver in the inaugural FIFA Under-19 (now U-20) Mundial in 2002. The match, which they lost to the USA, was played at the ultra-modern Commonwealth Stadium, ici Edmonton! Some 47,000 fans cheered the hosts as millions more watched across the globe. Sinclair, now 23, was MVP and Golden Boot queen.

Their seniors (Women), nicknamed The Big Red, have played in at least three World Cup tournaments, the first in 1995. Their best outing at this stage was in 2003 when they placed 4th.

So soccer is not a lost cause in Canada, especially with the debut of Toronto FC in the USA’s Major League Soccer (MLS) when they picked maestro Freddie Adu as their first draftee. Another boost comes with the Beckham move from La Liga in Spain to Galaxy FC of Los Angeles.

Scream for Teens on screen
In a few months Canada hosts the FIFA U-20 World Cup and with Edmonton hosting some matches and the likes of Foday Odoma Samura may well breathe a sigh of hope, especially when he can draw from the wise counsel of compatriots like Saramady Kabba, formerly of the Sierra Leone Daily Mail, and Daniel Oldfield, who was anchor sportscaster at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service. Both Kabba and Oldfield have been calling Edmonton home for the past five years.

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