Vanguard General Editor gets FIFA accreditation

5 July 2007 at 01:58 | 1390 views

The Patriot Vanguard should be well represented for Edmonton clashes, as the FIFA Junior World Cup here in Canada gathers pace. The Media department of FIFA cleared General Editor, Abayomi Charles Roberts, to cover all games (in six cities) as an accredited journalist. FIFA e-mailed his confirmation letter dated June 19, 2007. However, it took him several days to even share the news with the rest of the Vanguard team.

Roberts, who has lived in Edmonton since 2001, is bereaved. His father died in Freetown May 29 but says he will do his best. " I don’t know but I’ve not really had much time to grieve, mourn or pay my respects," he explained to Vanguard publisher and long-time colleague, Gibril Koroma.

Roberts laments in a phone chat with Koroma who lives in Vancouver: "Papa enabled me to become a journalist and he was a keen footballer himself ... hardly missing BBC Radio’s sport extra on Saturdays. I hope I can make this task a tribute to him...."

Roberts actively helped in the sports section while he worked in various Sierra Leone media in the 1980s and 90s. He concedes "I can hardly trap a soccer ball or run fast" but he likes to play volleyball, lawn/table tennis and basketball.

His coverage of sports dates back to his rookie years at the Chronicle and, later Liberty Voice. At Liberty, he was assistant to the News Editor, Christian Keilli, who passed away in Freetown about ten weeks ago. In addition, Roberts also manned the sports desk, with Daniel Oldfield (then with SLBS Radio/TV).

Other contributors included Saidu Kaye Sesay and Maurice Greene. At Expo Times in the late 1990s, Roberts was General Editor and later Deputy Editor (in charge of the Business Bureau). Still, he regularly teamed up with the likes of Mohamed Taimeh and the late Conrad Roy. He also helped Jonathan Leigh in reportage and editing of the Saturday Sports/Entertaiment special, Expo Times Extravaganza.

The Vanguard editor first gained international recognition when FIBA listed A. Charles Roberts (his favoured pen name then) in its 1996 year book. This came after consistent coverage of basketball contests among schools and clubs in Sierra Leone. FIBA stands for Federation Internationale de Basketball Association, the world body based in Switzerland.

FIBA noticed Roberts after he covered a friendly between the basketball teams of AS Kaloum of Guinea and Loma Trotters, in Conakry, in July 1996. The matches were played in the capital Conakry as a warm-up for Kaloum’s clash with Stade Maliene of Bamako, Mali. That was a West African championship match-up. Stade beat AS Kaloum after the Guineans had gained a confidence booster by narrowly defeating Trotters ealier the same week. Expo Times later carried the Kaloum/Stade thriller, courtesy of Roberts.

In the run-up to those games, Roberts had covered the 1996 national competition featuring about ten teams at the National Stadium. Loma Trotters won the title. Eric Sesay, then proprietor of LOMA TOURS, was the owner and sole sponsor of Trotters - then a fine team to watch. The contest had players like Abayomi Kezikai, Edwin Togba and coaches like O’rielly Campbell.

Roberts says he will not leave Edmonton for prelimnary matches elsewhere during Canada 2007 (this year’s U-20 games). He cites work commitment but he hopes to see Team Canada host both Austria and Congo Brazzaville in the city.

The matches are slated for Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on July 5 and July 8 respectively. Edmonton will also be the venue for other key matches, including one quarter-final and one semi-final.

Photo: Roberts (left) at the Commonwealth Stadium when Canada and Brazil U-20s played a friendly last year.