A Commentary by Kabs Kanu
I started following the Sierra Leone national football team in the late 50s as a growing boy in Freetown.
I remember our next door neighbor Pa Pratt —after whom the street was probably named —was the only person that owned a radio at Pratt Lane where I was born. When there was an international match, we used to fill his parlor (kids on the street and some adults) to listen to radio commentaries.
It was the days of players like Steven Bio, Sylvanus Morris, Edward Akar, Boye Johnson, Weah Sawyer, Amadu OkrohKamara, Nyafoh George, Ormassa Kamara, Goalkeeper M. Turay, Tommy Rowe, Gbatieh Davies etc etc. As kids we thought we had the best team, going by these famous-sounding names. Czechoslovakia came and we drew 1-1.
I remember one match in which we thrashed Liberia 5-1 in 1958, I believe. I remember Ghana beating us 6-2 in the West Africa Gold Cup final and I remember that teams like Liberia and The Gambia always lost to us. We used to beat Guinea in Freetown and they will defeat us in Conakry. But we never won a trophy and the team was always told, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME.
In the 1960s, I started watching the games. I remember the last minute penalty awarded Sierra Leone in 1966 in the first leg of the West Africa Gold Cup as we trailed Liberia 0-1. KabinehKabbah took it and scored. 1-1. They beat us 2-0 in the return leg, though the match ended in big chaos. We never won a trophy but the team was always told, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME.
What I just want to say is that some of us have watched Sierra Leone for long. It has always been the same story — Better luck, next time. We have waited for too long for this better luck. I am almost 70 years now and but for 2 West Africa Zone 2 cups in the mid 1990s, I have not seen this Better Luck.
It took Leone Stars 26 years to qualify for the Africa Nations Cup. If at almost 70, I am being told Better Luck next time when it takes Leone Stars so long to qualify, you can understand why I feel gutted that we did not enjoy this better luck this time (2022), when we came so close and missed history because one of our players could not score a penalty kick.
When again will Leone Stars qualify for the Africa Nations Cup, whip up such passions as we saw these past weeks and give us hope, and how old will I be then?