When you compare the photos of the spectators NOW on the towering terraces of the National Stadium in Freetown with what used to obtain, you notice the unmistakable fact that the passion for soccer (football) is gone in Sierra Leone. People have lost interest in football in Sierra Leone. Where once the pavilions used to be jam-packed with excited crowds, today you can count the spectators on the stands. Nobody wants to go watch games anymore.
One of the reasons is that the publicity of games is very poor. The declining quality of journalism is affecting sports too. Journalists no longer arouse the passion of the soccer fans as it used to be. Sports- writing in Sierra Leone is becoming a dying art. The reason is that nobody trains to be a well-rounded journalist anymore. Most of our new breed of journalists cannot write sports.
Where we of the old breed can cover all aspects of sports–Cricket, soccer, athletics, basketball, volleyball etc. the journalist of today is not even familiar with the language of the game. We did not acquire it by magic. WE LEARNED HOW TO WRITE EVERY ASPECT OF SPORTS BY DOING–YES, LEARNING BY DOING, NOT TEXTBOOK KNOWLEDGE. .
The way people become journalists today is all to blame. Gone are the days when you started the profession taking orders from a scruffy cigarette-smoking or boozy veteran Editor-In-Chief, who is a master of his art, who sent you out on different beats to cover stories and learn the trade. Or gone are the days when you tutored yourself by voracious reading and practice. In the decades gone by, journalists started as cub reporters and worked their way up the ranks.
Journalism has to be learned and most often you do not learn everything in the classroom. People graduate today from FBC or American and British universities with high-sounding degrees in Journalism, but how many deliver? Even within this Ernest Koroma Government, we have many self-styled media specialists with all kinds of flowery titles but how many of them are really performing and helping to rebrand the government and country?
When the Government is savagely attacked in the press or social media, how many of these people really go into action to defend the government and President Ernest Koroma with well-reasoned articles that correct lies, distortion and concoction about APC administration? Sylvia Blyden’s criticisms of the government media are bitter at times but how some of the things she writes are true. KNOWLEDGE AND APPLICATION GO HAND-IN-HAND. You can have all the PhDs in Journalism or Mass Communications, but that does not give you the know-how to do effective and efficient public relations and rebranding.
Zac Humphrey, Khalil Kamara, Alhaji Saramady Kabba (Daily Mail), Basiru Savage (Unity), Kolossa John Kargbo, Wurie Jalloh (We Yone) did not have high-sounding journalism degrees or titles but firstly, they did their work and secondly they kept learning and growing on the field - And they did a marvelous job to advertise the game and stir interest.
There is no substitute for experience gained on the field. However, today, everybody starts as Publisher and Editor-In -Chief. One man even calls himself the Chief Editing Officer, a personal coinage, obviously, because there is no such title in the newsroom. But that just sums it. Everybody is chief today. Nobody is a learner on the field and thus nobody is an efficient doer. JOURNALISM IS A DOING PROFESSION. IT IS NOT A “TALKING-ABOUT” PROFESSION. How are you making a difference? That is all that counts.
In the olden days, we had only the DAILY MAIL, UNITY (which became THE NATION under Sam Metzger after the 1967 coup) and the SLBS. But the guys really knew how to write or talk to arouse passion. When an international match was coming, they spent weeks building up interest in the nation. Eddie Polloe–Who was really E.B. Wallace-Johnson –would serialize the soccer stars one by one, lionizing them. As kids, we used to think our Gbatieh Davies, Ormassa Kamara, Lamin Joe-Sesay, Sylvanus Morris, Steven Bio, Boye Johnson, etc. were the best players in the world because of the ways the media portrayed them. Media are powerful, people. In those days, Zac Humphrey, who was Sports Editor of the DAILY MAIL (Early to mid-1960s before Khalil Kamara took over around 1965), would splash very interesting stories and action photos on the back page or the second-to-the-last page of the DAILY MAIL.
When there was an F.A. Cup or Association Cup final, the DAILY MAIL ran a four-page supplement. Who were you not to become interested and decide to go to King Tom or Recre to watch it? Today, all you get from Sierra Leone newspaper sports pages are plagiarized reports from the internet about the EPL or La Liga or Serie A. No wonder that is what is interesting to soccer fans. Ask yourself why the EPL spends millions on publicity and TV packages. The media sell the game. The media it is that promote interest and draw the people to the terraces.
In Part 2, I will look at the organization of soccer, which is another reason why soccer is dying in Sierra Leone. We do not make our soccer competitions thrilling anymore. In the olden days, fans were lured through interesting competitions. The soccer season started in May with the traditional EAST VS. WEST soccer spectacle. There were not many teams so sides were stacked with good players. Today, Makeni alone has 3 different teams. Too many for a small town. No wonder Wusum Stars got relegated and are virtually dead. There should have been only one team for each headquarter city—Kakua Rangers (BO), Kambui Eagles (KENEMA), Wusum Stars (MAKENI), Diamond Stars (KOIDU), Bai Bureh Warriors (PORT LOKO), Wanjei Stars (PUJEHUN), Kasilla Stars (BONTHE) and about 8 teams in capital - Mighty Blackpool, East End Lions, Ports Authority, Old Edwardians, FC. Kallon, Real Republicans and Freetown United or FCSC. They have the capacity and administrative structures to work to beef up these teams with star players and training facilities.
TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH. TOO MANY TEAMS PROVIDE WEAKER SIDES & LESS INTERESTING COMPETITION
Book a date with this writer for PART 2.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.