Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 June 2021:
I ‘tok’ it! President Julius Maada Bio is a lucky man. Last time we had the kind of success we have recently experienced in any international football competition was twenty-five years ago, for which he has generally been credited with the success. Just when we thought we could not win a “tamatis cup”, Maada Bio showed up again to take us to the African Nation’s cup.
Most of his supporters think it is the “Bio luck” that got us there. I however got an interesting perspective from someone who attributed this success at football to the President, though not to his lucky charm. He confided to me it was not luck but sorcery. When I told him it was a black lie, he explained his point of view: “Why do you think the players travelled by road?”.
I told him I don’t know. “Why were they resting under a mango tree at Gbalamuya, lying down on floor mats or sitting on plastic chairs and why did they eat “cookery”? I replied there was no talk of “cookery” and I didn’t know why they were there. He called me to the corner and explained. “I know the “Moray man” that was consulted.
He advised them not to travel by air because, Benin people, being renowned for witchcraft had “tied” our players in the air. Therefore, flying would bring disastrous results. He advised our players to travel by road and have a good rest under a mango tree at Gbalamuya, where the secret potion would be administered on their legs. The “moray man” said that as for such eventualities, the more hardship you undergo, the better will be the results.”
This sounded incredible to me. But then, I said aloud to myself- “When I was at CKC, Bo school used to do this to us, rub “moray man” administered potions on the legs of their players and beat us at Coronation Field. But surely, this was before Bio’s time?” I then asked him the question- “So the rushed foolhardy trip to the border just to wait for COVID test results, the problems posed by Guinean border guards, lying in the sun at Gbalamuya and the positive COVID results were all part of this scheme?”, I asked. “You’ve hit the nail on the head”, he affirmed.
All is well that ends well however- “tie” or no “tie”. We won fair and square. But in the midst of all this there are those who doubt the resolve of our President. There are those who do not believe in this “Presidential luck” business. They argue that President Bio was not responsible for our success twenty-five years ago. They say it was Captain Valentine Strasser as Head of State and Sulaiman Banja Tejansie as Sports Minister, who was in fact sacked later by Bio, when he became Head of State, who brought us the accolades for that cup.
“Not that cup”, the President’s spokesman says. He further clarified the issue – “As Deputy Chairman of the National Provisional Ruling Council, Julius Maada Bio is credited for inspiring the Leone Stars’ squad of that era to win the Amilcar Cabral trophy twice and to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations twice.”
Anyway, enough of this argument! Whatever the case, President Bio was associated with a cup. Dassol! And he is now associated with another cup! Tok and do! Tok and win cup!
One lesson this teaches us, cup or no cup, luck or no luck, is how football brings about national unity. Even the IG in excitement is reported to have broken a few tables in his office in “collaying”. His palpable excitement was seen all over the media. In times like this, nobody asks for the tribe or the political affiliation of the coach or the players. We all become patriotic Sierra Leoneans.
The President is reported to have said that whilst the country may be divided along party and regional lines, football brings unity amongst citizens. So true! Kei Kamara and co. have probably succeeded in doing what the long touted National peace and reconciliation Commission could not do-bring peace and reconciliation to Sierra Leone, even if this was only for a week, after which we started fighting again.
Anyway, I don’t want to get too negative. On the positive side ten thousand US dollars and a piece of land each for 41 players and officials is admirable. There are some people whose luck knows no bounds. Imagine poor Musa Tombo, who being left out of the team is now going to get a cool ten thousand dollars and a piece of land promised to each of the players. Left out in the cold, he got called because of COVID issues with some of our players to serve his country in Guinea – never mind it was on the substitute’s bench. One would not be surprised if he asks for his own land to be given him in Bo, where he probably intends to stay ad infinitum with Hawa Tombo.
But what is this thing about Sierra Leone Presidents and football? President Kabbah did not seem like a sports fan and there was general talk that every time he graced an international match played by Sierra Leone, our team lost. When this became known, grumbling voices in the stadium could be heard saying-“Dis Pa don cam again for gi we bad luck”. President Koroma, a keen Arsenal fan was dubbed “World Best” by his supporters. President Bio, I believe supports Manchester United and there is talk that anytime he puts on his Man U vest, they end up losing. It is however with Sierra Leone that he appears to strike it lucky- he has the key! No wonder Paopas, revelling in his success have been referring to President Bio as the “Real Messi” and President Koroma as “ Fake Messi”.
Funny however what a goal can bring. Yes, one single goal! But consider what would have happened …if, …… I don’t even want to think or talk about it – Astafulai ten tem! Let me however tok it. What would have happened if Kei Kamara had missed that penalty and there was no other goal after that?
Good Lord! I can only imagine. Kei Kamara would have been so insulted on social media that he would be made to know about antecedents he never knew existed. President Bio would have been dubbed the “Bad luck President”. The players would have been ten thousand dollars poorer each. People would have called for coach Keister, who is now effusively praised to be decapitated. New SLFA President Thomas Daddy Brima would have been accused of “spoiling Isha Johansen’s luck” and SLFA would be blamed for the bad pitch in Freetown which caused the game to be played in Guinea and they, together with the Sports Ministry would be asked by Joe Public to account for every cent of the $750,000 given them. Monday morning quarterbacks would have criticised the choice of the team.
SLFA and the Sports Ministry officials who made the decision to travel by road would have been roasted. SLPP Paopa supporters would have said they inherited a bad team from the last Administration because of egregious corruption by the APC. I don’t even want to think about it! Let me disappear before anyone accuses me of being too negative.
After all, our “Moray man” worked hard for us and President Bio still has luck in his veins. For now, let us revel in our victory. President Bio has claimed he has the key to our victory in his pocket. He opened it twenty-five years ago and put it in the safe. He seems to have brought it out again. Let’s only hope he gets it out again when the team gets to Cameroon and that it does not get stolen before then.
ENTER THE DRAGON
When I first saw the video showing the now infamous fight between a Chinese worker and Sierra Leonean worker at the Kingho mine, the first thing that came to mind was the Indian films I used to watch at Odeon cinema in Bo as a young boy. I thought the script would be easy to predict. The “Badman” would appear and for no good reason beat the hell out of the “Actor”. Things would swing the way of the “Badman” until close to the end when the “Actor” would recover and beat the “Badman” to a pulp. “Commentators” would explain the plot to you frame by frame before any event could happen-“Den day cam kick am now. E feel say e sabi fet”.
I saw the Chinese man attack first and thought it was part of a film, only to discover this was not a film. Just when we started enjoying the video and its enactments on social media and the commentaries and bought popcorn to watch more episodes, we saw them shaking hands and making peace, with the Chinese, who some have called “Him Nor Strong” shaking hands with the Sierra Leonean, but not smiling. In any case the debate has been interesting.
A lot has been written on this issue in social media and passions are certainly flying high. Most people are irked that this is symptomatic of the way Chinese treat local workers- with little respect.
A few have said that whatever the case, the Sierra Leonean should not have fought back as it was wrong to fight at work- It is a serious offence that would warrant dismissal of both parties immediately. It is interesting to watch how attempts have been made by both the company and the CSRG contractor to give the impression this was all a storm in a teacup.
The CRSG, whilst apologising gave the impression the toolbox talk was done at an inappropriate time and took unduly long and that the part where the Sierra Leonean hit first was left out of the video, thus justifying the action of the Chinese. The company made a meal out of the peace made in the media.
Whatever the case, I will not be judgmental as I am not privy to all the facts. A few things however interest me and I will get straight to the point. I don’t know the name of the Sierra Leonean who so valiantly fought “Him Nor Strong”, so I will christen him “Sahr Lone Fetman”.
I would however, like to make a few observations about this “Enter the Dragon-Episode 1” film:
- Not all Chinese are Kung Fu experts. In fact, some are downright lazy.
- I am not sure about the peace between these two parties (Photo above), “Him Nor Strong” did not seem to smile in the picture taken. Who would, after such public humiliation?
- Why were the onlookers just standing there? Could they not have intervened, either to separate them or join the fight? The latter option may have been more interesting.
- This is for “Him Nor Strong” – Why pick a fight you cannot win and have to resort to fighting with a stick?
- Where did “Sahr Lone Fetman” learn his skills in kick boxing and how did he aim his kick into a nameless part of “Him Nor Strong’s” anatomy?
- Registration of people for kung fu classes has increased in Sierra Leone.
I hear the fallout from this has been swift. “Him Nor Strong’s” name has been changed to “Him Too Lace” by his Chinese brethren and he is now taking Kung Fu lessons.
When shall we have ‘Enter the Dragon-Episode 2”? Ponder my thoughts.