Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 June 2021:
Yesterday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone donated acres of State lands in Freetown, with estimated value running into millions of dollars to all 41 players and officials of the national Leone Stars football team, after their success in Guinea, beating Benin one nil to qualify for the African Nations (AFCON) Cup. The president also handed over a cheque for Le 4.1 billion to the chairman of the National Sports Council.
The handing over of the 41 land title deeds and cheque took place at a dinner held in honour of the players and hosted by the First Lady Fatima Maada Bio at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
The First Lady congratulated the players and officials of the team and thanked them for making the country proud, adding that football should not be political because the country also needed sports to maintain a happy nation.
She congratulated President Bio for the team’s success and thanked him for his support for the team as she urged him to continue to give more support to the team ahead of the next stage of the AFCON matches in Cameroon slated for early 2022.
Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Captain Kei Kamara who scored the qualifying goal, expressed gratitude to the President and First Lady for hosting a presidential dinner in their honour.
He also appreciated the team coach, John Keister, for being patient with them and for ensuring that they had a victory. He encouraged young people, who want to participate in sports to take their education seriously and also urged his colleagues to be role models in society.
President Bio noted that for a while the country has been divided along party and regional lines but stated that because of the victory that Leone Stars brought home, there is huge sign of unity in the country now. The President also said that the whole nation is proud of the team.
The president assured the players and officials of his continued support to make sure that the team is ready for AFCON final, adding that this will definitely be an effective way of further uniting the country.
President Bio thanked all Sierra Leoneans for supporting the team and encouraging the footballers and their managers to do their best to maintain the momentum, by showcasing themselves and the country for bigger opportunities.
“I want to thank all of you who played your part in ensuring that we had victory. Going to Cameroon next year, I want to see you play classic football,” he urged the players.
But as the ink begins to dry on those 41 State land title deeds donated to the players and officials, questions are being asked about the president’s decision to prioritise footballers ahead of hardworking health workers, doctors, nurses that are saving precious lives with very little reward, and millions of Sierra Leoneans that are homeless across the country.
Several nurses, doctors and public employees who purchased government houses from the former APC government have had their properties seized by the Bio-led SLPP government without compensation, simply because his government is against the sale of public property.
Critics of the president are accusing the president of double standards and hypocrisy, and say that he is politicising football by bribing the national football team with State property.