It’s been about 15 years now since the end of the horrible civil war in Sierra Leone and as the country slowly climbs its way back to normalcy we have started to see the rise of World Class sporting talents as a result of the benefits of raising Sierra Leonean kids who left as refugees or Diaspora Sierra Leoneans bearing children overseas that identify with the country and are eager and proud to represent it in international sporting circles.
In the last two Olympics (2012 & 2016) Sierra Leone’s participation was headlined by two athletes born and mostly raised in the USA namely; Ola Sesay (Long Jump) and Hafsatu Kamara (100 Meters) and this phenomenon has spurred many of the Diaspora born kids to seek a way to come aboard and work towards representing Sierra Leone in the International arena.
There are a number of these athletes who now compete in the very intense and advanced NCAA Collegiate competition system in the USA as well as in other systems in other countries like Canada, the UK, Sweden, Germany and many more to name but a few around the world.
In the last decade and a half we have seen the rise of talented Sierra Leone born or related athletes in the American Football (Gridiron) game in the name of; BJ Tucker (San Francisco 49ers), Gibril Wilson (the Only Sierra Leonean to ever win a Superbowl ring and Championship with the New York Giants), Madieu Williams (Cincinnati Bengals/Minnesota Vikings/ San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins), Mohamed Sanu (Cincinnati Bengals/Atlanta Falcons) and in the last draft (2017) Amara Darboh (Seattle Seahawks), Francis Kallon (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints).
These are all testament of not just the talent of Sierra Leoneans if given the opportunity and the facilities to enhance their skills that they will do just that, but also how a nation can turn around its unfortunate circumstances to a positive one and become a better community afterwards, like the proverbial phoenix that rises from the ashes.
Currently there are developments in other sports like Basketball with a number of very talented athletes that have shown a great interest in representing Sierra Leone who will soon have their breakthrough to become big names in the NBA or other overseas basketball leagues as well as accomplished personnel in the Coaching ranks that are of Sierra Leonean descent that can help transform the Game to make Sierra Leone a serious contender in the international arena as well as place to recruit serious basketball talents in the long term.
While in mostly Olympics based sports like Track and Field and Wrestling we now know of a number of athletes who have committed to represent Sierra Leone at the global stage and most especially so at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan which will definitely be the biggest breakthrough of Sierra Leone sporting talent at the highest level in the world.
Athletes like Ngozi Musa of Harvard University (100 & 200 Meters sprinter), Maggie Barrie of The Ohio State University (100, 200 and 400 Meters sprinter), Aisha Naibewey a graduate now of the University of Virginia (400 meters Hurdler and 400 meters sprinter), Ishmael Kamara of the Clemson University (Long Jump and Triple Jump), Alex Holloway of Marquette University (Long Jump and Triple Jump), Agnes Mansaray of Iowa Central Community College 400, 800 and 1500 meters Runner and Sprinter), Darrel Gooding a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University (1500 & 5000 Meters runner) Mamadu Mansaray (100 & 200 Meters sprinter) who will be heading to College soon.
Recent commits to wresting like Ibrahim Bunduka and Sahid Kargbo of George Mason University in Virginia, USA who are now on-board to represent Sierra Leone in International circles giving the country its best shot at medals and meeting the stiff qualification standards to the World Championships and Olympic Games is a breath of fresh air for the growth of sports in Sierra Leone.
Not to ignore what’s happening on the Homefront where a national Sport Development Conference was recently hosted by the Sports Ministry and its head Mr. Ahmed Khanou, it is evident from such a move that the country is positioning itself for a major breakthrough in sports which will have tremendous impact on the nation as a whole in a variety of ways, mostly so on the economic development front.
There is a steady rise in interest in sports by the younger generation in the country which by the way is one of two major ways that they have a chance to make it in life with the other being EDUCATION.
Outside of Football (Soccer) we see the rise of great talents like Ishamail ‘Dudu’ Kamara and Vivian ‘Skinny’ Williams in Track & Field who are tremendous talents that will be big names in Sierra Leone sporting circles for years to come.
The talent and the goodwill is there but what are the missing ingredient that could help catapult all of this great projection to something real and tangible and help the country realize its true human potential; the answer to that is Funding and Sponsorship.
Currently outside of official Government and Associations circles the true and only answer to the issue of support and funding will have to come from the private sector and there is an ongoing effort to staff and build the capacity of the Sierra Leone Sports Foundation a citizens based community effort to help build support and funding that will assist Athletes, Associations and in some instances partner with the government in helping the country achieve greatness and realize its dreams in the sporting arena.
Funding and Sponsorship is not as simple as it sometimes seems but with community participation especially with those who have contacts with some corporate entities this is something that could be realized and achieved if trust and transparency play a big role on all sides going forward.
Sierra Leone’s sporting future is bright not just with Football which is the number one sport in the country but with a variety of sporting disciplines across the board so this is the right moment that potential corporate sponsors could come aboard with Sierra Leone sports and be positioned to benefit from the limelight that is now on the horizon to sponsor a select sports discipline of their interest.
By Leslie Koroma Sr.