Liberia: “Don’t Care Administrators’! Monument of SKD’s Victims Neglected

Monrovia — Investigation conducted by Maxonlinenews has discovered that officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) have portrayed a what appeared to be a lackadaisical approach in caring for a June 1, 2008, historical monument erected at the SKD.

The monument was erected in the compound of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex some years ago as a memory following the death of 10 Liberians who had gone to cheer their national team, the Lone Star of Liberia, against the Gambia on June 1, 2008, in an African Cup/World Cup qualifier.

But the structure that should be a historical and memorial site for generations to come currently looks neglected and has been disdainfully managed by the current group of officials at the Sports Ministry.

Already, football pundits have expressed dissent over how the current administration at the MYS has intentionally ignored the importance of the monument as the ministry has totally abandoned the broken-down image.

During the investigation, it was noticed that the structure has been broken down laying in an abandoned corner as top officials of the ministry use the very route regularly without showing any interest to recondition the monument.

It was also realized during Maxonline investigation that the monument that was built by the UP led- Administration has never been given any recognition by folks at the helm of leadership at the MYS.

The report established that in the last five years, under the leadership of Minister D. Zeogar Wilson as Minister of the Sports Ministry, not a single visit has been made to relatives or family members of any of the victims as it was done by the previous administration.

Minister Wilson, according to an inside source at the MYS, has allegedly refused to entertain any conversation regarding the conduct of a memorial event that seeks to memorialize the June 1 incident and the victims.

“The major focus of the minister every year is to galvanize funding for the National County Sports Meet (NCSM).

The bosses are aware of the monument, in fact we have even recommended the need for erecting a bigger structure since the previous administration carelessly built that mini stuff, but nobody is giving listening ears,” a source explained.

Nobody is giving listening ear sounds like the actual story as the monument is currently situated at a location where a brand-new structure is being erected and if our national leaders have had any remorse for the memories of those that loss their lives on that historic day, they should have prioritized reconditioning or rebuilding a better structure.

It has become a routine especially with those in the sports arena in Liberia. Years ago, it took a sustained and similarly dissenting voice that compelled the Ministry of Youth and Sports to erect a monument in memorializing those Liberians and fans who died because of suffocation originating from overcrowding the stadium.

The UP-Led Administration had earlier abandoned and ignored the importance of memorializing the victims despite calls to remember the dead Lone star supporters. But the MYS later acted after it came under intense public pressure.

Though reluctantly bowed, the MYS former bosses, then under the leadership of Minister Edmonia D. Tarpeh, organize a brief program in the compound of the SKD, thus setting the stage for a national memorial or an annual recognition ceremony in that direction.

The stage was now set by erecting such a historical image, though mini, so that it serves as a memorial for governments to come.

Shockingly, five uninterrupted years have gone and the current group of administrators at the MYS have demonstrated a “don’t care’ posture, thus failing to recognize the monument, least to say conduct a ceremony in memory of those who lost their lives at a football match at the SKD.

“Such a careless form of governance can only be seen in Liberia. This site should be a historic place where tourist and our children can visit annually. The previous Government should have built something far better than what I saw over there. Every year, there should be a national memorial service or event at which time the state will remember the victims and identify with family of the victims, sadly we are witnessing the opposite here in Liberia. I honestly thought that Zeogar Wilson should know better because he spent most part of his life in the U.S.A,” a visiting Liberian who spoke on anonymity while at the SKD.

At least ten (10) Liberians died on June 1, 2008, at the SKD of suffocation caused by over crowdedness at the national stadium where Liberia faced the Gambia in an African Nations Cup/World Cup qualifiers.

Those who died included: Luke Yarmah, Jefferson Barttey, Bendu Sirleaf, Obediahn Gbogar and Laye Conneh. Others were Peter Kolie, EmmayGboto, Armstrong Kpar and Monger Zuweh.

The stadium seating capacity is about 35,000 but security guards could not contain thousands more who flooded the stadium. The match was Liberia’s first game in the qualifying series and expectations for what many regarded as a new team, especially with the hiring of the German Coach, Antoine Hey, has been building for weeks.

Authorities at the Liberia Football Association (LFA) had earlier blamed “criminal elements” who they said masterminded the duplication of game’s tickets for the overcrowding of the stadium. Ahead of the game, football enthusiasts started arriving hours before the game started, and it became apparent long before kick-off that there would be problems in controlling the crowd. Some had earlier accused the joint security for poorly managing the entry into the stadium.

Local radio stations were told before the match to ask those en route to the stadium to stay back, but calls did not materialize or was never heeded as there were already thousands of people outside the stadium, waiting to enter.

In the stadium itself, the crowd reportedly became rowdy, with pushing and shoving. There were many cries for “water” when the heat from the midday sun set in. The showers of rain that fell did not alleviate the problem and fire trucks had to be called upon to help. The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw.

What is even shocking, is that, up to now nobody had taken responsibility for the incident while the outcome of a probe that was initially commissioned was being described by many as another ploy to shield the vendors of the tickets.

During a probe into the incident, it was established that thousands of supporters/fans entered the stadium using fraudulent tickets thereby stranding real ticket holders who were seen standing outside the stadium in numbers. Stadium officials or members of the joint security could not differentiate between the real and fake tickets and that allowed too many people enter the stadium before they sooner realized what was happening.

When our investigation reached out to MYS’s executives, they declined commenting on the issue. Meanwhile, Minister Wilson has refused to pick up his call to speak to the matter. However, in our subsequent edition, the Ministry’s position will be highlighted.

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