‘Leopard’ Devours ‘Lion’ -Liberia Bursts Into Epic Euphoria

MONROVIA: While some pundits with the sixth political sense are wondering what all this connotes for the larger future of Liberia, sports analysts say they are still in shock that a little known province, River Gee (Leopard River or River of Leopards)—little known in terms of sports—would ‘claw to fatality in the pool of blood’ the “Lions” of Lofa County, the 2020/2021 champions of the National County Sports Meet. The shock waves of the Lofa defeat spread over the country as if, as others put it, it was the Republic of Liberia playing and ganging up against the Wologisi Land. The rupture that the victory triggered has not been shaking only River Gee County but also has sparked ululations across all Southeastern and other provinces, including Nimba which was eliminated by Lofa in the semifinals. Besides the victory, a plethora of players of River Gee have won prestigious awards from organizers of this year’s County Meet. Meanwhile, celebrations continue in Monrovia and the Southeast, with personalities of the county being honored and adored for their respective roles in the Leopards’ iconic victory. The Analyst reports.

Sport once again has shown its predictable and unpredictable sides this year, as Liberians at home and abroad reflect on echoes from the grand final of the just-ended National County Sports Meet. The predictable side being spurring unity and peace amongst citizens, the ecstasy of the games, from the qualifying rounds in the countryside to the finals at the SKD Sports field in Monrovia, glued citizens from regions and counties together despite fading wounds of last year’s highly divisive legislative and presidential elections. The unpredictable side being the victory of River Gee, previously considered the underdog in the race, dragging the Lions of Lofa County, a multiple-time finalist and once a winner, to a convincing win.

It can be recalled, by the semifinal stage of the tournament, the best performing county teams showed up clearly in the nation’s seat of power, drawing more emotions from citizens and friends of participating counties of the surviving teams, and ricocheting solidarity gimmicks in the traditional and social media.

Finalists in the realm of the year’s County Meet were River Gee, which nicknamed its team “Leopard” and Lofa County, aka “the Lion”, with many sports commentators initially postulating that River Gee was underdog and the 2020/2021 champions Lofa the favorites.

Twenty-four hours before the Samuel K. Doe Sports pitch got overflowed with fans, supporters and spectators, there was a raging “mouth war” ongoing between supporters of both counties, sparking a polarization that was not only political but also social; for there were those who were supporting a particular finalist because his or her spouse hails from the county or region of the team.

Others said their support was based on mere emotions, for instance some Facebook posters saying they were supporting River Gee because it was the only finalist of the two that had not taken the crown. There were some who said they were giving their moral support to Lofa because they loved their splendid designs of their jerseys, while others said that they couldn’t give their support to a smaller team against a bigger one.

The “mouth war”, which was followed in earnest with the decisive moment Sunday, May 5 at the SKD sports field, helped to mobilize support bases of both counties, and by 6:30am a human flood had begun triggering into the 22,000-capacity sports stadium.

Drummers, band sets, loudspeakers mounted across the perimeter of the stadium soon drowned the hallelujah choruses of Christian churches in nearby neighborhoods throughout the day.

When the referee’s whistle sounded to prompt the contestation, the palpitation of the hearts of fans on both sides started despite all the brags and counter-threats exchanged hours before the game.

Though former Champions Lofa or the Lions have got experience playing in the finals, the Leopards took early control of the field, as teammates Blamo Weah, Daniel C. Toe, Tarpeh, Jusu Dukuly and others dictated the ways through the defense of the Lions.

Thus, the River Gee team lived up to their fans’ expectations as they edged out experienced Lofa County in a 90 minute 2-2 draw full-time, playing like professional footballers in Europe and elsewhere with short passes, enormous energy and shooting on goal.

It was not long when a long cross from the right angle of the field put the “palm butter boys” as the River Gee County was also called, in a one goal lead. But just before the first half ended, the Wologisi Lions equalized the scores and increased their tally with 2-1 before half time.

The Leopards maintained the dominance of the pitch even though their high percentage of ball possession failed to give them the lead until the Lions increased their score to two, putting the SKD stadium in uproarious celebrations from supporters of the “torborgese boys”.

The most spectacular point came when at least three minutes to game time, the Leopards equalized.

Additional 30 minutes did not produce a winner and both teams had to go for penalty kicks. The result came for the Leopards scoring 4 and the Lions 1.

Riotous Celebrations

As soon as the crown was lifted, celebrations broke out. Clara Town, West Point, Johnsonville, Logan Town, Brewerville, Gardnersville and many parts of Montserrado County joined the jostling SKD Sports Stadium where swarms of fans were stampeding with bliss and jolly.

Meanwhile, back home, whether it was Fish Town, or Chedepo, Gbeapo, Glaro, Karforh,

Nyenawliken, Nyenebo, Potupo, Sarbo, Tuobo or Webbo, there was rupture—men, women, children taking to their town squares and highways running through towns, yelling their hearts out in joy and celebration.

Seemingly consumed by emotions, the Senator of the County, Jonathan Boy-Charles Sogbie, wrote on his social media page: “Tonight fills me with indescribable excitement and tears of joy. Our boys exceeded all expectations, bringing pride not only to us [the living] but also to our ancestors.

“Today, River Gee has etched its name in the annals of history. To my people, I am profoundly grateful for your unwavering support and unity. Together, we will usher in a new era of development for our beloved River Gee. Let us embrace this moment as a new beginning and stand United as ‘ONE RIVER GEE!’. The Leopard truly came out today yaa!”

The Heroes

The feat was specifically made possible when Blamo Weah put River Gee in the lead on 11 minutes while James Tarpeh for Lofa levelled things in the 32nd minute.

Back from the break Lofa who over attacked River Gee got their second goal from James Tarpeh but Leopard Ansu O. Dukuly killed the game with a header in the 90th minute to secure the championship for the Palm butter boys.

Jubilant fans could not stop celebrating inside the stands with the popular song “Your Come Let Serve God” in their Grebo Language.

River Gee coach Daniel T. Sasley was the forerunner of the Title, setting another record for himself and the tournament by breaking the deadlock for Lofa, by giving the county its first ever County meet trophy.

It can also be recalled that Coach Sasley broke the jinx for Grand Kru County when he won the County Sports Meet for that county.

Speaking to The Analyst, Coach Daniel T. Sasley said: “My mission is accomplished and I am very happy to win the National County Sports Meet for the second time. I spent 18 years in the National County Sports Meet. I have been to quarterfinals three  times– 2 times with Grand Bassa County and one time with Grand Kru; semifinals one time with Grand Bassa County and Grand finals; two times with Grand Bassa and Grand Kru County.

River Gee’s Award Winners

The giant trophy is not the only prize the Leopards earned from the 2024 National County Sports Meet. Besides the giant trophy which River Gee snatched from Lofa County, a number of players were awarded various prizes.

River Gee County goalkeeper Humphrey S. Grugbaye bagged a cash L$150,000; the top scorer prize went to Blamo Weah at the value of L$100,000; and MVP prize went to Daniel C. Toe at the value of L$250,000.

The Best Defender laurel went to River Gee’s Jusu Dukuly for L150,000 while Daniel T. Sasley was tagged Best Coach and he bagged L$100,000.

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