By: Jerromie S. Walters
Fish Market, Liberia: Following decades of being seen as an abandoned and opened air playing field, the famous invincible Eleven practice ground is now inarguably one of the most beautiful, and attractive sports areas in Liberia.
The “Invincible Sports Park” as it is named, is a modern sports facility, with a standard FIFA football pitch, two football practice pitches, two basketball courts, tennis and volleyball courts, track and field stretch, a mini children’s playground, and meseum, as well as a VIP lounge and a housing estate.
Speaking at the official dedication ceremony over the weekend, President George M. Weah referenced his desire to develop the site, to what he characterized as it’s “significant role in his footballing career”.
President Weah who is the first and only Liberian as well as the only African to have won the FIFA World’s Best Footballer title, and the European Ballon d’Ór alluded that all of such magnificent accolades and honors came from the once abandoned land where his talent was often portrayed from the genesis of his career.
“I broke my first record in the high school league right here on this field by defeating the famous Wells Hairston High School when I played for the Muslim Congress High School,” he asserted.
He further noted, “As I look across the street, I can see the Ellen Mills Scarborough Junior High School, where I obtained my Junior High School certificate. This was our soccer field. I can also see the Bench Old Timers Field on the other side of the airfield…right over there”.
The Liberian President however recounted the intrinsic role the site played in Liberia’s history, when hundreds of white-outfit wearing Liberian women prayed for peace to return to the land, adding, “they were here as Prayer Warriors for our Nation, in the heat and in the rain, laying on the ground and sitting in the sand, with no shelter from the elements.”
The women, traversing for peace of Liberia using the site, the Liberian leader indicated that God heard their prayers and their efforts were rewarded with lasting and sustainable peace of nearly two decades now.
President Weah also noted his decision to develop the site was to provide people the pleasures of recreation and relaxation. “And so I decided that I would do something about it. I feel a strong sense of obligation to this community because of what this place has contributed to my success in the world of soccer. The transformation of this space into a modern sports and recreational facility for the public is not only pleasing to me, but is a realization of my childhood dream to back to my people and my country,” he asserted.
The Liberian Leader thanked those who immensely contributed to the project, including the National Port Authority, the Liberia Maritime Authority, and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation.
The President further admonished Liberians to ensure that the park is kept clean, warning also that no alcohol or drugs will be sold or allowed at the park because “children will be in the park as well.”
He disclosed that the Park will be closedly monitored as there are security cameras installed to enable authority to enforce the ban, and that there will be constant surveillance to ensure that this Sports Park is drug-and- alcohol-free.
Chronological naming the different facilities within the park, President Weah named the Official FIFA Standard Field after Allhaji G.V. Kromah; and the Youth Training Field as the Willis Knuckles Youth Training Field.
Amongst others, the President named the Basketball Courts as the Solomon C. George Basket Ball Courts, while the VIP Lounge is now the Alexander Trokon Kpui VIP Lounge.
President Weah also named the Housing Estate after Samuel Burnette, late former President of I.E. while the Volleyball Court is now named as the Otis Nyanneh Volleyball Court.
The Lawn Tennis Court is also now the Togba Nah Tipoteh Lawn Tennis Courts.
The transformation of the piece of land into an iconic recreational which comes with just about a year to Liberia’s general and presidential elections, appears as another testimony for President George Weah as many Liberians have hailed the initiative.
For his part, the LFA President Mustapha Raji applauded the Liberian Leader for the initiative but also cautioned him to think the direction of other counties, as he explores major opportunities. He also urged investment companies to look in the direction of sports. “Our youth national teams need support and we believe with your support and the signals you’ve continued to show that yes, you’re ready for football development, you have not abandoned your kingdom; Yes, we will prevail.
He further intruded, “To our politicians, let us join hands with our president, let’s join hands with fellow Liberians and work with our president for the development of Liberia.
The modern sports facility which was once dusty, and filth-laden stretch of land, is situated between the James Spriggs Airfield and the main Boulevard in sinkor, Liberia.
President Weah broke ground for the facility in February of last year, and it was developed with fundings from National Port Authority, the Liberia Maritime Authority, and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation as part of its social corporate responsibility.
At the same time, President Weah has disclosed that the development of the Park also renewed interest in looking into the inadequacies and shortcomings of the James Spriggs Payne Airports towards its rehabilitation andc enhancement.
“I have therefore directed the LCAA and the Management of the airport to draw up plans and to develop a feasibility study for the upgrading of this facility, including the extension of the runway in the direction of the swamp, in order to enable international jet traffic to operate from Spriggs, and the construction of a new access road for both passengers and cargo”.