The loss of another vital social heritage is hunting Liberia’s renowned football club, Mighty Barrolle. The Club is gradually transitioning from ‘Mighty’ to ‘Indolent’ Barrolle, and the situation remains agonizing for most of those who adore the team as their domestic happiness and ways of having fun. The demise of Mighty Barrolle could have immense implications such as cultural, unification, youth development and social capital. Thus, the motivation of this piece is to outline few of the problems and offer vital solutions based on Africa’s experience to awaken the social conscience of supporters before the current situation goes beyond our limit. As a usual tradition, football affiliation was either skewed towards Mighty Barrolle or Invincible Eleven popularly known as IE. The triumph of one’s Club in any given march provided optimum utility of togetherness, jokes and pleasures. It tells you how downhearted the Mighty Barrolle’s fanatics are today due to the dismal handling of their Club. This commentary is the first of my numerous strategies I intend to employ as moral suasive instrument to awaken supporters.
Barrolle’s symbolism: The Bassalonians
The Bassa Tribe is undoubtedly the first frontline of Barrolle’s support base. The Club, which is Liberia’s second oldest (founded in the 1950s), symbolizes a huge traditional heritage of footballing society across the country, but this heritage is rapidly crumbling. The Club is an offspring of rich tradition known as ‘Gbehzon’ of the Bassa Kingdom. The formation is traced to former Bassa Governor Willie Cooper in the 1950s, and later named in honor of renowned Bassalonian, Jimmy Barrolle. Thus, the nickname of Mighty Barrolle, ‘Gbehzon Boys’ is the indigenous name of Buchanan City (see: Emergence of Barrolle, http://www.uniboa.org/barrollehistory.html). Overtime, the candidness, love and social reception of the Gbehzon people captured the hearts and admirations of other traditionalists who directed support to the Club. Eventually, the Club gained resounding prominence that is now fading beyond control. Barrolle’s extinction could reflect weakness in managerial ability, especially the indigenous to sustain heritage that fosters traditional unification and togetherness. So, where are the wrongs?
Glimpse of the problems
Generally, the perennial absence of forward looking strategies threatens the Club’s sustainability. After more than 50 years of existence, the Club cannot boost of any viable or income generating asset to raise fund for its operationalization, to the best of my knowledge. Memberships grew monumentally, but the club did not allow strong inclusivity of members to have stake in its running such as voting and due payments. It has always been built around few individuals, especially officials of government for support, instead of strengthening the economic base. Little effort was employed to capture the private sector in terms of social contribution and commercial venture that could further add value. Most recently, Barrolle was linked to Celcom in terms of commercial, but the mechanism was not facilitated by other programs such as raising funds from members through mobile transfer.
Many may concur with fans who attribute the team ill-performance on the lackadaisical attitude of the leadership. It is unappealing to understand that players and technical staff do not receive salaries on regular basis. The administrative running of the Club has often shifted from fundamental managerial principles and strategies such as electing officials, publishing budget as well as financial statements in newspapers and the bank account of the Club to its members. All of these are potentially eroding the confidence to increase support and attract finance.
Experience from other clubs
Most football clubs, which are centered on tradition/kingdom, are usually strong financially, politically and socially. Gor Mahia of Kenya is built around the Luo Tribe (2nd largest tribe) and Former prime Minister Raila leads the support; TP Mazembe is located in Katanga region of Lubumbashi, where the Governor offers strong leadership to the Club and its members contribute one (1) USD/months and; the Luhya tribe in Kenya owns AFC Leopards, which is a forceful competitor to the Gor Mahia Club; Asante Kototo is the pride of the Asante people and the Asante Kingdom in Ghana; Al Ahly represents the Egyptian National, among others. The clubs of the foregoing people/regions are never allowed to tumble, because they represent the pride and integrity of their people. We should learn from the situation at these to collate efforts that would restore our pride. So, the traditionalists should rethink with the ultimate view that Mighty Barrolle is the genuine image of the indigenous, especially the Bassa people.
Strategies to redeem the Club
First, the ‘Bassalonians’ using any mechanism should play a serious leadership role to rescue the image of Barrolle. Sound financial governance is necessary by publishing the planned budget of the Club in the print and electronic media to restore confidence and attract financial support. Accountability and transparency should be driven by frequently disseminating the club budget and financial statements through leaflets (photocopies), electronic and print media to members. A crusade of each-one brings-one should be launched to get at least three hundred passionate supporters that would commit at least 10 USD/per month over 5 months to sign at least 6 big players locally/ internationally to regain promotion. Restructure the memberships into Gold, Silver and Bronze based on the agreed contribution for each category. Ensure that the superintendent of Grand Bassa and a member of the Bassa Legislative Caucus are automatic board members to help raise revenue in the county for the Club. Link the memberships to the mobile companies as an alternative to easily generate membership fees of at least 25 cent per month. Limit the presidency to 1.6 year per term because the job goes without pay and ensure voting of the officials should be based on quota. In the medium to long term, prioritize ownership of the club playing pitch and other fixed assets like land, building, etc in economically viable areas to sustain the Club. To do this, we need a strong secretariat of 5-10 permanent employees, whose function should entail pervasive mobilization, database of members and publicity starting from Monrovia and Buchanan before extending to other parts.
Administrative lapses emanating from lack of broad vision and alleged transparency continued to exacerbate Barrolle’s recession. The absence of swift move could imminently result to loss of memorable heritage that is costly. Immediate action to redeem the Club’s image should focus on restoration of memberships’ confidence, strengthening mobilization, encouraging broad based inclusivity in decision making and instituting transparency and accountability. Any lukewarm endeavor to these approaches could mean a disdainful good-bye to Mighty Barrolle forever and ever.