Bo Rangers are the champions of the Sierra Leone Premier League just ended. Their sailing wasn’t that smooth all through and in fact at some point there was the feeling that arch-rivals East End Lions would seize the opportunity of their stuttering in parts of the campaign, to come through.
How did this team from Bo, considered the second city of Sierra Leone, made this meteoric rise in such an enviable fashion? The answer cannot be hard to find. The fundamentals for that progression by a team that only recently got more public attention may be rooted in the primordial motive of one man to carve out a project.
Bo Rangers by 2018 was a directionless and cash-strapped football club that players considered an unattractive destination. But the advent of businessman Babadi Kamara changed all that. In 2019 upon taking charge of the Rangers, Babadi in his maiden speech outlined his vision for the club, and the mission he was out to accomplish with the help of the fan base.
He promised to achieve three things as Executive Chairman of Bo Rangers and who would imagine at the time that in three years, those three objectives would have been achieved.
First, he said he will have a well-structured club, and indeed from a humble start as a WhatsApp group, a huge committed and very influential fan base has emerged that is now providing auxiliary support to the management of Bo Rangers.
Another of his promises was to have a Club House and Secretariat in Bo and who would assume that two years later, President Julius Maada Bio and people from all walks of life would converge on the impressive-looking complex on the 21 May 2021, for its official opening event.
Winning the league was the last of Babadi’s commitments then, and just over the weekend, it became the cherry on the cake!
Bo Rangers showed a streak of ruthlessness in the most crucial moments of the season, to pip the Lions to the coveted champions’ trophy. It was no surprise that their players accounted for most of the key awards available at the end of the season.
The enigmatic Musa Noah Kamara ‘Tombo’ was the best player, best striker, and winner of the golden boot.
The season ended with Bo Rangers getting 78 points to be crowned champions of the Premier League over the weekend; second-placed arch-rivals East End Lions could only get 62 points.
The 16 points difference between the two, could best describe just how miles ahead Bo Rangers are, from the rest of the pack.
In his debut season, foreign Coach Solomon Cortes, with talented players and the necessary facilities at his disposal, has not disappointed his employers either. In short, Bo Rangers are nonpareil at the moment, having no equal in Sierra Leone’s top club football league.
Babadi Kamara’s adoption of Bo Rangers has changed the course of the club and given it a sense of a reassuring future, where the ongoing telling initiatives could only prove how determined he is to put the football outfit in resourceful stead.
He has no doubt splashed money, getting some of the best players from even rival teams who found the enticed offers too hard to turn down. He was intent on raising the bar in Sierra Leonean football from the outset and evidence continues to prove he has not wavered from that path.
Some of us grew up watching local league football in the 80s and early 90s, an era of dominance by Blackpool, Lions, and to a lesser extent Real Republicans, Diamond Stars, and Sierra Fisheries.
In those days some notable wealthy individuals were connected to certain clubs and seen as the celebrated financiers. Blackpool had Hussein Fawaz, Femi Hebron, and Ahmed Kondo, East End Lions –Abass Alie and Papa Sam, all godfathers in their days.
One cannot forget mentioning Frank Jalloh with Republicans and Nahim Khadi of Old Edwardians fame. These were all very popular and reputed persons who were known to have bankrolled the very existence of those clubs. And the teams enjoyed the glamour and respect those men brought to the teams. Many achieved success at the time and Blackpool even went as far as the quarter-finals of the continent’s club championship competition.
The war came and that was when football died. Peace returned but a rebirth of the game was slow and painfully bedeviled by rancor.
By then some of the key tycoons had passed on, or quietly retired from the game and the limelight. The teams that were spoiled so much suffered as a result. Of the lot, only Lions having someone like construction magnate Gento-Kamara has shreds of the aura of yesteryears. Mighty Blackpool I learned the other day is plagued with financial woes and so too are most of the clubs.
The players and officials were certainly living the moment of their lives and didn’t put structures in place for the uncertainties of the future. In the prevailing circumstances the clubs are now faced with, structures were not in place to help them navigate through the likelihood of a rugged terrain ahead. I want to believe they never did capital investment or secure treasury bearer bonds for example. Today the clubs are struggling, with success now even elusive.
That brings again to the fore Babadi’s financing of Rangers and what would happen when he takes the exit. It appears he could have learned a lesson from the past travails of those clubs, hence the well-thought-out and the structured system he is building for Rangers.
At the opening of the clubhouse, he explained how from a bank account of less than 10 million Leones; Rangers now had a billion Leones in the bank. Their gate takings from a match in 2018 were 3 million but in December of 2019, that rose to 90 million.
It is sad seeing that Lions and Blackpool in particular cannot boast of a field or structure of their own. This is no way to denigrate those men who used their resources on those clubs; they were very useful and have had their names etched in the history of those clubs. But short-sightedness could have certainly led to where the clubs are today. Blackpool and E. E. Lions still have an older generation of supporters. Many are in high places and they need to do something remarkable to get their clubs from the shadows of new kids on the block -Rangers.
Also a philanthropist, Babadi is probably trying to avoid the pitfalls of rival clubs over the years. The clubhouse and the modern Southern Arena stadium now being built will outlive Babadi but he has set a precedent that will be unchallenged in the foreseeable future.
He is building himself an image that would put him in the mold of Moise Katumbi Chapwe of DR Congo football club TP Mazembe. He is indeed building a project, a dynasty that will make him immortalized not just by Bo Rangers supporters but other true lovers of the sport.