The Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) has called on the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate the football delegation to the United Arab Emirates for upcoming friendly matches.

SWASAL made this call in a press release issued on Wednesday 16 November 2022.

According to SWASAL, they are dismayed over the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), Ministry of Sports, and the National Sports Authority (NSA) clandestine trip to the UAE with the Sierra Leone senior national football team, Leone Stars, for “so called’ friendly matches.

“As the parent body of Sports journalists in Sierra Leone, SWASAL is disappointed that the trip is shrouded in secrecy as local sports journalists were not even aware of their departure to UAE for the two scheduled ‘unofficial friendlies,” the football writers stated.

SWASAL further noted that the football authorities have not even published the list of the official delegation to UAE.

“A list being circulated on social media with the official logo/letterhead of SLFA states a delegation of over 50 people, including footballers, but that information is not on their website or social media platforms,” the association stated.

SWASAL added that they learnt that Leone Stars would play Algeria on Saturday, 19th November 2022 but the Desert Warriors are also scheduled to play Sweden on that same day. They however confirmed from their sources that Leone Stars would instead play against Algeria’s home-based national team.

SWASAL noted that they are also concerned when they learned that majority of the officials who made the trip had no significance to either the players or the friendlies but were included for probably a jolly ride and the collection of per-diems.

“These people owe Sierra Leoneans a lot of explanation; they need to answer so many questions including the total cost of the trip and how much the Government of Sierra Leone contributed,” the association stated.

According to SWASAL, other important questions the authorities need to answer include: Who organized the said friendly and what is the engagement fee? Who are the opponent teams?

“This is a very unfortunate and sheer waste of limited resources that could be utilized for the development of other sporting disciplines, for example, the national cricket team that is scheduled to play in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup sub-regional qualifiers. We know football is popular but other sporting disciplines are in dire need of support to bring laurels to our country. Look at the recent achievement of Canadian-Sierra Leonean female boxer, Sara Haghighat-Joo, Sierra Leone’s first Gold medalist in the 2022 AFBC Women Boxing Championship in Mobuto, Mozambique,” said Sahr Morris Jnr, President of SWASAL.

SWASAL condemns this negative tradition of including Government officials and other persons in the delegations of Leone Stars which in most cases has proven counterproductive and with negative outcomes.

The association, therefore, Calls on the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the UAE’s international friendlies.

“The UAE trip is suspicious and it calls for an investigation. The government and its agencies responsible for sports in the country should be more responsible, transparent, and accountable in carrying out their duties. It is a disrespect to the local media and citizens for the authorities to make such an international trip without officially informing the public,” said Morris Jnr.