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I never dreamt this would happen in Sierra Leone football in my lifetime

I never dreamt this would happen in Sierra Leone football in my lifetime

Most football clubs have suffered hugely since the pandemic began – with some in Europe losing hundreds of millions of dollars while others in Africa have really struggled – but a Sierra Leonean club has bucked the trend by going from strength-to-strength on and off the field.  (Photo: The front of the new headquarters of Sierra Leonean club Bo Rangers)

Not only have league leaders Bo Rangers FC managed to pay their players full wages during the recent coronavirus-enforced hiatus but they have also completed the construction of a permanent base for the team.

The new headquarters, the first of its kind in the country which includes a hostel, gym, conference hall and office space, were opened in May in the presence of the Sierra Leone President Maada Bio.

“What I have seen in Bo today, I don’t see anywhere in Sierra Leone,” the head of state enthused.

It’s a sentiment shared by a fair few.

“I never imagined or dreamt that this would happen in Sierra Leone football in my lifetime,” head coach John Dominic Konneh told BBC Sport Africa.

Yet Konneh is using the luxuries of decent facilities and the club’s ability to attract some of the country’s best players by paying good salaries to take his team forward.

“These are the kinds of facilities you find in many countries where football is taken seriously,” said striker Musa Noah Kamara, who had a short-lived spell in Sweden two years ago.

“If you have all the facilities in Sierra Leone and you’re paid well, there will be no need to go overseas. There is no place like home.”

Established in 1954 – but seeking to become Sierra Leonean champions for the first time – Bo Rangers are top the league after nine matches (by just a point) but there are 25 games left of a season currently delayed by Covid.

So how have the club managed to get so much right when they once had less than US$1,000 in the bank and were suffering regular losses on the field?

Executive chairman of Sierra Leonean club Bo Rangers Babadi Kamara

Executive chairman Babadi Kamara has transformed Bo Rangers since taking charge in 2019.

The man behind the transformation is Babadi Kamara, the head of the country’s sole approved timber-exporting company, who became club’s executive chairman just two years ago.

“When I took over Bo Rangers, I had a clear vision to rebrand the club which I outlined in three categories,” Kamara, 40, told BBC Sport Africa.

“Firstly, I wanted to restructure the club because there were no structures. Secondly, I wanted to construct a clubhouse, and lastly, I want to win the Sierra Leone Premier League as we’ve never won it.

“I’ve succeeded in doing the first and second due to good managerial skills. My objective now is to concentrate my entire energy and resources in winning the Sierra Leone Premier League,” he said, adding – “and also to become one of the biggest clubs in Africa.”

Bo was top of the table when the league was abandoned in March 2020 and still lead the way this season, after a resumption in April which was then curtailed again by Covid in June.

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