Leone Stars players shaking hands with the then Deputy Chairman of the NPRC Julius Maada Bio prior to match against Niger in 1995
The Amilcar Cabral Cup was an international tournament for West African nations; Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Mauretania, Senegal & Sierra Leone. The tournament ran from 1979 till 2007 and is now defunct.
1993 Winners, Amilcar Cabral Cup in Sierra Leone – 1st time
1994 Finals, Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia – 1st time
1995 Winners, Amilcar Cabral Cup in Mauritania – 2nd time
1996 Finals, Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa – 2nd time
1993 to 1996 can be considered a golden period for Sierra Leone football. No other Leone Stars teams had before or afterwards achieved these series of results. Winning the Amilcar Cabral trophy twice and qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations twice. All this was achieved under the aegis of the NPRC regime and two foreign coaches, Armenian coach Raymond Zarpanelian and young Swedish coach Roger Palmgren. We shall look at the squads and statistics during this period.
Young prodigy Mohamed Kallon was in the Leone Stars squad at 16 for the 1996 African Cup of Nations in South Africa and capped it all by scoring for Leone Stars.
Coach – Raymond Zarpenelian
GK Brima Kamara – East End Lions
GK Osaio Marah – KVK Tienen – Belgium
DF Vannie Bockarie – Kamboi Eagles
DF Kemokai Kallon – AS Kaloum – Guinea
DF Abubakarr Kamara – East End Lions
DF Mohamed Kanu – VC Eendtracht Ailst – Belgium
DF Basiru King – Union Douala – Cameroon
DF Mohamed Mansaray – K Boom FC – Belgium
DF Abdulai Sesay – Ports Authority
MF Lamin Bangura – Horaya AC – Guinea
MF Abdul Thompson Conteh – Georgetown Cobras – Guyana
MF Lamin Conteh – K Veerschot – Belgium
MF Abu Kanu – East End Lions
MF Amidu Karim – Mighty Blackpool
MF Ibrahim Koroma – K Boom FC – Belgium
MF John Sama – Gezan Attuhama – Saudi Arabia
MF Matthew Tieh – Mighty Blackpool
FW Leslie Allen – FC Mbilinga – Gabon
FW Kassim Conteh – East End Lions
FW Brima George – Diamond Stars
FW Musa Kanu – KSC Lokeren – Belgium
FW John Gbessay Sesay – Vitoria Setubal – Portugal
1993 Amilcar Cabral Cup – Sierra Leone
26/11/1993 Sierra Leone 1 Guinea 1
30/11/1993 Gambia 1 Sierra Leone 1
03/12/1993 Sierra Leone 2 Mali 0
05/12/1993 Sierra Leone 2 Senegal 0
Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers
19/08/1992 Sierra Leone 1 Algeria 0
04/10/1992 Guinea Bissau 0 Sierra Leone 3
08/11/1992 Sierra Leone 2 Senegal 0
09/04/1993 Algeria 0 Sierra Leone 0
24/04/1993 Sierra Leone 2 Guinea Bissau 0
11/07/1993 Senegal 1 Sierra Leone 1
Sierra Leone qualify for finals for the first time ever ahead of Algeria and Senegal.
Leone Stars disappointed in the finals in Tunisia, they were crushed 4-0 by Ivory Coast and drew 0-0 with eventual runners-up Zambia, exiting at the group stage.
Final Statistics for this group over the two competitions show;
Played 12 Won 6 Drew 5 Lost 1 Goals For 15 Goals Against 7 Goal Diff +8
Coach – Roger Palmgren
GK Brima Kamara – East End Lions
GK Osaio Marah – KVK Tienen – Belgium
DF Ibrahim Bah – Ports Authority
DF Lamin Bangura – ASEC Abidjan – Ivory Coast
DF Kewullay Conteh – Atalanta BC – Italy
DF Gbessay Bangura – Spanga IS – Sweden
DF Abubakarr Kamara – Ismaily FC – Egypt
DF Francis Koroma – Diamond Stars
DF Ibrahim Bobson Kamara – Mighty Blackpool
DF Ibrahim Kamara – Motherwell – Scotland
MF John Sama – Visby IF – Sweden
MF Amidu Karim – Shebin El Kom – Egypt
MF Ahmed Kanu – Endracht Aalst – Belgium
MF Musa Kanu – KSC Lokeren – Belgium
MF Raschid Wurie – K Beerschot – Belgium
FW Lamin Conteh – SV Meppen – Belgium
FW Gbessay Sesay – Vitoria Setubal – Portugal
FW Mohamed Kallon – FC Lugano – Italy
FW Musa Kallon – Sportul Studenesc – Romania
FW Abu Kanu – Spanga IS – Sweden
FW Mohamed Sillah – Lommel SK – Belgium
1995 Amilcar Cabral Cup – Mauretania
18/11/1995 Sierra Leone 2 Guinea 0
20/11/1995 Sierra Leone 2 Guinea Bissau 0
22/11/1995 Senegal 1 Sierra Leone 1
Sierra Leone 2 Cape Verde 0
Sierra Leone 0 Mauretania 0
(Penalties Sierra Leone 4 Mauretania 3)
Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers
04/09/1994 Ghana 4 Sierra Leone 1
16/10/1994 Sierra Leone 3 Congo 2
08/04/1995 Sierra Leone 1 Ghana 0
22/04/1995 Congo 0 Sierra Leone 2
Sierra Leone qualified for their 2nd ever Afcon finals
Finals Group Stages
15/01/1996 Sierra Leone 2 Burkina Faso 1
18/01/1996 Algeria 2 Sierra Leone 0
24/01/1996 Zambia 4 Sierra Leone 0
1995/1996 Statistcs for the 2 competitions show:
Played 9 Won 5 Drew 1 Lost 3 Goals For 20 Goals Against 17 Goal Diff +3
1993 to 1996 Statistics show;
Played 21 Won 11 Draws 6 Lost 4 Goals For 35 Goals Against 24 Goal Diff +11
An impressive set of results overall. The 93/94 results were better than 95/96. Amilcar Cabral was won twice in succession as wellas qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations. Kudos must be given to the organisation of coaches and players. Apart from a very young Mohamed Kallon, there were no Kama Dumbuya’s, Amadu Kargbo’s, Ishmael Dyfans, Mazzola’s, Christian Coles… This group of players out-did them all and are still the greatest achievers in the history of Leone Stars.
Irish Times article on Leone Stars first victory in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations 1996 against Burkina Faso
Kallon strikes blow for youth
Tue, Jan 16, 1996, 00:00
THE youngest ever player in the tournament, Mohamed Kallon, hit a last minute goal for Sierra Leone for a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso, their first ever victory in the African Nations Cup, yesterday.
Swiss based substitute Kallon was found free at the far post after good work by Lamine Conte and Amidu Karim. The 16 year old tapped the ball home for further celebrations after he had earlier beaten Nigerian Daniel Amokachi’s record as the youngest player to play in the event. Gbessay Sesay opened the scoring in the 10th minute for Leone, but Aboubacary Ouedraogo equalised 20 minutes from time.
Stronger and sharper during a first half played in 33 degrees centigrade, the Leone Stars were seldom troubled by opponents who caused the upset of the preliminary rounds when eliminating Morocco.
However, the Burkinabe never lost their shape, and they were finally rewarded for consistent pressure when the unmarked Ouedraogo slammed a cross into the net off the hands of Kamara in the 70th minute.
Shocked into action, the Leone Stars recovered their composure and created several chances before Kallon finished off a move started by Conteh, one of the most impressive players on view, with less than a minute to go to full time.
Victory took Sierra Leone to the top of Group B with three points, followed by seeded countries Zambia and Algeria with one each.
From Facebook page:Joe Blell – Please please please let’s write the history of football in Sierra Leone during The NPRC Era as the Glorious and the most decorated Days of Sierra Leone Football. We won the first Amilcar Cabral Trophy(Zone 2) as it was then called, by defeating a star studded Senegal Team by 1-0 with Joe Blell as the National Team Manager and Seal Juxon-Smith as his assistant TM. We were being backed by a technical team Comprising Steven Bio, Tommy Rowe, Coach Mustapha Ebbghali from Egypt assisted by Sam Obi Metzger. I also represented Sierra Leone at the draw In Jo’burg for
the 1996 African Nations Cup in Bloemfontein, in The Free State in South Africa. The NPRC didn’t micro-managed the team nor did they push players of their choice from favoured clubs in the national league. Please those who are writing the history should consult with those directly involved especially when they are alive as living testimony.
From Facebook page:Sim Turay – The NPRC had little to do with this. It only happened that they were in power at the material time. It was Rtd. Colonel Sim Turay who coached, managed and put that glorious team together. As my true friend, please be reminded that it takes up to two years to put together and train a winning national football team at international level. I did that job and was going to take the team to the world cup. I knew we had something great. At long last, we were going to make a massive impression at the highest level of world football. The foundation was also put in place in respect of the other senior national teams and the development of football in Sierra Leone in general. But the NPRC put paid to all of that when I was forced to leave Sierra Leone in 1992, following their coup. Once the era or playing days of those footballers ended, football in Sierra Leone died with it as there was no continuity
From Facebok page:Joe Blell – Sim Turay We are friends and will continue to be friends but to say The NPRC had nothing to do with the National team success’ is really flawed. I joined the team after couple of years as Chairman of Old.Edwardians FC., then Amadu Kargbo was The Leone Stars Team Manager and I was his Assistant, and later I became the TM. NPRC took over in 1992 and we qualified for Tunisia and again in 96 Sierra Leone Qualified for South Africa for the Second time after which The Leone Stars are yet to qualify. We must accept that The NPRC(1992-96) gave both Financial and Moral support to the team and management with very little interference with the team selections. The problems we are having with national teams before then and now in with the selections whereby TM’ giving preferential treatment to players from their teams so they could be exposed to foreign Scouts. You contributed to the development of The National Team and then The NPRC took The team to Higher Heights. When next we have team selection for National Assignments please pay attention to the selection process and see for yourself how the team selection is influenced.
From Facebook page:Sim Turay – I am not denying the fact that the NPRC gave financial and moral support to the national team, Leone Stars, which was not quite the case when I was in charge and Momoh was President. Of couse, I was Team Manager and Coach of Leone Stars for a couple of years after succeeding Nahim Kadi. Justice Taller Thompson (deceased) was then the Chairman of SLAFA. The fact I want to establish here is that I was the one who gave Leone Stars a winning structure, in terms of managing and coaching a team that could play world class football, which was totally lacking in Sierra Leonean football. I personally selected that team which you are talking about and coached them to play modern football. You see, I bought the latest coaching books on the game in England and self-coached myself to the highest level in world football. I read extensively about top-class coaching techniques and really mastered the art of managing and coaching a world-class team. I was able to apply this knowledge practically without interference from anyone. This was the secret of my success. Needless to say, I was completely in charge of the team and personally selected all the players on the basis of merit and character. So the team had all that it took to start winning CAF competitions and then go to the World Cup. The Leone Star structure and organisation were also applied to all the other national teams. So for the first time in the history of our country’s football, we had a system which gave us continuity or a master plan, if you like to call it that.
Undeniably, this system was not put in place by the NPRC. The world-class coaching and total preparation of Leone Stars were not either. These are indisputable facts. So to say that it was the NPRC that gave Leone Stars the glory it had during the period in question, with the greatest of respect to you, is not only fallacious but also totally misleading. In 1992, the NPRC inherited a quality world-class Leone Stars that took over two years to build.