Views from Wleh Bedell

SPORT COMMENTARY : From IE to Oilers – Another CAF Test Sunday

Its Africa’s Blue Ribbon club competition, the Confederation of African Football ( CAF) champions league, the competition involving the champions of each country or member of CAF.

This time from a Liberian perspective, the Oilers of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company ( LPRC) will on this Sunday August 11, 2019 play host to two times Senegalese champions Generation Foot at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium ( ATS).

The Oilers recently broke a 14 year jinx to win their first championship title, breaking records, undefeated through out the season, only the third Liberian club to do so after NPA Anchors in 1995 and LISCR FC in 2017. They were built on a solid defensive line in the league and had the most stingy defense, keeping 14 clean sheets and conceding just six goals from 22 games, an unprecedented record in Liberian football going beyond 1964.

Coach Cooper Sannah successfully led the Oilers to the crown and set a new record in becoming the first ever Liberian Coach to win the crown with an undefeated record. Coach Isaac Zico OHENE( peace to his ashes) , a Nigerian, won the crown with undefeated NPA Anchors before the Gambian Tafah Manneh achieved similar feat with LISCR in 2017.

In Prince Wlame, the Oilers boast the best goalkeeper in the top flight, but not necessarily in the country as many would want to argue with such, but that’s just football that would be further explained in subsequent articles.

With veteran Captain Solomon “Jean Pierre” Wesseh in the fold, the Oilers will be counting on their solid back line to keep the visitors who will adapt a cautious game approach at bay and then get on all cylinders to get the goals that would brighten their chances for probably cruising to the next round. Forwards Terry Sackor and 2014 Most Valuable Player Titus Cooper then of Nimba United, will lead the attack on Sunday. As for the midfield, the hardworking Ebenezer Solo will be pulling the strings in midfield.

Defender Wesseh, age 35, is a former Liberian international with 15 caps and joined the club from rivals Mighty Barrolle in 2004.
Years back, his transfer market value was US$ 450,000, but at his current age, the uncompromising center back who can also operate in various parts of the defense will certainly be cashed lower from a transfer perspective.  On the local scene “Jean Pierre” can be described as the “immortal” one as despite playing for so long, his legs are still willing to run with him.

Founded in 1975, the Oilers qualified to the First Division in 1985 and made their debut in Africa, the then Cup winners Cup, now Confederations Cup, in 1987 where they were eliminated by Entete of Togo who went on to face Okwawu United of Ghana. For the Champions league, the Oilers debuted against Sierra Leonean club Mighty Black Pool in 1992 as the “Gold & Black” outfit further announced themselves to the rest of Africa.

The Oilers are Liberia’s most accomplished club in continental competitions as they went as far as the quarter-finals in 1989 before being eliminated by Kenyan giants Gor Mahia. In that competition, Oilers eliminated Panthere du Bande of Cameroon on a 2-1 goal aggregate and also eliminated Ivorian club AS Abengorou on a 4-2 goal aggregate before their fairy tale run ended at the SKD as they lost to Gor Maria on a flooded pitch 3-1 after playing to a goaless draw in the first leg in Nairobi.

The Liberian champions are back to the competition sice 2006 where they were ousted by Senegalese club A S Jaraf on a 3-2 goal aggregate.

Generation Football Club of Senegal have participated in both the CAF champions league and Confederation Cup once and are a team with the second best academy in Senegal. The Captain of the Teranga Lions of Senegal and electrifying winger of UEFA champions league winners, Liverpool, Sadio Mane, is a product of Generation Foot academy and is a club founded in 2000.

It’s expected to be a cracker at the ATS, and whatever the outcome or result in both legs, the Oilers are back to the summit and seem ready to challenge once more.The Champions league of Africa was first established in 1964 with Invincible Eleven ( IE) becoming the first Liberian club to feature. On April 12, 1964, the yellow boys as they are nicknamed, lost to Guinean side Sily CK 4-1 in Conakry and on April 25, the Invincibles won 3-2 in Monrovia, but the win was not enough to qualify them as the Guineans went to the next round on a 6-4 goal aggregate.

Source|Wleh Bedell , Sports Historian

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