Ivorycoasttribune.com: How are you Mazzola?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: Very well.
I.T: Thank you for agreeing to talk to us. As in the film script technique, we will start with topics that are generally discussed at the end of the interview. Art imitates life so why not? You are currently Vice-President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, but a major fact in this century is that a lady, Aisha Johansen, is its President. That is a tremendous achievement in this male-dominated sport, especially in Africa.
Brima Mazzola Kamara: Thank you for pointing out this exceptional fact in the world of football. As far as Mrs Johansen is concerned, it is no coincidence that our President is in her position. Her father was the owner of Eastern Lions FC. Football is her life. She and her husband own FC Johansen. With my experience abroad, it would have been impossible for me not to fully support the promotion of such an individual.
I.T: Did your support weigh in the balance of her rise to this prestigious position?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: I just want to say that we have worked for our common good, which happens to be football. You see, after 19 years away from home, first for my studies and then because in the meantime the civil war had ravaged my country, I came back in 2007. It was time for reconstruction. I was approached by former footballers, to take over the reins of the federation, but in Africa politic is complicated. Running for the job was very difficult, so the late Moseray Fadika, former boss of "Africa Minerals" took it upon himself to sponsor my campaign in agreement with old guard to form an interest group. With Mrs Johansen, we found a compromise. Not only to promote gender and encourage the development of women's football, but above all to have a neutral personality at the centre of the debates in this highly politically charged atmosphere.
I.T: What are politicians doing in Sierra Leone sport?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: Interest groups have been mingling in our affairs ever since we took office, to the point where we have been suspended by FIFA, not for corruption as erroneously reported by some media, but for political interference in our affairs. For the time being there is a lull and the suspension has been lifted.
I.T: Apart from promoting gender, what else is part of your project for the greater good of football?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: The greater good of Sierra Leone football. It's the least we can do, especially with the kind experience we have. We plan to create an environment conducive to the professional transition into football related activivities, for those who have given everything for the love of the country and football, such as a pension fund and health insurance for the beneficiaries.
I.T: Okay, but these kinds of programmes should not be limited to a group of individuals, right?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: Of course, we want to professionalise football in our country. All the stadiums are empty these days during competitions. It is unacceptable. Fans are coming back but stadiums need to be filled.
The unfortunate thing is that most of our young talents are in Sweden and elsewhere for scraps. We believe that with the support of sponsors and stakeholders, we can offer our young people sufficient means to keep them home. Once again, we need the political will to carry out all these projects.
The former Minister of Sport was of goodwill but he was dismissed before considering implementing our proposals. We continue to work in achieving those goals. We would like to have what "Orange" is doing with Côte d'Ivoire to prevent our talents from disappearing. And that's not all. We are setting in place measures so that football can be beautiful again.
- 1/ each club will have to have a secretariat
- 2 /A bank account
- 3/ A stadium worthy of the name
- 4/ Encourage clubs to incorporate so that supporters and investors have shares in the club of their choice. At the end of the season, everyone shares the dividends. When a supporter pays a ticket to the stadium for his beloved football team, it should not be in vain.
We invite our current professionals to get more involved in what we do because they will soon be in our shoes.
I.T: As an official who has been travelling around Africa and the world, what do you think of the state of African football?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: I will repeat what I said before. We are seriously handicapped by the massive exodus of our players. It may be socially beneficial, which I doubt for the majority, but our competitions are suffering as a result.
Academies are being set up all over Senegal, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, DRC and so on, but real talent is scarce. Young people play for money first. The love of sport no longer exists so it will be difficult to find the likes of Lebry, Miezan and others. The question is how to reverse the trend and bring our fans back to the stadiums.
At our level, we are going to offer a professional league to Sierra Leone. In my second season in Africa, I had a car even though, in retrospect, I realise now that I could have had a lot more, it was a source of motivation. Our administrators and club bosses must have enough resources to prevent the exodus of talent.
IT: We'll soon discuss the circumstances in which you moved to Africa Sports, but tell us why they call you Mazzola, how did you get that nickname?
Brima Mazzola Kamara : as a child in Freetown, I took part in neighbourhood-organised football tournaments, and each selection was named after a national team that had participated in the World Cup. Our team was the Squadra Azura (Italian national team) of which Sandro Mazzola was the most famous player. I was the top scorer of the tournament so football fans started calling me Mazzola. It has stuck since then.
I.T: Is this when you made up your mind about a career in football?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: I began to forge my dream during inter-school competitions. Then, Mr Domingo who used to play for "Western Regions" asked me to join his club. They offered me my first football kits. I started scoring extraordinary goals against tough opponents. Subsequently, former national team coach Manney Peters, who later coached George Weah's team in Liberia convinced me to join the Real Republicans, with whom I played from 1974 to 1981.
My winning mentality stems from the "Real Republicans" fighting spirit. In my early days, they called me the Wizard of the sidelines, because I could do all the trickeries on the wing. I scored a lot of goals and was even voted the best player in Sierra Leone. I earned my first cap with the national team. Ismael Dayfan at number 10 (the one who was at Africa Sports) and me as number 9. In 1979, we beat the Liberian national team featuring football greats such as Sakpa Maya, Benedict Wifey, Walker Aaron and Anthony Agrey who were superstars in their country.
That same year in Freetown we played a warm-up match against the Sily National of Guinee, preparing for the 1980 Nations Cup in Lagos. It was one of the best games of my life although we lost 3-2. My country knew it could count on me.
It was a euphoric period in many ways. In 1980, we drew against Ahsanti Kotoko in Freetown. They were on their way to meet the "Invincible 11" of Liberia in Monrovia a few days later. The Liberian coach asked me the morning after our fixture if i could help his team in Monrovia. Of course I did. During the game, one of the Kotoko defenders started shouting: "hey you, what are you doing here? You played against us in Freetown, didn't you? I performed so well that I was playing for three different clubs in international fixtures.
Away in Guinea Bissau, I helped the "Bai Boieh Warriors" of Freetown beat their opponent. At another occasion, I went to help the "Mighty Blackpool" against "Jeanne d'Arc" of Dakar.
I.T: was that legal?
Brima Mazzola Kamara: Of course, that was all illegal. We were young and the owners were just taking advantage of us. Guinee Conakry was the experts in this field. That's why they seemed invincible. There was no database to register the players. It became common practice all over Africa.