SIERRA LEONE'S "LEONE STARS" CAPTURE CUP TITLE IN INAUGURAL AFRICAN SOCCER TOURNEY IN L.A.
September 07, 2011
The Los Angeles tournament featured 24 teams representing 20 countries
LOS ANGELES, CA (September 7, 2011) - 384 amateur soccer players representing 19 African countries were featured in the first-ever African Community Soccer Tournament that saw Sierra Leone's Leone Stars defeat Cameroon's L.A. Lions team 2-1 to capture the 1st Annual ACST Cup title on Saturday, September 3. The championship match took place in front of over 2,500 people at the John Ferraro Soccer Complex in Los Angeles.
From the 24 team tournament that featured teams representing 20 countries overall -- 19 African nations and also Jamaica -- with some of Los Angeles' best amateur soccer players, the Leone Stars emerged victorious, capturing one of the most prestigious and culturally significant titles for the team of West African immigrants who never had the opportunity to actually play for the national team of their native country.
"Representing Sierra Leone in the African Community Soccer Tournament was important to us," explained team captain and midfielder Brian George, 27, of Los Angeles. "It's been our dream to represent our national team back in Sierra Leone, but because of certain circumstances, we were not able to do that. So, to win this tournament, it really means a lot to us and we're proud of that."
A graduate of Hamilton High School (2007), George came to America from Sierra Leone's Freetown when he was 11 years old. He is set to graduate from Everest College next year with a degree in criminal justice, which he hopes will help him pursue his dream of joining the Los Angeles Police Department as an officer.
In addition to George, the Leone Stars were represented in the 2011 ACST by midfielders Ibrahim Kebe, Christian King, Kedrick George, Mohammad Kamara, Osman Kamara, and Mickey Rickey; defenders Alimamy Kanu, Abdul Kamara, Tejan Kallou, Miguel Alvarez, and Francis Sesay, forward Salieu Fofana; strikers Adrian Hamilton and Albert Sapateh; goalie Joe Hernandez, and team managers Tejan Sesay and Thomas Kamara.
Midfielder Christian King was named MVP for scoring 3 goals throughout the tournament, all while playing with a serious knee injury.
The Leone Stars defeated Ethiopia's L.A. Stars (0-2) and Togo's Black Hawks (0-1) in first round match-ups before advancing to the quarterfinals to face Nigeria's Black Eagles (0-2). In the semi-finals, the Leone Stars sealed their place in the finals by taking out Ghana's Africa United team 5-4 in penalty kicks.
The Leone Stars were formed in 1990 by a group of Sierra Leoneans living in Los Angeles. The team plays in various local, state, and national tournaments including the Sierra Leone Old Athletics Association's (SLOAA) annual soccer tournament that assembles Sierra Leoneans from all across the United States.
Sulaiman Turay, 33, an electrical engineer and former member of the Leone Stars before retiring due to an injury, was at Saturday's tournament to cheer on his team. "Joining the team helped me grow as a person. It gave me a sense of community - community that I had left behind in Sierra Leone. We've never played in a tournament of this magnitude. It was amazing to just be a part of it. We didn't care about winning, we just wanted to be a part of it and to represent our country."
The tournament's organizers, Vuvuzela Media and Marketing, a niche marketing group that focuses on Los Angeles' African and West Indian communities, believes that the ACST is paving the way for the recognition and contribution of Africans in Los Angeles.
"Los Angeles has a vibrant African community," explains Charlotte Kouassi, company co-founder and Republic of Côte d'Ivoire native. "The African Community Soccer Tournament is an event that puts a face on our community and puts on display our love and passion for soccer while bringing us all together to celebrate our common bonds - Africa, soccer, and the city of Los Angeles."
In Los Angeles County there are about 26,000 Africans representing almost 3 percent of the black population. African countries in Los Angeles County with the most immigrants include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa.
The tournament's presenting sponsors were Broadway Federal Bank, Soccer Shop USA, and MoneyGram International, who sponsored the ACST Cup and $3,000 first place prize money. The tournament was sanctioned by Cal South (the California State Soccer Association-South), the official youth and adult state soccer association of the United States Soccer Federation, USASA and US Youth Soccer in Southern California.
In addition to the action on the field, Los Angeles' African dignitaries, including South African consul general Cyril Sibusiso Ndaba and Egyptian consul general Hesham Moussa Elnakib, came out to root for their respective countries as well as support the overall event.
"We're excited about 2012 and look forward to the return of this year's teams and the addition of new teams," says Isaac Appiah, Vuvuzela Media and Marketing co-founder and Ghana native. "We congratulate all of this year's participants. With the success of this first time event, we all are winners."
For all of the 2011 African Community Soccer Tournament highlights including scores, photos, and videos, please log onto www.africansoccerla.com, the home of the ACST and the new upcoming African Soccer League.