Sierra Leone national team made their first African Cup of Nations appearance in 26 years, a dream millions of Sierra Leone prayed for to come true. After two incredible draws against Algeria and Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone needed at least a draw or win in their last group game against Equatorial Guinea. Unfortunately for the Leone Stars, they lost by a goal to nil. After 26 years of absence, Leone Stars’ dream of qualifying to their first knockout stage of the AFCON tournament came to an end in Cameroon. Striker Kei Kamara had a chance to send Sierra Leone to the last 16 of the tournament but threw it away after his 85th-minute penalty was saved by the Equatoguinean goalkeeper.
Millions of Sierra Leoneans whose dreams were shattered by that penalty miss vented their frustrations and anger to Lei Kamara and the coach John Keister. Today, Coach John Keister has penned down an emotional message to Sierra Leoneans after their exit from the 2021 AFCON Competition.
John Keister stated: “Firstly, I want to say thank you to Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans for your support throughout the AFCON competition. It has been an honor to lead this amazing team thus far.
“A score and 25 years ago, we watched from our quiet homes in cheers and support of other African countries as they rivaled and unshackled each other. Back then, we celebrated the winners but gave in so little to the losers. It never felt as real as it should have until 2021-2022 when the introduction of a rekindled set of spirited vibrant young men (Leone-stars) rejected the chains of relegation and qualified to the AFCON. Excitement filtered and joys elevated as we witnessed our own compatriots representing this beloved nation in AFCON nearly passed two decades and a half. What a joy and we have made in changing the Narrative around the world of football for which Sierra Leone was labeled a non-contender.
“As a Nation, we have been through some challenging times. Amidst the Civil war, Ebola, Mudslide, and World Pandemic Corona, we have shown a resilient spirit as a nation and challenged ourselves to do better.
“What we have done as a group going into AFCON was not only getting results on the pitch but as a way of reigniting a once lost flame as a team as well as a country. No doubt, football has resonated in the minds of all people and if nurtured properly, it can spark unity and oneness in our Nation like never seen before. I am particularly thankful for the emotional support and encouragement shown to me and the boys. Football holds a special place in my heart and my boys remain ever endearing at a time such as this. We will be better placed to secure a frontier position in our next challenge. We have proven to the world that Sierra Leone is to be reckoned with.
“Disappointment is an element of the sport. Even though we do not embrace the outcome/result, our presence and manner in which we competed and put to test their names as defending champions or giants of Africa is no more a scare to us. We believe that we have earned the necessary tools needed to prepare well the next time we compete.
“God has allowed us the opportunity to witness what seemed before as impossible, possible. Together as a nation, we can and will do more to improve the morale of the sport. No doubt that with the necessary incentives needed, we will build a formidable team that can take us to the next AFCON and brings the spoils home like the Lions we are.
“I am proud of my boys, they have worked relentlessly and tirelessly in both preparations and in the competitions to represent our beloved nation.
“We’ve worked so hard and we will keep working to do our best to represent Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans. I know that the results secured from Algeria and Ivory Coast raised aspirations so high and made our presence in the AFCON seemed rather like a fairy tale story. Nonetheless, we continue to strive harder and harder to get us back to a place with no surprises but victory and victory to the end.
“To the critics, I say thank you. I have noted your concerns and will make the necessary plans to improve. I understand the tempestuous emotional feelings currently bored. Frankly, We never saw qualification, but God gave us the opportunity for a different reason after 25 years. We did not go into the second round, but let’s take the positives around going into AFCON. Even though short-lived. This is certainly not the end. It is just the beginning”. He Concluded.