By Alusine Sesay
President Julius Maada Bio on Saturday, March 18th, officially performed the kick-off ceremony of the grand finale of Leone Rock’s 2023 “One Nation Tournament” which was contested between Western Rural and North West Region at the Bo Mini Stadium.
North-West Region emerged as the winner of the tournament and bagged home the prestigious “One Nation Football Tournament” trophy, plus NLE 100,000 as grand prize, while the Western Rural received NLE 75,000 as runners up.
The objective of the tournament, according to the company, was to continue helping to develop the skills and cooperation of young people in Sierra Leone and to preach oneness across the various regions in the country through sports.
Guests including President Maada Bio, First Lady, Fatima Bio, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Minister of Sports, Deputy Director of the Sierra Leone Football Association, CEO – Leone Rock Metal Group (LRMG), Gilbert Zhao, among others, graced the occasion.
The event also featured exciting entertainments from the Confucius Institute, University of Sierra Leone and other musical performances, creating a professional yet entertaining atmosphere.
In his speech, the CEO -LRMG, Gilbert Zhao said it was the very first time in Sierra Leone to have three government agencies – the ministry of sports, the national sports authority, and the Sierra Leone Football Association coming together to organize a football tournament.
“Again, it is very rare to see Mining Companies invest and or engage in football but Leone Rock Metal Group is a company that gives back to the people of Sierra Leone in any form and shape that promotes development and foster peace and unity in accordance with the laws that governs the country, and Football has demonstrated its impact in building national cohesion hence the need for the “One Nation Tournament,” he said.
The minister of Sports, Ibrahim Nyelekeh acknowledged the efforts of the company in building national cohesion and the human capital development of the country.
“The tournament had a of 150 players, 25 for each of the six teams that participated in the group stage, quarter final and the final with each team playing a total of two matches in all the stages amounting to 12 matches in total which is very key in creating employment opportunity for youth in Sierra Leone. And as a ministry we recently received NLE 30,000 from LRMG, which is a huge boost for the ministry’s activities. Myself and the government of Sierra Leone are very proud of your presence in the country and all the many successful projects your company has implemented in the country. We are hoping for more sustainable engagements and cooperation like this. Thank you, Leone Rock, thank you!,” he said.
The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wang Qing, explained how the tournament has preached oneness and its significance in the fourth coming multi-tier election.
“Raping up the tournament here today is a symbolic event, as we have seen in our previous matches the north hosting the South, the West hosting the East and so on which is very much instrumental in showcasing unity across the country. It is a plus not just for LRMG but for the people of Sierra Leone. As we entertain ourselves today, with North West region and Western Area Urban locking heads. Let’s keep in mind the essence of this tournament which is to promote national cohesion. Best wishes to us all,” he said.
He noted that LRMG has been really supportive to the Embassy in ensuring both Chinese and Sierra Leonean staff are fairly treated and realise same opportunities where necessary.
The game started with a kickoff by the President, Julius Maada Bio and the CEO of LRMG, after they had symbolically examined the medals and trophies that were customized by LRMG for deserving players and regional teams.
All the regions that participated in LRMG’s ‘One Nation Tournament’ thank the management and staff of the company for promoting sports, oneness, and sustainability in the country.