By Eyong Macdella
Sierra Leone will have to play their home matches at neutral venues for the next two years following the closure of the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown for renovation.
A China-aided national stadium reconciliation project in Sierra Leone was officially handed to a Chinese construction company.
The project contracted by China’s Gansu Construction Investment Holding Group Limited is set to officially commence in March and is expected to last for two years
The renovation work, is allegedly estimated to cost about $40m, will be entirely funded by the Chinese government and is due to be completed in 2024.
This project will include the rehabilitation of a swimming pool, installation of a new scoreboard, construction of a standard pitch.
According to the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone Hu Zhangliang, the project is to celebrate the China-Sierra Leone friendship which has lasted for more than 50 years
The 25,000-capacity stadium, opened in 1979, is the only venue in the country the Leone Stars use to host international matches and so it’s closure means Sierra Leone will have to move their three home games in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in June and September this year to a neutral venue.
Sierra Leone will also need to play some of their 2025 Nations Cup and 2026 World Cup qualifying matches outside of Sierra Leone.
The Leone Stars returned to the 2021 total energies Africa cup of Nations in Cameroon for the first time since their second participation in South Africa 1996.
They went into the competition as underdogs but managed to have given the big names in African Football a hard time including 2019 champions, Algeria. Though booted out of the competition in the group stage
Sierra Leone who are Ranked 108th in the world, deserved enormous credit for their display in their first appearance at the Cup of Nations finals in 25 years most especially the heroic goalkeeping skills of 22-year-old Mohamed Kamara put up a brilliant performance that even earned him Man of the Match title once.
The SLFA has started the search for a venue to host their 2023 Nations Cup home qualifiers, with Conakry among the locations considered.
This is the second time the Siaka Stevens Stadium will undergo renovation since it was originally built by the Chinese and inaugurated in April 1979.
work was carried out was in 1992, while some remedial work was carried out a few years ago.
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