Sierra Leone forced into two-year stay at neutral venues

Sierra Leone’s national football team is seeking a neutral venue to stage its home matches for the next two years after Freetown’s Siaka Stevens Stadium closed for renovation work.

Siaka Stevens Stadium serves as the national stadium in Sierra Leone and is the only venue used by the country’s football team. As reported by BBC Sport Africa, the stadium was last week handed over to a Chinese construction company to carry out a major renovation project.

The stadium is not expected to be ready until 2024 and Sierra Leone will have to find a different venue to host its home matches in the meantime.

The closure of Siaka Stevens Stadium is set to cover Sierra Leone’s qualifiers for the next two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, as well as some qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Thomas Daddy Brima, president of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), told BBC Sport Africa: “We know it’s in our disadvantage to play our home matches away from home. But it’s pleasing that the stadium is now being renovated. It’s better to do it now than later.”

Sorie Ibrahim Sesay, the SLFA’s director of competitions, added: “We appreciate the fact that the stadium is under renovation but the two-year period is too long. Playing our home matches outside our country gives us no home advantage, so we’re calling on the government to try as best as possible to shorten the rehabilitation period.”

The stadium renovation is also set to affect the Sierra Leonean Premier League, with most of the competition’s clubs based in Freetown.

Sierra Leone competed at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, which marked its first appearance in the tournament since 1996.

The Guinean capital of Conakry is reportedly among the locations being considered to host Sierra Leone matches while work on Siaka Stevens Stadium is carried out. Conakry hosted Sierra Leone’s decisive Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin last June after Siaka Stevens Stadium was deemed below standard to stage the match.

Image: Dorothy Voorhees/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size