As the Sierra Leonean business magnate Babadi Kamara continues to etch his name indelibly into the history books of Sierra Leone football, His Excellency President Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio on Sunday 21st May, 2023 unveiled the state-of-the-art Southern Arena Stadium in Bo City built by the business tycoon.

Delivering his speech, Babadi Kamara emphasized the need for football infrastructure right across Sierra Leone to “save us from the embarrassment that we continue to face as a nation – imagine we would be playing our all-important AFCON qualifiers with Nigeria in Liberia because of standard football infrastructure.”

He added that “limited number of good playing facilities across the country continues to disadvantage those who have chosen football as their career.”

See speech delivered by the Proprietor of the Southern Arena on the occasion of the grand opening of the facility by the President.

Speech delivered by Babadi Kamara, Proprietor of The Southern Arena on the occasion of the Official Grand Opening of The Southern Arena by His Excellency Brig. (Rtd) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, GCRSL, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 May 2023

Your Excellency, the President of our Republic, Brig. (Rtd) Dr. Julius Maada Bio Your Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam Fatima Maada Bio
Paramount Chief, Prince Lappia Boima of Kakua Chiefdom
Other Traditional Leaders present
Ministers of Government
Honourable Members of Parliament
Elders of the Kpaa Mende Confederacy
Members of the Sierra Leone Football Association and the football fraternity
Members of the Fourth Estate
Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen
As-salaam Mualaikum/Good afternoon.

Mr. Chairman, please permit me to stand on existing protocols.
Your Excellency Sir, today provides a unique opportunity for me to stand here this afternoon to speak at this momentous occasion marking the grand opening of one of the best sporting facilities not only in Sierra Leone but in the sub-region. I am honoured by your presence and humbled by the kind sentiments expressed by speakers before me on this history-making occasion. I say this because I come from a humble background, like most people present here this afternoon. My parents, dad being a teacher and farmer, and my mother, a housewife. But here I am today, having you here to grace a ceremony of a project I sanctioned, which has come to fruition. Therefore, when I continue to exalt the wonders of Allah Subuhana Wa’ Tahala, I do not do so to spite anyone; far from it. But rather to express my profound gratitude to Him for bringing me this far as to do otherwise would be the highest form of ingratitude.

Your Excellency Sir, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, they say to do is to dare; it always seems impossible until it’s done. When I initially conceived the idea of constructing a playing facility (by the way, I only wanted to have one for routine exercises with friends), I had doubters say that I was punching above my weight; some said that it was impossible; far-fetched and not worth it. But as one of the most illustrious sons of Africa, Nelson Mandela, once said and I quote, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” (End of quote) As such, I was determined to prove to my doubters that it was doable. Therefore I kept pushing.

As the project progressed, so too did the ideas grow - from a modest facility to host friends mostly on weekends to making it a state-of-the-art facility, which would meet international standards. At this point, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which this facility is built. They gave up their pieces and parcels of land, motivated by their love for the project, the city of Bo and the Southern Province to have this facility erected here. Ar bai ka!

Your Excellency Sir, ladies and gentlemen, the construction of this all-seater football facility was never a roller-coaster ride or a stroll in the park. When I started, there was no speech, no formality, and no pressure on me: just a few of us had in mind what I wanted to do. As news got round about the project, I began to feel the pressure. Like all projects, it had its own challenges.

Some were daunting and made the temptation of abandoning the project real. However, as a Kpaa Mende and a Senior Lawa of the Confederacy, we are taught to be resilient and never give up even in the face of adversity. In addition, as a product of the Bo School, we are taught to stand the storm as it won’t be long. So I soldiered on. Today, this beautiful edifice is a testament to hard work and vision for this project. Thus, the reason we are all gathered here this afternoon to celebrate this groundbreaking project. A project that is now set to host the West Africa Football Union U20 Women’s Tournament beginning on the 23rd of this month.

Your Excellency Sir, my love and generosity for the city of Bo, Southern Region and its people was the driving force behind this project. I wanted to do something that everybody in this part of the country would associate themselves with irrespective of social class, ethnicity, religion or political persuasion. And football is one such thing that breaks primordial barriers and brings people together in peace and unity. It builds a sense of community. A sense of belonging. It fosters inclusion. It builds bridges where only walls exist. It re-installs communication where dialogue has long been extinguished. Hence the name: The Southern Arena!

Your Excellency Sir, when you were running for the highest office in the land in 2018, you promised human capital development as your flagship program if you were elected. This is because you believe that to develop a nation, you need to invest in people to acquire life skills that would see them through life in years ahead. A good many of us here are testaments to that fact. Education breaks class barriers, thus the importance of your flagship program – the Free Quality Education. Who would have thought that a son of a teacher/farmer and a housewife would have even thought about constructing a modern edifice of this nature? However, since the Free Quality Education is largely focused on the formal sector, I decided to complement your flagship program in the informal sector using football rather than schools as the means.

Your Excellency Sir, football followers and administrators across the country would bear witness to the fact that your government’s investment in football has been unprecedented. Your government has a very strong commitment to sports development. However, there is a need for football infrastructure right across the country to save us from the embarrassment that we continue to face as a nation – imagine we would be playing our all-important AFCON qualifiers with Nigeria in Liberia because of standard football infrastructure. In addition, the limited number of good playing facilities across the country continue to disadvantage those who have chosen football as their career.

Sports is an integral part of holistic education to prepare our young for the future. In a bid to complement your government’s huge investment in football in particular, I decided to have this facility. This facility is an important milestone in both the history and future of Bo city as it would serve as a platform to enable our young compatriots who decide to choose football as a career to exhibit their God-given talents. It is also about helping to build a society in which nobody feels left out.

Hopefully, in few years from now, I am sure we would have our countrymen give testimonies like the Nigerian international, Victor Osimhen of Italian Seria-A club Napoli, whose mother died when he was at a tender age and his father struggled to make a living for their family. But today, he is not only celebrated globally but has lifted his family out of poverty. This is what human capital development does in the informal sector.

Your Excellency Sir, we are all here to grace this event, which is full of pomp and pageantry. I have exerted all efforts and invested primarily because of the passion I have for this our great city and region. I am sure guests here, and my humble self are all anxious to hear you deliver the key note address and cut the tape. In addition, we want to see history makers when the referee shall have sounded his whistle. But it would be remiss of me if I omit to express my sincere gratitude to all those who contributed in diverse ways in making this dream a reality.

Your Excellency Sir, I cannot thank you enough for reposing so much confidence in me to handle matters that are of great importance to you. That you shelved your many busy schedules to oblige us with your presence especially at this crucial time of the year is a clear demonstration of your belief in your flagship program - human capital development and your love and affection for the people of Bo and the Southern Region. This facility, no doubt, adds to your legacy because you created the enabling environment for a true son of Bo and the Southern Region to thrive. Sir, with utmost humility, I will ever remain grateful and continue to serve you diligently and sincerely.

I would like to continue to appreciate my parents, the late MB Kamara, late Kemoh Kamara, Haja Isatu Kamara and Haja Jattu Kamara, the latter would have loved to be here with us today but is unavoidably absent due to illness for teaching me that Allah gives us opportunity to serve Him by serving humanity with humility. I want to also thank my sisters Baby Kay, Umu Kamara, Fudia Kamara, and Aminata Bash Kamara, and all my brothers for your unwavering support throughout.

And to my wife, Mrs. Vivian Aminiata Kamara, my sons Yusuf and Abubakarr Kamara, and the entire family from Mongere in the Valunia Chiefdom in Bo District, Southern Province to my family In the Peje-West Chiefdom in Kailahun District in the Eastern Province, I ask that you continue to indulge my generosity as the American businessman and philanthropist, Warren Buffet once said, and I quote “if you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent” (end of quote).

During my life, I have come to have brothers from other mothers. I want to thank my younger brother, Vandy Juana Kamanda who abandoned everything in the United States to come join me in this project. Thank you Vandy for your tremendous effort, patience and calmness in handling challenges. Thank you Saidu Sesay officer Neat as you were fondly called at The Bo School; you and your team including the electrician Abubakarr have been wonderful throughout this journey. I want to thank Mr. Prince Allieu Sinoh and your entire staff at The Universal Ventures Company. We have fought, shouted at each other, we have gone days without talking to each other. We did not do so because we want to be disrespectful to each other but rather to speed up work without compromising quality.

Thank you Prince, thank you. Thank you Integral Company, our international contractor for ensuring we are here today to officially open this facility. You have not only been a contractor but a friend and brother whose objective amongst many was to ensure we have the best facility.

Permit me to thank the Project Oversight Committee chaired by Hon Yusuf Makay, with Hon Bash Kamara, Hon. Bashiru Sidique and Hon. Maada Lebbie; Deputy Ministers, Umaru Napoleon Koroma and Buakai Bindi Hindowa, Lawyers Musa Mewa and Allieu Vandi Koroma who is the Chairman of the Premier League Board; and Christopher Kebbie, Ibrahim Sannoh, Gassimu Mallah, Mohamed Conteh alias M Prime, Mamoud Javombo, Tejan Koroma, Yusuf Rogers, Bryan Shyllon, Kamoh Lavalie, Austine Luseni, Ibrahim Kallon, Melvin Lahai, Alhaji Fofanah, Addison Tarawally, Abu-Bakarr Kamara (Score goal), A-Bah, Abdulrahman Turay, Musa Alpha, Abdul Karim Bangura commonly call AKB, Ahmed Koker, Gentle man Alex Nallo, Paul Kpaka, Mohamed Baba Sheriff, Brima Mazola Kamara, and the rest of the Younde Family. You guys are an integral part of this project and would have been almost impossible to be here today without your support. To the Bo Rangers Family, all I would say is thank you for your support. Sadly, we would continue to miss Eric Lansana, who was present at the inception of this project but is sadly not here with us today to see its completion. May his
Soul continue to rest in peace.

Thank you to very senior stakeholders of the Bo District including Joseph Munda Bindi, P.C Prince Lappia Boima, Chairman Board of Directors Bo Rangers, our host P.C. Kangbai of Tikonko chiefdom who supported this project from its inception.

To the people of Bo and the Southern Region, I am inspired by the words of the American civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and I quote “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ Your belief in me to do great things for our city and region continues to lubricate my desire to do even greater things with His Excellency’s unflinching support. This new football facility will definitely make an important contribution to our city, providing an opportunity for football and active recreation. Bo residents have the benefit of this outstanding facility, but so too does the wider football family.

I also want to thank the Sierra Leone Football Association and the entire staff for their support and recommendations which led to so many modifications on this project. Distinguish ladies and gentlemen, help me thank the Hon Minister of Sports and his entire staff for their support.

To the football fraternity, your presence here underscores the fact that we are partners in development. How beautiful it is for people to put aside what divides them in order to celebrate what brings them together at the same time. We are honoured by your presence.

And to all the guests present here today, some of you traveled from far to make it here, this event couldn’t have been the same without. Your presence here is such a blessing, and I really appreciate your coming to support me. Thank you for coming!

In closing, as I look around the stands, I can see only one thing: a united people knotted together by the shared values and resolve - that is to support development irrespective of who is leading it or where it is located. I hope we would use football as one of the vehicles to strengthen peace and unity in this nation and that this Southern Arena will continue to welcome all to this our hospitable city of sweet Bo – Boooo lor!. I wish the participating teams a magnificent football performance and true display of sportsmanship.

Long live Your Excellency
Long live the Southern Arena
Long live the city of Bo and its people
Long live Sierra Leone
May Allah Subuhana Wa’Tahala bless us all!