Training Coaches to Give Corruption the Boot

By Hugh James, Accountability Resident, United Kingdom, with reporting by Francis Lansana, Resident, Liberia

2014 bore witness to two divergent faces of World football. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil yielded a wealth of competitive games throughout the competition, with many South American teams reveling in success against established footballing nations and past winners, including Italy and England. Eventual winners Germany embodied a compact, ruthless team, trusting in one another and hungry for success.

In contrast to such unity has been the ever-present FIFA corruption accusations. Talk of bribery and lack of transparency at the higher echelons of FIFA in awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar are sure to rumble on well into 2015.

In November 2014, the Lab, in conjunction with L.A.C.E.S., delivered a ‘Kick Out Corruption’ training of trainers program in Monrovia. The utility of sport as a vehicle to promote social change has great potential in a youth oriented country like Liberia (approximately 60% of the country is 24 years or younger).   The program analyzes corruption through the lens of sport, and combines engaging sporting activities with an environment of open discussion between trainers and trainees.

A total of 31 coaches attended the initial training session, 16 females and 15 males, with sporting backgrounds across football, basketball, baseball and volleyball.

As motivated change makers, the emphasis is to equip these coaches with positive skills that can facilitate long-term changes.  One such exercise practiced focuses on bribery and favoritism. Two teams are created, one has access to influence the decisions of the referee, whilst the other is blatantly ignored and overly punished (the scenarios changes in the second half). The erosion of neutrality through bribery, harassment or intimidation undermines effective rule of law and, unless curtailed, will further polarize communities, subsequently holding back development.

The utility of sport for development purposes is not new to Liberia. As early as 1999, work undertaken by the late Tim Hetherington, a photojournalist, documents the potential for sport to act as a tool for the promotion of reconciliation and peace building. The Lab is now hopeful that through the appropriate combination of soccer activities, discussion, reflection and grassroots engagement, tackling corruption can be merged and transferred into a range of activities suited to local communities. The feasibility to scale and transfer projects, up or down, is considered in every activity of the Lab. This can be aptly seen in the Lab’s recent ‘Knowmore LIB campaign’, where adaptations to established projects have been made to further inform, educate and protect against Ebola in Liberia.

For many years the adoring football fans of Liberia followed the career of George Weah. Now, after winning the Montserrado County senate seat, Weah will play an important role in directing Liberia’s future. With this activity, the Lab seeks to lay the foundations to transfer fair play, teamwork, ambition and drive from the soccer field into the political sphere. The ongoing ‘Kick Out Corruption’ program will help give a critical perspective to participating youths on corruption. You can be sure they will cry foul play if their leaders do not exhibit appropriate behavior.

For more information on L.A.C.E.S., our partner organization for this activity, please visit

About Accountability Lab

Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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