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Sierra Leone's friendly against Palestine called off

By Mohamed Fajah Barrie
BBC Sport, Freetown

Sierra Leone's friendly international against Palestine scheduled for 3 March in Freetown has been cancelled.

Sierra Leone Football Association General Secretary Alimu Ba
Alimu Bah says several friendlies are being planned for Sierra Leone

It had been viewed as part of the Leone Stars' preparations for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.

The Leone Stars are in a tough group for the qualifiers alongside African Champions Egypt, South Africa and Niger.

The Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) general secretary Alimu Bah told BBC sport that he was informed about the Palestine withdrawal on Monday, just two days before the friendly was due to take place.

No reason was given for the pull out.

"I'm disappointed that the friendly will not take place because it has caused a setback to our preparation plans for 2012 qualifiers," said Bah.

"But we'll make sure that we get other friendlies to prepare well before we kick off our campaign against Egypt in August.

"I want to confirm that the two friendly matches with Guinea will go ahead as planned on the 5 and 7 March in Freetown.

Some Sierra Leonean sport journalists and fans had criticised the SLFA for setting up a friendly against Palestine given that they are ranked forty players below the Leone Stars in the Fifa rankings.

"We chose to play Palestine because we want to see how we do against the challenge from an Arab side as our major opponent in our group in the 2012 qualifiers are Egypt," Bah told BBC Sport last week.

"This doesn't mean we are equating Palestine to Egypt but we believe that the mentality in their game is the same.

"So playing Palestine is a good start for us in our preparations

"It's not always true that you play against a big strong side when you're preparing for a competition.

"In football you can play a very weak side just to make sure that you have a training session with regards to the selection of your players.

"More friendly international matches for Leone Stars are in the pipeline and this just to tell you how we are serious to qualify for 2012 African Cup of Nations."

Leone Stars do not have a permanent coach at the moment so Christian Cole, the caretaker of Sierra Leone's African Nations Championship (CHAN) team, will be in charge for the match.

He will also be in charge of Leone Stars for two further friendly matches against Syli Nationale of Guinea in Freetown on March 5th and 7th.

Cole will use a squad of home-based players for all three matches as he prepares for their first round CHAN qualifier against Senegal in March.

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see also
Egypt get tough Nations Cup draw
20 Feb 10 |  African
Big guns struggle in Champs League
14 Feb 10 |  African
Sierra Leone name caretaker coach
17 Feb 10 |  African

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