The story of Alhassan Bangoura has been fairly well documented in the gathered media over in Britain over the last few days.
That article is probably the best description of the circumstances that Bangoura faced while living in Sierra Leone, from his inevitable execution, to his exile from the country of his birth, faced with human trafficking along the way, before ending up being scouted in a park by Watford, signing on professional terms with the club, and becoming a noticeable, if not necessarily integral part of the club’s push towards Premiership survival last season, and their rise to the top of the Championship table this time around.
He has been offered a contract with the promotion chasers until 2009, who clearly see him as a talent worth keeping hold of, believing he may well play a part a second time around in the Premier League if Watford continue to perform to the level which they can and have thus far this season, despite their recent blip in form.
As important as this is to the story, (it must be said that Bangoura’s case would be a non-issue were it not for the scope that a professional football club provides), it is all something of a side-issue, given what may be potentially at stake if the Asylum and Immigration Authorities enforce their ruling from the week.
Now, given the cirumstances that were stated within the BBC article, the mind boggles how the Immigration Authority can approve the deportation of any person who has been through an ordeal such as Bangoura’s.
Of course, life is not nearly as hard now for him, earning a good sum per week on a contract with a Premiership-chasing football club, married with a newborn son having arrived 10 days ago, but if Bangoura is deported, not only will he lose the life that he has earned by proving his ability and prowess as a footballer, he will probably lose his life.
As simple as it gets, if Al Bangoura is sent back to Sierra Leone any time soon, the Poro Secret Society will find him, they will almost certainly torture him, and then for their own personal retribution, they will mutilate him. It really is one of those situations where you have to put yourself in the position that Bangoura faces, and imagine what future, if any lies ahead for him if Britain sends him back to his ravaged home country.
Find the sense and justice in that, I’m lapsing away from the football side of the matter here somewhat, but there’s far more at stake than just sport.
Adrian Boothroyd is always a man who has earned my admiration for his ability as a manager and a person, he’s learning with every game what coaching a side is all about and if the Watford board back him for years to come, they may well be able to establish themselves in the Premiership, while his forthright views always managed to hit home, because it is clear that he knows what he is talking about.
In this respect, he certainly could have chosen his words a little better in some respects, but his view is embodied well enough through his words, and certainly you’ll have to go far to find anyone with half an ounce of sense that disagrees with what he has to say. He put it better than I ever could, so I’ll leave it to the man himself…
“After the immigration hearing I said that I had faith in British justice but obviously I was totally mistaken because it’s a completely ludicrous decision,” Boothroyd said.
“This country, great as it once was, seems to allow anybody in to send benefits wherever they fancy and we have one young man here who pays his taxes, has a fiancee and a newborn son and somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good decision to send him back to Sierra Leone. It’s ridiculous.
As highlighted in the Times article, the Labour MP for Watford, Claire Ward, has promised to take up Bangoura’s case up with the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, in a bid to ensure that Bangoura can remain in the country on a permanent basis.
Some of you cynics may question why he deserves such preferential treatment in comparison with other, perhaps even more damning cases dotted around the country.
The simple fact of the matter is that he doesn’t deserve preferential treatment in the same way that no-one does, and that every case should be taken on it’s merits, rather than the status of the individual involved. But this is the only case that will attain a media scope on this level, and in that respect, it brings the issue home to people of how bizarre rulings in cases such as these can be.
The Immigration Authority has condemned people to torture and death before with it’s decisions, they will do it in the future, long after the Al Bangoura case has been consigned to history. But now that a matter like this is in the public domain, it is important that everything is done to save at least one life, even if in the relative context of matters, it is a privileged life. If Al Bangoura is sent back to Sierra Leone, then it will be a black stain on the name of the Immigration Authority, and it will almost certainly be Bangoura’s blood on their hands.
I cannot tell you the ins and outs of Alhassan Bangoura as a player, and I am not going to pretend that I know everything about his playing style, his potential as a future star for Watford or anything else relative to his career. Simply put, the footballing issues need to be put to one side for now, despite the scope that they have provided in bringing his case to the attention of the local and national media, they are not important right now.
I implore readers of this article to sign up to the petition that Claire Ward will be presenting as part of her argument against the deportation of Al Bangoura, be it at the appeal which has been lodged, or at another point in the near future. Her parliamentary e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, so I would urge you to send a brief message voicing your support for the campaign of Bangoura, be you a Watford fan, a Manchester United fan, a Hartlepool fan, a Motherwell fan, hell, even if you’re a Luton fan, register your support. It may well prove to be a futile effort in the end, but it is important to consider what is potentially at stake in this situation, not only for Al Bangoura, but for his friends, for his colleagues, for his club, and especially for his wife and baby boy. It’s a small contribution, but at least it’s something.
NB: Matthew from TheOffside, who runs the England and Leeds United blogs, brought this matter to light within his blogs before I wrote this article. His contribution to the matter must be noted and appreciated as well relating to this matter. You can find his brief piece on the matter at the link below: