What's Wrong With Us? (Weah's LFA Presidency Issue)

By: George D. Yuoh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 18, 2004

George Weah
Many times I would sit alone in the quiet of the cool Minnesota night and wonder what is the problem with us (Liberians). Are we a cursed people? Why do we flaunt progress and embrace degradation and incompetence? Why do we turn our backs to that which the rest of the world would fight to hold on to? Why do we so often fail to learn from the successes of others? And again, are we a cursed people?

These questions came hitting me in the face as I read, with total shock and sadness, the Friday, September 17, 2004 BBC Sports story captioned: Weah Ends Bid For Presidency (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football). In summary, the story quotes George Weah as saying that he was no longer interested in the presidency of the LFA due to the unnecessary technicalities being imposed on the process by the LFA, and he didn't want to be seen as the one twisting the rules. I can't understand why the "money eaters" at the LFA would fight against the candidacy of George Weah. Believe me, I am in total shock!

The Issue (Club's Presidency)
The LFA guidelines say that in order to be qualified to contest its presidency, one must first have served as president of one of its clubs. George Weah was recently selected as the President for Bassa Defenders, which qualifies him to contest the LFA presidency. But then the LFA introduced a new controversial interpretation; that the person should be an elected president. Elected by whom? How many of the LFA clubs' presidents are elected? Since they rejected George Weah as president of Bassa Defenders on the grounds that he was not elected, are they going to reject all other non-elected club presidents?

I know for a fact that over 90% of the LFA club presidents are not elected. I served in the hierarchy of club football in Liberia and so I speak from a vantage position. There are numerous examples of current and former presidents of clubs who were never elected. Why pick on George Weah? Was Edwin Snow elected as a club president before taking up the position of LFA President? Can the LFA present an election report for when Snow was elected as president of Watanga FC? Why unnecessarily hinder progress just for selfish reasons?

Like I said, with the exception of IE and Barrolle, I don't know of any other club in Liberia that conducts elections with fans voting (maybe except St. Joseph Warriors back in the days). Even with IE and Barrolle, there are many instances where the officials were appointed by so-called club boards. And then again, most football clubs in Liberia are proprietary organizations, being sponsored by individuals. Is the LFA suggesting that those who spend their money on the clubs should wait for some non-existent fan base to elect them before running their clubs? Two good friends of mine, Al-Jerome Chede and Solomon George, were appointed presidents of Jr. Professionals separately at one time by George Weah. They were never rejected by the LFA. Mulbah Johnson, a fine sports enthusiast, was sponsor and president of Exodus. He was not elected, but his presidency was never questioned by the LFA. Another strong young Liberian sports administrator, Adolph Lawrence, was chief sponsor and president of St. Anthony FC. The LFA didn't request that he go back and get elected before doing business with them, including registering his club in CAF competitions. Are the current presidents of IE and Barrolle elected? This whole thing reeks and smells of hardcore blackmail, and at best, it is a disservice to the youths and the people of Liberia. George Weah is qualified to lead the LFA. Let the teams decide!

Development And Progress
Sport, especially football in Liberia, has the potential of being a catalyst in youth development. What progress have we made in this direction? At this point in our nation's history, we are bound by the dictates of our untested patriotism to tap into the expertise of Liberians who have the ability to rescue the country in whatever areas of specialization they can bring to the table of reconstruction. I have always said that it is now time that we grab firmly to the concept of a value added approach, and let that be the yardstick for call to service. Can the current LFA management team or those opposing Mr. Weah add value to our quest for progress and advancement in football on the global stage? What impact have they had on the development of the sport in Liberia over the years since they have been at the helm of the LFA?

The focus of the international game now is development, and a lot of countries are making progress in that direction. FIFA has made development a priority, that's why it instituted the Goal Project, which has given us the refurbished Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS), of course not ruling out George Weah's contribution, since he was a strong campaigner for the current FIFA President, Mr. Sepp Blatter. UEFA's Meridien Project, which tries to promote good relations between the European body and CAF, also stresses development. What have been our own development initiatives? And don't let anyone at the LFA tell you that there is no money.

After the 1994 World Cup, FIFA resolved to give each member association US$1 million for development, over a four-year period (US$250,000.00 per year). When Liberia got hers, the first thing that the Edwin Snow's administration did was to buy luxurious cars and marked them LFA-1, LFA-2, etc. The only notable spending of consequence they did was to buy a bus for the Lone Star. Some of the cars were bought from Snow, who had been using them before. The current acting LFA chief, Cllr. Izzeta Wesley drove the one with license plate LFA-2.

The funds were squandered why clubs were struggling to register and travel to CAF games. No assistance was given to the clubs, but the LFA often took the lion's share of the gate intakes that were the major source of funding for clubs. The LFA could not even sponsor Lone Star's travel abroad. They cried no money and ran to the Finance Ministry at every opportunity. But through all of this, Mr. Weah was spending his personal funds to underwrite most of Lone Star's expenses, including travel, lodging, the procurement of kits, etc. He deserves a better treatment, certainly!

We all bear witness to how the world is scrambling at the feet of Mr. Weah. The UN saw and acknowledged his values long ago when they made him one of their ambassadors for peace. Recently, we all saw the emotional tribute paid to him by the famed and acclaimed Oscar wining actor Denzel Washington, at this year's ESPN award. He walks in the corridors of power in football and entertainment. He is honored amongst equals, and is every football-loving child's icon. Even the Ghanaian Football Association acknowledged his values and contemplated making him their manager at one time. He is a football demigod in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, France, Italy, Ghana, and in places you would least expect. He is a man of many means, and a true patriot at heart, never mind his shortcomings like all of us. But he loves Liberia and is committed to helping Liberia shine. No one can question that. So why squander the opportunity?

Franz Beckenbauer, one of the greatest central defenders (No. 5) of all time is the head of Germany's 2006 World Cup Committee. Why was he given the post out of a population of 82.5 million people? Kalusha Bwalya, who recently beat the Lone Star in Zambia, was called up from retirement. He currently coaches the Zambian National team, and is Vice President of the Zambian FA. Why have they put so much trust in him? Marco Van Basten is the current coach of Holland. Who can question his pedigree? Michelle Platini was the head of France '98 World Cup Organizing Committee. Why was he given the job? The list can go one and on. But what all of these people and George Weah have in common is that at one time, they were the best footballers from their countries, and are considered legends and are well respected all over the world George Weah is a living legend, and is rightly respected all over the world. Let's give him that respect at home too.

When Germany decided that they needed to host the World Cup, they called on Franz Beckenbauer to head their committee in other to guarantee that they won the bid. And they did! When Zambia realized that their football program was going down the drain, they called on Kalusha, the only person they knew could turn things around, and he is doing just that. France looked up to the great Michel Platini to give them a memorable World Cup '98, and he did. Who should Liberia turn to at this time to revive our failing fortunes in football? We should get the best person we ever had in the area of football to manage our program. George Weah may not have it all, but with out any doubt whatsoever, he is the only Liberian now who can shake hands with the presidents of CAF, UEFA, and FIFA without a formal notice and long waiting schedule. He can be granted exclusive access to Kofi Anan on a shorter notice than very many other diplomatic ambassadors would. Let's take advantage of his tremendous goodwill and let him open doors for Liberia. This is a chance that we cannot let slip by us.

Finally, I would encourage Mr. Weah to reconsider his decision, and continue to pursue the issue to its legal end. After all, it was for Liberia that he decided to lead the LFA. Liberia is still there and needs his assistance even more than before. Turning his back now would mean that the incompetent and money-eating people would win. Our kids would then be deprived of bright opportunities; Lone Star will continue to win the "did well" championship; and Liberia will continue to slide down the CAF and FIFA rankings. We have the potential, let's make better use of it!

About The Author: The author is a former Financial Secretary of the IE/Majestic Sports Association, and former Manager of the Pythons Basketball Association, all in Liberia. He currently resides in Minnesota-USA, and can be contacted at georgeyuoh@yahoo.com.