WHO’S NEXT IN LINE?
Klinsmann contemplates on Nagbe’s future as the LFA sits supinely on expatriate nationals
Danesius Marteh, email@example.com
It is becoming evidently clear that the Liberia Football Association (LFA) is uninterested in luring footballers, who were either born in Monrovia but left at a tender age or born to Liberian parent(s) in foreign lands, to don the red, white and blue jersey.
Here are a few names: Darlington Nagbe of Portland Timbers in America; Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in Spain; Vajebah Sakor of Juventus in Italy (but on loan to K.V.C. Westerlo in Belgium); Ola John of Benfica in Portugal (but on loan to Reading in England); Joel Johnson Alajarin of Real Jaen in Spain and Ghassimu Sow of St. Albans City in England.
Nagbe showed a glimpse of what he is made-up of with an 85th minute goal in a 5-2 dismantling of the Los Angeles Galaxy at StubHub Center on October 18.
Assisted by Argentina’s Maximiliano Urruti flicked on header, Nagbe held-off the challenge of his nearest marker, beat Jamaica goalkeeper Donovan
Ricketts and slotted the ball between two onrushing opponents.
A five-minute highlight of the seven goals is still available on
It appears America head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was also watching – and impressed with what he saw as was revealed by Timbers head coach Caleb Porter.
“I’ve talked to Jurgen [Klinsmann]. He likes him. He’s very interested in bringing him in [to the national team but] he hasn’t been cleared yet about his paper works to Fifa. Obviously, he has his [United States] citizenship but it takes sometimes [for an official certification from Fifa].
“I think it takes six weeks or so for it to get processed and sorted-out. I just heard from Jurgen this morning, because he was checking in, to find out where Nagbe’s status was and it looks like he will be available for the November Fifa window,” Porter said in an interview on MLSsoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio on October 19.
That means Nagbe could be in line for a call-up when America take on St. Vincent & The Grenadines on November 13 and Trinidad & Tobago on November 17 in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Since FrontPageAfrica started researching for players with Liberian heritage after the 2010 World Cup finals, the LFA has only been able to approach Alex Nimely (then of Manchester City), whose playing career looks to be effectively over.
Sekou Jabateh-Oliseh, who was adopted by Nigerian football manager Churchill Oliseh, debuted for Liberia in a 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations at the Samuel Kanyon Doe sports complex on September 5, 2010.
Although Jabateh-Oliseh honored a call-up from then coach Bertalan Bicskei (deceased) citing George Weah as a key motivating factor behind his decision, it was more football-related than just love for country.
"I have my entire family and friends here in Liberia who would love to see me play for our nation. I love Nigeria but I can't play for them," said Oliseh in a goal.com article written by Moses Kollie Garzeawu on September 3, 2010.
Liberia was his strongest link, having played for Gedi & Sons, for obtaining the 15 caps (he now has) for Nigeria would have been almost impossible with a host of footballers, who would have dropped him down the pecking orders.
Jabateh-Oliseh may have read about players like Obafemi Martins, Julius Aghahowa and Peter Osaze Odemwingie.
In June 2012 in Dakar, Senegal, Grand Gedeh County Representative Zoe Emmanuel Pennoh volunteered his time and resources to form part of an LFA delegation to visit the mother of the John brothers in the Netherlands to encourage her children to play for Liberia.
As a two-year-old, Ola fled with his mother and brothers from Liberia to the Netherlands after their father was killed during the first bloody civil war.
Ola did not return to the African continent until the Fifa under-20 World Cup (then known as the Youth World Championship) in Nigeria in 2009.
As a child, Ola played at the amateur club VV DES in Nijverdal. Like his brothers Collins and Paddy, Ola joined the youth academy of Twente.
In February 2012, Ola was called up for the first time by then coach Bert van Marwijk to represent the Netherlands against England at Wembley.
On May 7, 2012, he was among 36 players, one of nine uncapped, chosen by coach Marwijk as part of the preliminary squad for the Uefa Euro 2012 tournament and is yet to win his senior cap.
But LFA President Musa Bility said that was demeaning and players with Liberian heritage should boldly borrow a page from Jabateh-Oliseh’s book of honoring a national call-up.
Retired Alhassan Keita and Seku Conneh, who are Bility’s kinsmen, have been the only foreign recruits while Chris Roosevelt Jones was only persuaded by LFA vice president Cassell Kuoh.
In an April 11 edition of UNMIL Radio’s Sports Extra program, Liberia head coach James Salinsa Debbah disclosed that he had a plan to travel to Europe to convince players with Liberian heritage to honor his call-ups.
“I want to expand my programs but my hands are tied. I am working with limited resources. We have a major competition in June and I am still in Liberia. I will have to go out. I am still in Liberia trying to patch a team together which is a little bit eccentric,” he said.
But Bility downplayed Debbah’s travel plans, which should have taken him to Ola and Williams among others.
“Our focus is on a program that has been developed by the LFA that the local teams have to be built. Before we dream about foreign-based players, I want to see a local team. The country must benefit from the national team. The benefit of the country from the national team is that it continues to produce new players.
“So for any coach, it could be under-23 or whatever, no, the LFA is not in the business of flying coach around the world to go and look for players. We have a system and that system will produce to us the players we need. Secondly, it [Debbah’s travel plans] has no basis. If any coach wants a player, there is a mean now available to the entire world where you can see the activeness and inactiveness of a particular player or players,” Bility said on April 25.
Williams, who was born to a Ghanaian father and Liberian mother in Spain, is being chased by the Ghana Football Association for a change of nationality but the forward has expressed his desire to travel to Liberia to establish a bond with his motherland.
“I want to travel to the Liberia to be with them and let them feel proud for all the support they have shown me,” he is quoted in a June 20 article on ghanasoccernet.com by El Akyereko Frimpong.
Williams had a good time last season with Athletic Club and scored in every competition he featured, including the Uefa Europa League, Spanish La Liga and the Spanish Cup.
“I am mentally strong. I wanted to check and saw that the goals were not coming. In high competition, it is harder to get because the opponents are more over and let you think, but it could not lower the arms and I had to continue to grow and try to help the team with my game or giving passes,” Williams said.
Bility and Debbah expect that Williams, Sakor, Ola, Joel and Sow to pick-up their boots and fly to Monrovia.
He and best friend, Montserrado County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe were recently in Russia for the draw of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers but didn’t have the second thought to visit Williams and has not sent an invitation since that published interview.
Nagbe is poised to leave and others could follow sooner or later.