Periscoping Liberian Soccer
-Merits and Demerits

By Bill B. Blamo

Liberian soccer has come of age and no doubt the apparent success of the country's national soccer team, the Lone Star, should be commended.

As history states, Liberian soccer began to come into the fore when the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe gave soccer some recognition in contrast to the old adage of 'football was gronah boy's game'. Football was given so much national attention by the Doe's Administration to an extent where huge amounts of hard currency of the people's taxes were directed.

Liberian soccer also benefitted during that regime by witnessing the completion of a modern sport stadium named: the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.

Soccer technicians at the time decided to use these monies wisely were they turned to improve Liberian soccer by turning to the Brazilian soccer for improvement. As we all may know, the Lone Star at that time was privileged to go over to Brazil to get a taste of the Brazilian soccer.

No doubt that Liberian soccer has to improve since then because, with such talents of our boys being tapped in this great nation, and the infusion of some Brazilians on the team by naturalizing them as Liberian citizens to play on the national team, strengthened the Lone Star. Those Brazilians included Carlos Sergio, Striker; Luis Nancimento and Filho Doracy, defenders; and Eddie Mathies, goalkeeper.
Let us be aware that before then Liberia had great players in the likes of the legendary Waniboe Toe, Nyenetu 'Santos Maria' Browne, Paul Broh, John 'Monkey' Brown, Gladstone Ofori, Mass Sarr, Sr., and Borbor Gaye, just to name a few. But the set of players with the Brazilian stints proved to be greater. Some of these include Mark Gibson, Robert 'Break Dancer' Clarke, Pewu 'Best Best' Bestman, Joe 'Armstrong' Nagbe, James Salinsa Debbah, and the greatest of them all, George Oppong Weah, etc.

However, the coming into the fore of these talents was the birth of classical and competitive soccer in the Liberian soccer history.

In 1988, the Lone Star hosted the Zone III Tournament, where she became a force to reckon with. It was only in the grand final the Ghana Black Stars clinched the trophy by trouncing the Liberian Lone Star 2-1.
Merits
As of then, Liberian soccer began to rise to fascinating heights. The continent began to witness a new breed of soccer talents from this region of Africa when great nations started falling prey to the Lone Star.


This generation of Liberian soccer stars has done so much in making Liberian soccer to be given continental and world attention by coming very close to the World Cup Finals twice in 1990 and 2002 and two qualifications to the African Cup of Nations in 1996 and 2002. Thanks to the longest-serving Liberian soccer quartet for this feat. These include Joe Nagbe, Kelvin Sebwe, James Salinsa and George Weah. These soccer compatriots have been together for a little over 14 years now.

All of these successes and achievements wouldn't have been without the countless input of the greatest of them all George Oppong Weah, one of the finest soccer species that ever walked the earth. He is the secret of Liberia's soccer success.

George Weah started his professional career playing for Tonnerre Klara Club in Cameroun as a semi-pro and then moved over to A.S. Monaco in France as a full-bright professional player. He later moved to Paris Saint-Germaine where he rose as a world class player. His exceptional performance at that time won him a space on one of the world's greatest soccer clubs, A.C. Milan.

Since moving to Europe in 1988, Weah had always won for himself numerous honors, titles and laurels including the famous 1995 triple sweep, as Africa, Europe and World's Best Footballer. The best of awards that he has won is the Greatest African Footballer of the 20th Century. This award surpasses all others because there is no way any African player can achieve such an honour in this generation.

Weah scored one of the greatest goals the soccer world has ever witnessed. In 1996, he dribbled the whole length of the field and beat the entire Verona team before banging the ball home. That goal was fit to be set before soccer gods; 14 seconds, 14 touches and 85 meters.

George Weah's soccer exploits in Europe are countless. Liberia stands out to be proud of this son because Liberia and Africa might never be able to produce another artist filled with the sublime brilliance of Weah who is capable of winning one full swoop, the African, European and World Player of the Year awards. He is the centerpiece of Liberia's soccer success story today.

Weah, serving as both Technical Director and an inspirational player for the Lone Star, didn't only qualify the Lone Star to the Nations Cup finals, but makes her to become group leader in the presence of the then FIFA's rated best African team, the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. Other countries in the group were Congo Brazzerville and Mauritius.

His soccer prowess is also shown by again making the Lone Star to be a group leader in the World Cup qualifying series in the presence of great African soccer nations like Nigeria and Ghana. Other countries in the group include Sierra Leone and Sudan. No doubt the Lone Star without George Weah is just like a car without an engine.
Demerits
Liberian soccer encountered enough of hiccups along the way. There are many serious factors that affect Liberian soccer nowadays. One of the main problems she faces is the lack of a soccer program. This has caused potential and energetic players and club teams to go down the drain. The proliferation of first and second division clubs without proper support and program has created problems for our young players.

In the absence of a soccer program, Liberian soccer has faced a whole lot of difficulties and embarrassment.

One serious problem Liberian soccer faces is a situation where relevant institutions in the past and now shy away from responsibilities.

This is being evidenced in George Weah's absolute dominance over the Liberia Lone Star. Because of certain authorities' lackadaisical approaches and neglects to issues of relevant concerns with respect to the national team where they were needed most, it was George Weah who always came to the rescue by using his hard earned money. Then the question comes about, 'Why shouldn't someone have control over something that he his spending his hard earned money on?' We created this situation and now it has brought some embarrassment to us as a people. There are times when George Weah cannot make decisions alone but because of the authority we have given him as a people, no one can easily brainstorm issues with him, for fear that we won't get our usual benefits from. That is extremely wrong. To tell you the fact, no one man is over authority when it comes to handling national issues. Therefore, when government is supposed to act, let her go ahead and do so.

Anything less than that will always bring her into disrepute as we see in our soccer circles today. George Weah himself is human, let others understand.

Let's start commending the present administration for the level interest and concern being shown the national team. As we see around us today, the money spent on the team is an indication that more could be done if we had an organized program. In the absence of said program, the government will continue to lavishly spend money on the national team.

To conclude, let me recommend the following: To be more than what we are today in soccer, let the soccer technicians in this country to back go the drawing board and try to design soccer program that will include revisiting the format of our national league. The number of first and second division teams should be reduced to a considerable amount. This will permit competition among our young players in making these teams.

The various club teams should meet the satisfaction of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) in terms of presenting an allowable bank statement before being allowed status as a first division team or second division. This will immensely serve as a means to monitor how our first and second divisions players will be paid by these clubs. They should be paid reasonably because playing at these levels is like starting a career and they will be nothing else serious to think about. This will allow the players to put in time and consider the game seriously. It will no doubt serve as a basis of competition.

There should be nothing like third or fourth division soccer in this country. What should be done instead is that the LFA should put much interest in the Inter-high School Sports Association (ISSA). Anyone being in the category of second and third divisions should be forced to go to school before he plays soccer in this country. This will serve as a means to encourage youngsters to go to school.

The above recommendations are all open to your criticism and ideas. Let us all work together in making Liberian soccer more interesting in order to take it to higher heights.