Liberia: Pres. Weah Asks Liberians to Forgive Him Each Time They See Him Playing Football; Says It’s an Inborn Tendency
MONROVIA – President George Weah has been in Liberian politics, actively, since 2005 – spending 12 years in opposition, three years in the Senate after failing to attain the presidency in two elections, but the soccer legend, now admits that he is not a politician – just a sportsman.
Weah came to the presidency on the heels of the popularity afforded him by his stardom in the world of football, rising to be the only African player to win the World Best title – the highest accolade in football.
But the President has soon come to realize that politics and the presidency are quite far apart. He, however, believes that as a sportsman, he can still help his country using the presidency.
Even with such belief, President Weah has often come under criticisms for often reducing the presidency to the football pitch as he is either involved with street soccer or some sort of match in the public glare while being mute on major issues affecting all sectors of the country, especially the economy and security sector.
“Today, I am going to have the opportunity to get on the new Tusa Field so we can display what we learned here and what we know. This is an inborn tendency and can never go away. So please forgive me whenever you see me on a sports pitch, please forgive me – that doesn’t change who I am. It’s where I came from, is the pitch that brought me to this honorable office and we can’t forsake where we came from, this is why you see me with you all the time.”– President George Manneh Weah
Inflation continues to be a major issue and the economy seems to be stuck. Civil servants are not being paid on time, unemployment rate remains high, the provision of basic social amenities and corruption remain a challenge.
But President Weah has no intention of quitting the game. In fact, in a recent statement, he has asked Liberians to forgive him each time they see him on the pitch – noting that that’s what he knows best and soccer brought him to the presidency.
At the dedication of the newly constructed Tusa Field in Bardnersville on Wednesday, President said, “Today I going to have the opportunity to get on the new Tusa Field so we can display what we learned here and what we know. This is an inborn tendency and can never go away.”
He added, “So please forgive me and every time you see me on the sport pitch, please forgive; that doesn’t change who I am, it’s where I came from, it’s the pitch that brought me to this honorable office and we can’t forsake where we came from. This is why you see me with you all the time”.
He went on to say, “I’m not a politician, I’m just a sportsman helping my people.”
In January 2020, Al Jazeera quoted Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian political analyst as saying: “Weah underestimated that playing football is different from running a country. He lacks the traditional skill set of a President but has the popular mandate to get himself a good team. Instead he has allowed himself to be advised incorrectly.”
She added: “Liberians have become so politically engaged. They feel the need to go out and protest, to demand that things change, because it’s hitting them where it matters most – their pockets.”
In 2018, President organized a friendly match between Liberia and Nigeria at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex to mark the occasion of the retirement of the iconic 14 jersey which he donned during his active footballing days. But the President has never ceased to wear the jersey, especially for his Weah All Stars and during the inter-ministerial games.
The President scored four goals at the opening of the Tusa Field for his Weah All Stars (WAS). In a 2019 interview with the BBC’s Mike Tomson, President Weah said no one tackles him on the field because “I’m the best dribbler and if they try, they will dislocate some of their body. I’m very fancy.”
His team’s coach, former Arsenal player, Christopher Wreh, came up with a rather different explanation.
He said, “No-one tackles him. We do advise the team that you don’t go into a tackle with the president. You avoid contact – no contact with the president.”
This may help explain why even at the age of 52 (at the time), George Weah remains the team’s top goal scorer. His team won 3-1 that day.