The Evolution Of “The Famous Weah XI”…Welcoming Their Contributions

By D. Webster Cassell

When the Liberia Football Association (LFA) under the leadership of former President, Edwin Melvin Snowe announced to the world that the National team has been dissolved, many persons felt betrayed and disappointed.

Although Snowe lied to the Liberian people that he had a master plan as was stated on BBC Sports in 2002, football enthusiasts still believed that there would come the resurgence of another generation of Liberian talents who will be ready to absorb that responsibility as it is being done today under former ‘miracle man’ now coach, SalinsaDebbah.

When the pronouncement was made in February of 2002, it seemed that the future of Liberian football had gone bleak given that there were no concrete assurances from authority at the local football house that the future of the game was certain.

In his exact words, Snowe, who is now a member of the Liberian legislature, said the national team was being dissolved in an attempt to go back to the drawing board and rebuild following a poor showing at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002 in Mali. He also disclosed that the squad will be built on promising youngsters.

Snowe indicated that the dissolution would not last for long, but with Liberia out of the Nations Cup at the time and Weah retiring, it was the optimum time to “step back and regroup.”

Snowe’s approach was vehemently opposed by Amb. Weah who said “except for Captain Nagbe, Debbah and I who have had at least twelve to fifteen years on the Lone Star, the rest of the team members are young and need to be maintained and supported adequately.” Weah instead attributed the team’s poor showing at Mali to the lack of Governmental and FA’s interest.

The days were dark for Liberian football, particularly the national team; the Lone Star depreciated to its worst form.

But one thing always lingered in the minds of the fans and supporters; “the national team will be revived, and that it will only be done when the giants of the Famous Weah XI take on the helm of authority either at the local football house or as coaches of the various national teams of Liberia.

WEAH QUEST FOR LFA PRESIDENCY:

with the hope that a member of the Famous Weah XI will still serve as that catalyst to regurgitate the magical moments the fans live to remember; in 2004 Amb. Weah attempted the LFA’s Presidency as a sign of readiness to give back to the game. But all hopes were dashed due to some stringent guidelines that prevented him.

A writer in ‘The PERSPECTIVE’ April 19, 2004 edition said “I think Weah must give himself sometime like Pele of Brazil before contesting the FA presidency. The less his engagements, the more focus he will be in accomplishing the FA’s objectives.”

“We all hail the king, but gentlemen; let’s take a look at this issue from a rational point of view. It is crystal clear that playing the game is one thing, and administration is another. Controlling human beings with various ideologies is far too different from dribbling single handily from one end of the playing pitch to another. I have followed Weah not only from his playing days, but also his relationship with fellow teammates and the administrative bodies of the various teams he interacted with. I give Weah an “A” on the playing field but I have problems with grading his relationship outside the playing field,” the writer added.

The writer finally said ” to lead the Liberian house of football, Weah must be schooled about administrations and how to deal with human beings and accept ideas of others even if they don’t sound right. He must take at least few classes in Business Administration, Psychology, Interpersonal Relationship, and Professional Development amongst others.”

There were mixed views on the issue. In the September 18, 2004 edition of ‘The PERSPECTIVE,’ another writer said: “many times I would sit alone 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?”

The Issue (Club’s Presidency)

The LFA guidelines says that in order to be qualified to contest its presidency, one must have served as President or Secretary General of one of its clubs. George Weah did not hold any of the above mentioned positions which disqualified him from contesting the presidency even though there were reports that he was elected as President of Bassa Defenders.

With all the hullabaloo surrounding the George Weah FA Presidency quest, on Friday, September 17, 2004, BBC Sports carried a story captioned: Weah Ends Bid For LFA Presidency. The story quoted 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 that he didn’t want to be seen as the one twisting the rules.

Though his pursuit was abandoned; there were still calls that members of the Weah’s era return home and play a significant role in the recovery of Liberian football. Those calls were not overlooked and therefore yielded some positivity; as Kelvin Sebwe, Joe Nagbe, VarmahKpoto, George Gebro, Musa Shannon and James Debbah moved back home with similar desire to give back and reshape the future of the Liberian game. Amongst the prominent, Kelvin was employed at the Ministry of Youth & Sports as coordinator, while Shannon contested and won as Vice President for administration of the LFA.

The contingent of those talented stars muscled their way to the helm of Liberian football.

Their transition to the helm of Liberian football was a gradual process, but thanks to firmed courage of Musa Shannon who believed in himself and felt that the time was ripe for former national team players, since Amb. Weah was rejected in 2004 to form part of the administration of football in the country.

Already the Liberian populace was disappointed in the FA’s maneuverings to deny Weah, some football enthusiasts still believe that said artwork was masterminded by Snowe in favor of his former workmate, Cllr. IzettaSombo Wesley, who was his first Vice President and later won the LFA Presidency.

From that point, I personally felt that the Weah Era had totally disintegrated though there were few of the players still plying their careers in the USA and other parts of the world. But when few elements of that era retired from the game and returned home with the hope of contributing to restyling the local game onto the national team, there were signs of evolution of the WEAH XI.

The former Deputy Minister for Sports at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Marbue Richards once said that local coaches were denied the opportunity to coach the senior National Team of Liberia based on their poor performances and lack of confidence.

Minister Richard made the statement when he appeared at one of SWAL regular HelbertGrisby Memorial Lecture Forums. His disclosure was a result of some decimal performances on the part of our local coaches whether former players or not. But I still believed that there were products of that era that still needed to be given the opportunity and that the best pairing was definitely going to produce the much anticipated results.

Few months back, the local FA dissolved the entire coaching staff of the Liberia National team following a run of poor outing in major international competitions.

The national team technical staff members included former players of the Weah Era but yet the pairing was not right.

WELCOMING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF FORMER PLAYERS FROM THE WEAH XI ERA:

A recent survey conducted on the input of former players to the growth of football in Liberia shows that elements from “THE FAMOUS WEAH XI” have made more contributions and created a stellar image for the game in Liberia.

The players have completely taken over the administration of football in Liberia. Musa Shannon as LFA VPA, James SalinsahDebbah, Head Coach and Kelvin Sebwe as deputy coach of the Senior National Team, Thomas Kojo head coach of the national U-23, Christopher Wleh, head coach of the national U-20, Joe Nabge head coach of the national U-17 and VarmahKpoto as head coach of the national U-14.

Their contributions, especially the pairing of Debbah and Kelvin is highly commendable. I want to congratulate all the players who have dedicated their time and effort in giving back to the reshaping and revolutionizing the image of the Liberian game.

Though Amb. Weah was never embraced for the LFA’s Presidency, his contributions have been overwhelming. I like to salute the leadership of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) for its farsightedness in appointing former national team players to spearhead activities of the various national teams of Liberia. This is a clear indication that when players are given the opportunity, the anticipated result will indeed come.

The collaboration is working perfectly, and it is with my deepest congratulations I like to salute them on the occasion of recording Liberia’s first away victory since 14years.

Again my challenge to you, celebrate little and prepare more; for there are greater and tougher tasks ahead, especially the task with Africa champions, the Elephants of Ivory Coast next month in a two legged engagements . To the players, you really deserve our commendation and the people of Liberia will forever remain grateful to the collection of players that set this new away record. To the hero who scored hat-trick on the day, you still need to do more especially against the Elephants.

Debbah’s appointment as head Coach has brought complete lifting to the Lone Star. Indeed we are proud of the contribution. BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO.

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