Something strange is happening in Liberian grassroots football and it shows a positive sign for the future. In the past, only a few parents would encourage their kids to play football and other sports, with more emphasis on education.
In spite of that, passionate kids would still make their way to play football, with many putting less time in their education. Some succeeded in their quest to become professional footballers and later realized the value of education. If less interest is shown in education as footballers, then it sets a bad precedent for the game as footballers were labeled in the past as uneducated people.
President George Weah is no exception after he was criticized in 2005 for his lack of education that made him to later enroll in a Master’s program at DeVry University in Miami and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
However, things have changed and there is a new dynamism, especially at the grassroots level. Kids are now being encouraged by parents to play football, with emphasis also on quality education.
In 2015, following the establishment of the Monrovia Football Academy, not many showed interest to enroll their kids at the academy. MFA is the first school in Liberia to combine high-quality education with professional football development. The academy later commenced with 27 student-athletes. The interest subsequently grew and the number of student-athletes at the academy has increased.
Over the weekend at the Blue Field in the PHP Community, it was a scene like no other as hundreds of kids between the ages of 5-16 trooped to participate in the recruitment exercise of the academy, although the academy’s target is from age 7-12 (Grade 3-6). Interestingly, some parents even took their kids who are below the targeted age range and class for the recruitment, with those kids left in tears after they were told that they did not reach the targeted age and class.
According to the statistics from the academy, 408 student-athletes who went through tryouts on the pitch and academic evaluation through exams were registered after more than 500 turned out.
During the recruitment exercises, the burning desire to play football combined with education could be seen in the faces of the kids. Unfortunately, not all of the 408 student-athletes registered will be enrolled at the academy after the interview process.
From all indications, this shows that there is a new wave in Liberian grassroots football; this wave is the burning desire for parents to see their kids become professional and educated footballers.