Sunday, March 24 in Kinshasa, DR Congo will be the final test for the national soccer team under Coach Thomas Kojo to overcome DR Congo in their away encounter as the leader of Group G in the qualifying series of the African Cup of Nations to be held in Egypt, next year.
Liberia will be making her third appearance in the African bonanza. Liberia was in South Africa in 1996 and Mali in 2002. Daily Observer Sports Desk met with the national soccer coach, Thomas Kojo, and asked him how we should expect his final game with DR Congo.
“The match is crucial and like the fans out there they expect nothing other than victory. However, what they should know is that Liberia and Zimbabwe will be fighting to lead GROUP G. Interestingly; we have made some improvement in playing away with good results.
“When I took over the team to play Mauritania we lost the first leg at home and won the second leg in Mauritania. That was a significant moment for me as a coach. So we did it before so it can be done with the right approach.”
He said it was a historic moment for Liberia because what was an impossible thing to do was accomplished. After the George Weah generation and because there was never a grooming program for players to grow to become adult players, it was difficult for any group of Lone Star players to continue to win in away games.
Gradually, he said Anthony Laffor and William Jebor are leaders on the Lone Star and they are two significant players that every Liberian who follows the Lone Star knows they would always be on the team. “We had the same thing during the time we were playing where every Liberian then knew that whatever selection for the Lone Star would include George Weah and James Salinsa Debbah,” he said.
“Remember that we are building the national team and so things will be moving rather slowly and, of course, you know that the players have been doing their best and so the next one year will also see greater improvement in the quality of their play.” He said now that Laffor and Jebor have become household names in Liberia, it is good for the country even if, for one reason or another, they are excluded in a match. “Now the national team sits second behind Zimbabwe on the table and we must give God the glory and then to the LFA President Mustapha Raji and Youth & Sports Minister Zeogar Wilson for their support.”
He said this development in the national team is more profound because what used to happen in the old national team is not happening in the current members of the national team.
“You remember that indiscipline was rife in the past national team and we are glad we don’t have that in the current national team of players. Players don’t leave when we are camping for a game and friends don’t camp in the players’ room and this is healthy for the players’ concentration,” Kojo said.
He appealed to Liberian fans that they should begin to change their negative attitude towards the Lone Star players. “Whatever that happens in a game, please don’t insult the players. Don’t put the players down. Your duty is to encourage them, no matter what. Show them that you love them and they would be glad to play for their national team.
“The players now know how much it is to play for their country. You see that national anthems are played for politicians and for the players when our national team meets another country’s national team. The value of the players in such an encounter should mean much to the players. I have seen some players in tears when their national anthem is played and they are representing their country.”
He said it is his wish that Liberians will come to know the players who are selected to play for the national team intimately. “Once you get to know them you will realize that your negative attitude towards them will change,” Kojo said.
“Let me say this: the great Abedi Pele of Ghana, who played great games for Ghana, could not lead Ghana to the World Cup, but it is his children who have taken Ghana to the World Cup.
“So this generation of footballers could take Liberia to the World Cup and other places and so all we need to do for them is to support them morally and financially. We must begin to look at our national team players with a positive attitude, as I said before, and we would see great things by this new generation of players,” Kojo said.