The Liberia Football Association (LFA) went to elections in April, but the outcome was interrupted when one of the candidates filed an injunction to stop further proceedings, because his concerns filed at the LFA Protest and Appeals committees were ignored. The case will now be decided by the court. Mr. Mustapha Raji secured 16 votes shy of the 18 needed to have won hands down. In this interview, Raji, who was the favorite, explained his love for the game and while he believes that he deserves the support of stakeholders to reach his dream as president of the LFA. Excerpts:
Daily Observer: Mr. Raji we know you had hoped that the elections on April 14 could have settled the leadership of the LFA. Now there is still a good chance for you to earn the title when the run-off is finally decided by the court. But my question is: why do you think that you deserve to be elected president of the LFA?
Mustapha Raji: Thanks for the question. I have followed or I have been involved in Liberian football since I was twenty-five years old. I have owned clubs as far as I can remember and have sponsored young players. As president of two clubs in the league (LISCR FC and Gardnersville FC), I understand what it takes to build a team and players. I think with that experience, I can ascend to the leadership of the LFA and make a greater impact on our country.
DO: Running a football club or two football clubs as your experience indicates is quite different from running a national federation, have you thought about the challenges that are associated with a national association? For example, you will need qualified individuals to staff the Secretariat of the LFA and you will not need to micromanage the LFA, that is to say, you will not have to control every part or dictate what everyone at the LFA should do.
MR: I am glad you brought this question out. Remember that at a club president I have a system set up that those who I have employed work according to their job specification. There are none of my workers at both LISCR FC and Gardnersville FC that will give you any hint that I exhibit any undue control over them. My coaches will tell you how I give them the chance to do their work. I am running for the LFA leadership because I believe any technician employed there deserves the administration’s support.
DO: Mr. Raji if you become successful and elected president of the LFA, what will be your immediate focus?
MR: I am glad that you are identifying issues that are yet to become realities. With the present status of Liberian football, including the league and Liberia’s poor position on the continental and international scenes, I will have to meet with stakeholders, including the Executive Committee of the LFA to do some real thinking. We want Liberian youths to participate in the tournaments organized by CAF. Yes, we want our girls to be at the Female Championships on both CAF and FIFA levels and therefore we need to support it. Yes, we will have to expose our coaches to increase their technical knowledge. Yes, we’ll have to support our referees in their assignments at both and away. Yes, we’ll have to seek additional financial support from the business community. Yes, we’ll have to work out other arrangements…so you can see that we will have a whole lot on our hands to do. They will include community football, U17 football across the country, beach football and many other initiatives that we will work on both for the short and long-term. I am asking the electorates to give me the opportunity to lead and support what I have followed and spent my resources for nineteen years. This is the climax of my involvement in soccer administration and I need their support to make my dream real.
DO: If you are elected president of the LFA when the court finally decide for the elections to continue will that signify that you are better than your opponents? Could you bring any of the candidates closer for Liberia’s sake?
MR: These are wonderful questions and my take is I have asked the stakeholders to vote me to power. We need to work together to achieve what we want for Liberia, and I hope that has answered your question. I have known Mr. Musa Shannon and Mr. George Solo for many years. These are wonderful people and I am glad for their passion to change the future of Liberian soccer for the better. If I am successful as president of the LFA, I will bring them to my kitchen cabinet. They are great people and I appreciate them.
DO: Now our final question: what promise or promises will you make to the Liberian people that could be your gift to them in your first term in office if you are elected president of the LFA?
MR: If I don’t be careful with the questions you ask, I will overdo myself. And in fact, I appreciate your questions and that’s why I am always comfortable with the media since we are in it together. It is obvious that every FA’s goal is to be at the next Nations’ Cup and the next World Cup. We have a president who has an unbeatable and enviable career in football. I think he deserves either of the tournaments you mentioned. If I am elected president of the LFA, it will be our goal, all of us. In fact, thank you for bringing it up, I will engage President George Weah to take the game to the people. Together, including the media, the players, the coaches, every one of us will discuss and work toward the targets you mentioned. All I am asking for is for the stakeholders to give me the mandate as the electorates gave President Weah the mandate.