An opinion piece by Omari Jackson
There have been recent calls by a member of the Executive Committee of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) for its president Musa Hassan Bility to withdraw from politics because, according to Mr. Wallace Wieh, it is incompatible with the spirit of the game.
Though Mr. Wieh did not quote any statutes of FIFA, CAF or WAFU to support his appeal, he worried that there could be some problems if Mr. Bility, presently campaign manager for the Liberty Party, continues to meddle in politics.
While on the surface, Mr. Wieh’s fears demand some attention, the fact that his fears are not based on statutes of FIFA, CAF or WAFU weakens his position.
What does FIFA, CAF or WAFU’s statutes say about sports and politics? FIFA, the world soccer controlling body speaks against political interference.
This is what FIFA statute says: ‘FIFA has the mandate to control association football worldwide, in all its aspects. This mandate is delegated to the national association, to control association football at the national level. This is about managing, controlling and developing football as a game and also the organization of the game in general. The associations have the obligation to do it on their own, in an autonomous way without outside interference from the government or any other parties. In general, political interference is when a government tries to take direct control.’
And Mr. Weih should be helped to understand that FIFA is not saying that sports administrators cannot join and be active in politics. I must confess that Liberian soccer gained attention and George Weah and his friends succeeded because President Samuel Kanyon Doe was personally involved in the development of the game.
Though a politician, President Doe ensured that his government provided funds for the national team, Lone Star’s trip to Brazil, along with funds for the team’s World Cup and Afcon tournaments as far back as 1980. In fact he was the chairman of the Liberia Football Association, but did not exert any personal influence on the LFA’s decisions.
It was the period that Liberia defeated soccer powerhouses like Egypt, Malawi and Ghana. Liberia’s name was mentioned in every report that came from CAF and FIFA because of what was seen as phenomenal progress. Our players, led by George Weah and James Salinsa Debbah, defeated the Black Stars of Ghana in an incredible 2-1 victory at home at the time, after George Alhassan’s penalty was dramatically saved by goalkeeper Pewou Bestman in the first leg in Accra.
Even the mighty Egypt fell in Monrovia and several Egyptians wept on the field which reminded soccer fans when Jesus wept upon hearing the death of his friend Lazarus.
While it is important to watch political interference, in Liberia we need the politicians not to interfere but to assist us get the finances that we need, otherwise we are done. You may have heard that the national track and field team is presently in Guinea for West African Athletics Championships, and please note that the team went to Guinea by road.
If we were to have any of our politicians involved in the team, the athletes would have traveled by air, do you agree? So I say let’s encourage Musa to go deeper into politics so that when he is successful and all is said and done, he may use his influence to get the necessary financial allocation to develop our national teams. I am not sure any of us are happy when Liberia is absent from U20, U17 and female tournaments because the government is not interested in spending money on them.
We must agree to do things differently, with the hope that the way we do it results in the progress that we are lacking in the sub-region.