The Daily Observer is granting interviews to the three qualified presidential candidates for the Liberia Football Association presidential elections that is expected to be held on April 14 in Monrovia; namely George Solo, Mustapha Raji and Musa Shannon. In this first interview, candidate George Solo explains to journalist Omari Jackson, why he believes he is the best candidate for the job. Excerpts:
Omari Jackson: Sir, we are happy you have been qualified to run for the April 14 LFA Presidential Elections, what should anyone believe that you are the most qualified for the job?
George Solo: I believe I am the most qualified because I have a great passion for the sport. In my travels abroad including places that I played the game such as Tunisia, Mexico, and the United States, I experienced firsthand how soccer is organized and supported. I want the best for Liberian football and it means if I am elected I am going to spend much time and efforts to bring changes that are needed to the game.
Jackson: You have been involved in Liberian football and you may have seen the need to bring some changes, what are they?
Solo: As a player, I went through the ranks and the struggle to get ahead. I went to Tunisia and played there. I went also to Mexico in Latin America and played there. I competed and met challenges as a footballer and so I know what it takes to make a player, a team and administration successful.
Jackson: Liberian youths are not seen during CAF and FIFA Championships and World Cup competitions. What would you do differently if you are elected?
Solo: This is sad because there should be any reason why they were not other than not qualifying. If elected, my priority to make our youths' participation in CAF and FIFA Championships important. I am convinced that when the young people are allowed the opportunity to compete with their counterparts from elsewhere, they would grow as champions. It would be my goal to see Liberians youths in higher competitions.
Jackson: What is your vision for Liberian football?
Solo: My vision is to decentralize the game in all the fifteen counties. Liberia has had the distinguished leadership of being the only African country to have produced the best with reference to President George Manneh Weah. I intend to build on his legacy to seek the young people with such talents to showcase them to the world. I know it will take a huge investment to realize it and I will marshal support to get that objective done.
Jackson: What would you do differently from the last Administration?
Solo: The last LFA Administration could not even send our female soccer teams to compete in CAF and World Cup Games and I will make a difference by building an active female league and connect it with cultural, and social to the female game.
Jackson: How much have you contributed to Liberian football, either as a player or administrator?
Solo: As a player, I gave my youth and played in Tunisia and Mexico. I have served as a supporter of the game, technical adviser to the national team and vice president to Nimba FC since 2014.
Jackson: What are you bringing to the table?
Solo: I am bringing a new vision and enthusiasm to the Liberia Football Association. It is an enthusiasm that covers every aspect of the development of the game.
Jackson: If you are elected as LFA President on April 14, would that mean that other candidates were not good enough?
Solo: Not at all. My other two contestants are men who have done great for Liberian football. It is just that I am convinced that with my travels abroad and seeing positive changes in the development of the game, I am hurt when I compared it to that of my country only to realize that my country is nowhere near those who are making remarkable achievements and that is why I am choosing to lead.
Jackson: If elected president of the LFA, would there be any chance to bring the other two presidential candidates into your fold to work together?
Solo: Absolutely yes. I will welcome them to my administration to form a group of advisers for the development of the game. I know they are great people and so I will work with them.
Jackson: Youth football has been absent whenever CAF and FIFA games are hosted elsewhere in the last eight years, what would you do to change that?
Solo: As I mentioned earlier, there is no way our football program will be successful without empowering the young people. I think the answer lies in the fact there were no proper records to indicate the ages of young players needed for the competitions. I will set up a committee to understand why our youths were not there and get them ready to play.
Jackson: How much support would you give female football?
Solo: A great deal of support. And again I am reminded of the absence of Liberian female players whenever CAF and FIFA's games are held. If elected president of the LFA I will ensure that they are not left out. We'll provide them all necessities for their improvement.
Jackson: Seeking support from the business community is a welcome development like the arrangement with ORANGE LIBERIA. Would you continue the engagement?
Solo: Evidently, the involvement of the business community is essential and my administration will encourage that and even go beyond to get additional business organizations to join us. I will raise 50 % of our operational cost internationally with our contacts. We will increase marketing to reflect improvement in sponsorship.
Jackson: How will coaches factor in your administration if you are elected as LFA President?
Solo: They are critical to grassroots football development agenda. So, I will continue the system of providing CAF coaching seminars to upgrade their standards as CAF and FIFA require from all federations.
Jackson: Will referees and sportswriters play any meaningful role in your administration?
Solo: Without referees, there will be no game and I know that a good referee demonstrates his integrity to the game. We will work with the Referees Committee to seek opportunities for them. I will emphasize on capacity building for all technical and administrative functions to the global level. External institutions will be incorporated. For example, the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) will always have representation at CAF, FIFA and other bodies for adequate information gathering and dissemination to the Liberian football population.
Jackson: What would you promise to achieve for Liberia if you are elected?
Solo: Though I don't like to make promises for this one I can make an exception to it. At the end of a soccer season, there are clubs that represent the country in CAF competitions and there is the regular African Cup of Nations. There is also WAFU and other competitions for the home-based players. For a start we can promise to take Liberia to the next African Cup of Nations and our success from that adventure can prepare us to campaign to be at the next World Cup.
Jackson: President George Manneh Weah has done much for football. What are you going to do, using his leverage, as a legend of football in the world to your advantage?
Solo: There is nothing more that would make President Weah glad than to see the national team that he played for go places. We will work with his vision that he mentioned as part of his pro-poor development agenda to make the national team, Lone Star, great. We cannot overlook his support and we will count on him.
Editor's note: Next interview will be with Mustapha Raji.