Former Nigeria coach Adegboye Onigbinde has congratulated Liberia’s President-elect, George Weah, saying the former World Footballer of the Year will make a good leader for the West African country.
Weah on Thursday defeated Vice-President Joseph Boakai to win Liberia’s presidential election runoff with 61.5% of the vote. The Monrovia-born former AC Milan superstar will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s 25th president next month, in what will be the country’s first democratic transition since 1944.
The 1995 World Player of the Year emerged victorious after winning 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
After running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2005, when he was defeated by Sirleaf, Weah got into another fruitless run for the vice-presidency on the ticket of presidential candidate Winston Tubman in 2011.
Until his contest for the presidency in 2017, Weah was a Senator for Montserrado County.
Former FIFA instructor Onigbinde told our correspondent on the telephone on Friday that apart from being an excellent footballer in his playing days, the 51-year-old has the leadership qualities off the field, which are needed to ensure that he succeeds in his new task as the president of the former American colony.
“I have known Weah since he was a footballer and I can say that he has always been excellent in all he does. He was part of the footballers I assessed while I was with both FIFA and CAF and I still have his records as a footballer,” he said.
“I was not surprised that Liberians have chosen him as their president because he is well-loved by his countrymen both home and abroad. I believe he will make a good president for the country and his time in the position will be enjoyed by his people.
“When he was a footballer, he had passion for the game and he was free of scandals. He enjoyed achieving the targets he set for himself and made sure that his team comes first rather than his personal glory.
“In 1995 when he won the three awards – the European Footballer of the Year, the African Footballer of the Year and the World Footballer of the Year – he did more for his team than he had ever done for himself as a player. When he was not scoring, he was contributing to the success of the team and I was one of those who assessed him that year.
“He has been able to keep himself motivated and after many failed attempts he is able to get to the position.”
Onigbinde however called for caution by other ex-internationals, who may be thinking of venturing into politics, saying Weah’s success was due to his lifestyle off the field.
He said, “I know his victory will motivate a lot of former footballers to think of going into politics and attempting to gain positions in their countries but I believe that the ability to be successful in politics would hinge more on their lifestyles off the field.
“Many former African footballers live a different life that is nothing to write home about after their good careers on the field. These set of people may not make good leaders when they go into politics. Former footballers have made attempts at being coaches and they failed woefully – Pele and Maradona should have been the best coaches in the world if their playing days were to be considered but it wasn’t so when they became coaches.
“So being a good footballer doesn’t guarantee that a former athlete or footballer will be successful as a politician. It takes more than a glorious career to become successful. Weah’s case is just one out of many others.
“However, there is a lesson in Weah’s victory for the politicians that they need to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship. When they attempt and lose, they should make attempts again rather than turning everything into war after their loss.”
Meanwhile, Boakai on Friday acknowledged Weah’s victory in the presidential election and appealed for unity in the country’s first democratic transfer of power in decades.
“I respect the will of the people as announced by the National Electoral Commission. I reject any temptation of imposing pain, hardship, agony and uncertainty,” Boakai was quoted by AFP as saying.
“My name will not be used as (an) excuse for one drop of human blood to be spilt in this country.”
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