[OPINION] The start of the match for George Weah in Liberia
At a push, politicians might discuss their vulnerabilities. Sporting stars never do.
So when George Weah talks about the pitfalls awaiting him as Liberia’s president, the football ace holds sway over the relatively new politician.
“I am a human being.” he says. “I strive to be excellent. I can succeed.”
No room for doubt there.
Many doubted that he could make it in the top European football leagues when he left Liberia to seek sporting fame.
And he delivered.
The jerseys he pulled over his head look like football who’s who. Monaco, Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City.
To seal the deal he’s the only African to win the coveted international footballer of the year award.
So who will question the ability of this 51-year-old who started kicking a ball in the Monrovia slum where he was born?
They said he was under qualified, so he cracked a business degree from a US university.
He failed to beat Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005 when she became Africa’s first elected woman president.
But quitting is not George Weah. He became a senator in 2014 and contested for the presidency again. Successfully.
For him and for Liberia, this is only the start of the match.
Liberian youth supported him overwhelmingly. They comprise 60% of the country’s 4.6 million population.
Disappoint them and turn a generation against politics.
From great hope comes the possibility of great disillusionment.
In a country where 14 years of civil war is a living memory and where poverty, corruption, illiteracy inequality and underdevelopment are daily grinding realities, this is a recipe for disaster.
Hardly surprising that on the eve of his inauguration Weah left the field, having played a friendly football match against an Army XI, saying his first priority is keeping the peace.
On the hustings, he promised to beat corruption, establish better schools and create jobs.
In an economy highly reliant on rubber and iron ore and dependent on foreign aid to make budgetary ends meet, he has his work cut out creating jobs.
Transparency International declares that corruption in Liberia is endemic, permeating through all sectors of society.
So a man with a mountain of political debts to repay having won the presidency has a mountain to climb.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf left a country at peace. But it is a country lagging way down the list on health, education and development.
George Weah goes into the match more than a couple of goals down on the first leg.
Let us hope that the man with a golden boot can confound his doubters and prove us wrong.
Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish