What you need to know:
- Liberia has never had a bigger star than George Weah, who was elected President with a landslide on Thursday.
- A country’s feel-good factor is largely buoyed by sports.
- There is a widespread assumption that sports stars lack smarts, and have to be continually managed.
Gone are the days when a footballer — a retired footballer — would be laughed off the stage if he sought the highest public office available.
Television has changed all that. It has turned modern sportsmen into some of the most famous and admired personalities on the planet — if not the richest. The celebrity and riches of Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo are typical of the top ranks of world sport.
Liberia has never had a bigger star than George Weah, who was elected President with a landslide on Thursday. During his playing days, he was voted World Football Player of the Year once, and three times as Africa’s best. No other player in Africa has achieved that.
A football enthusiast who has watched videos of Weah playing tells me his footballing skills were simply out of this world. Still, not once did he mention his leadership skills.
Sport is one of the biggest builders of national self-confidence. A country’s feel-good factor is largely buoyed by sports. Think of New Zealand and rugby. Or Canada and ice hockey. Or Qatar and camel racing.
Champions naturally become national superstars, like Weah. Each country has its sports hero. You can bet he or she wouldn’t break a sweat getting voted into something.
But wait a minute. There is a widespread assumption that sports stars lack smarts, and have to be continually managed. That is not always the case.
They are just normal people gifted with a particular physical skill. If, like most of us, they can’t understand neuroscience, that is fine. Yet they can do quite well outside sports.
Weah has shown an aptitude for politics which, for many years, he has worked hard to fine tune. Sportsmen multiply their social capital through community and charity work, which Weah does. It has given him the common touch.
Talking of suitability, what qualifications does the creature Americans put in the White House last year have? They had done better with the likes of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a wrestler who was elected governor of Minnesota State in 1999.
In fact, off-beat careers are no barrier to high office these days. Ronald Reagan was an actor who became one of the most popular American presidents. A popular governor of California, Arnold Schwazenegger, started off as a body builder. Pope Francis was once a nightclub bouncer. And, if you do some minor research, you will be surprised at the number of vernacular radio presenters who have ventured into local politics.
Weah would have won the Liberian presidency years ago if he was not severely impeded by a vicious campaign by opponents that he was illiterate. (His opponent was the Harvard-trained Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf). That attack stung, and he went back to school and got a degree. He then polished up as a politician with a stint in the Liberian senate.
Football is ranked as the world’s most popular sport. As well it should, given the hysteria it generates. My own footballing experience was short and disastrous. I was once included in my Form Three team and, as the game progressed, I was picked to take a penalty kick against the other team. I have never understood why, when I kicked the ball, it went up in the air rather than go at goal. My angry and cursing classmates threw me out of the field and told me to get lost. That was the beginning and the end of my football activity.
I don’t think Kalonzo Musyoka means it when he talks on the matter of the swearing-in oath. Wiper is simply doing the Nasa thing of preaching in public what they deny in private.
How come no Wiper MP is echoing that babble of a swearing-in? Kalonzo knows his Ukambani ground well, and the sentiments there. However, he is also very alive to the danger of exposing Nasa rifts to Jubilee. Just don’t expect him at any swearing-in.
Warigi is a socio-political commentator [email protected]