Jean-Jacques Cornish

Will the football star become the disappointing president?


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.” 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 percent 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 under development 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 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.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.