MONROVIA: The re-election bid of President George Manneh Weah got an unexpected convert over the weekend, when Liberia’s most celebrated soccer star, James Salinsa Debbah surprisingly endorsed him ahead of other contenders, which was a radical departure from his previous stand against Mr. Weah’s political ambition, asserting that his decision was done because “everyone has their side”
Mr. Debbah who is also a first cousin to President Weah was said to have made up his mind to support the President after series of reconciliatory meetings believed to have been brokered by some close friends, mainly ex-footballers and other family members and made the decision public by changing the cover photo of his facebook page with the photo of the Presidential ticket of the Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) containing Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor with the number 18 imposed on the photo. The number signifies the position of the ticket that will be on the election ballot.
Debbah, who formerly served as a Coach of the national soccer team, the Lone Star, made the decision more public when he addressed an audience at the famous Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinion (CEIO) yesterday, Tuesday, August 15, 2023 where he told them that “this election is paramount to the future of the country, everyone must take a side, no more standing on the fence”.
He said besides President Weah being the best person at this time, his party, the Liberty Party that he has for long affiliated with is factionalized and there was no way he could offend any of the leaders of the two sides “because I am close to them”.
“I cannot oppose Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, because he was the one who gave me my first break by appointing me as the national team coach and sent me to England for advanced coaching. I cannot equally go against Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence because we have a history of being friends.
“This election is very important to all of us and there is no need for me to sit on the fence without taking a side just like others have taken their own side”, Debbah said amid cheers from the audience.
He said both he and Weah had originally supported the presidential ambition of the late Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine when he decided to contest the presidency in 2004 “but my cousin decided to go the other way after some people prevailed on him to contest for the presidency in 2005”.
He said despite the political differences they had at the time, both of them maintained a cordial family and personal relationship and respected each other.
The outspoken highly rated ex-international footballer who equally played on the local scene before going to Cameroon on a short stint to play semi-professional football before going to Europe said for some 18 years, he has been in the opposition and his membership with the Liberty Party was intact until the intra-party crisis erupted and made him to have a break.
He said with the decision he has taken to support Weah, “I am ending my 18 year being in opposition and look forward to work towards the re-election of President George Manneh Weah on October 10, 2023.