In Summary
  • Weah’s perseverance in the face of an initial unsuccessful attempt is a testament to the endurance football teaches.

  • The power of a footballer entering frontline politics cannot be overstated.
  • Africa’s youth are already shaping today and redefining tomorrow with their creativity, passion and innovation.

Almost nowhere on earth is football followed as passionately as in Africa. It is loved by Africans from all walks of life across the continent.

This week, I am giving the opening address at the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Awards in Accra, Ghana.

This has afforded me a good opportunity to reflect on Africa’s relationship with football and how it can help deliver a brighter future for our young people.

I believe we need only look to the Liberian presidential election for a fine example of the transformative power of football. Against the odds, football legend and opposition candidate, George Weah was victorious and today, is President-elect of Liberia, one of Africa’s most popular countries.

Weah’s perseverance in the face of an initial unsuccessful attempt is a testament to the endurance football teaches.

OUTSTANDING FOOTBALLER

Before he was a Presidential candidate, of course, Weah was an outstanding footballer whose career spanned great clubs like Paris Saint Germain, Marseille, Monaco and even English Premiership giants like Chelsea and Manchester City.
A striker of fearsome reputation, Weah has been described as the greatest footballer to emerge from Africa, confirmed in 1995 when he won both FIFA Footballer of the Year and the highly valued Ballon d’Or.

Over a three year period, in 1989, 1995 and 1996, he claimed the top prize of African Footballer of the year, crowning that in 1996 with the African Footballer of the Century award.

The power of a footballer entering frontline politics cannot be overstated, for two reasons.

First, it shows that politics is accessible to all, to the ambitious individual who dares envisage a way he or she can contribute to their country’s future.

Second, it makes politics interesting and relevant to young people.

CREATIVITY

If our continent is ever to reach its full potential, then it is our young people who are going to deliver it.
Africa’s youth are already shaping today and redefining tomorrow with their creativity, passion and innovation.

I believe that the greatest gift that our generation can give them is to continue to provide platforms for aspiration, recognition and inspiration.

But the idea of ‘opportunity’ or of ‘potential’ can be an abstract enough concept to adults never mind the younger generation, many of whom have been overlooked by the decisions of governments not to allow funds raised from investment to trickle down into stronger education systems, apprenticeships and advancement.
In football, the notion of opportunity is far from abstract. Football has always been a unifying factor and a great tool for promoting integration and development.

But more than that, it is a global currency, a language spoken in the United Kingdom as much as in Brazil, China and Nigeria.

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