Mustapha Raji FOR Liberian football
Mustapha Raji has four years to implement his vision for Liberian football

New Liberia Football Association (LFA) president Mustapha Raji believes the best way to improve the national teams is to start in schools around the country.

The 44-year-old, who owns local top-flight club LISCR FC, was elected unopposed on 8 September.

The polls were the culmination of an often acrimonious campaign that saw court injunctions, the involvement of a Fifa mediation team and a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The only other candidate for the post was former LFA vice-president and Liberia international Musa Shannon, who withdrew before the polls took place.

Raji’s predecessor Musa Bility, who served two terms as president from 2010, chose not to stand for a third stint preferring to give others a chance to lead the LFA.

Youth development

The new president is looking to the youth to boost the country’s football despite Liberia not having competed in Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers since 2011,

“We are looking forward to including others from the rural parts of Liberia, beginning at the school levels,” Raji said.

“And how we can engage and involve the initiative in developing other activities with the inter-schools competitions to scout potential youths at all levels for future national teams.

“We will also be looking at the inter-schools competitions that have been dormant for years. We are looking at how we can re-strengthen our national teams.

Weah’s support is pivotal

Raji is hopeful that having former World Football of the Year George Weah as the country’s president will make his plans more achievable.

During the retirement of his iconic number 14 jersey in Monrovia on 11 September Weah said it is time for Liberia and or Africa to produce his replacement.

Weah, who played for a number of European clubs, then pledged government’s fullest support to develop football with the new LFA leadership.

Liberia have now retired the iconic number 14 shirt
Liberia have now retired the iconic number 14 shirt that George Weah wore for the national team

“I am happy that he is president during my tenure and I believe that it will give us the necessary support that we need to rebuild Liberian football and take it forward,” Raji added.

Looking to the future

He now wants to build his own legacy after campaigning on a mantra of change.

“We will also be looking at how we can develop more infrastructures for Liberia,” he added.

“We want to have our own location that we can call the LFA office [as the LFA has been leasing a private property for the last eight years].

“So we are going to introduce far reaching plans and programs to put Liberia at a different level.”

Financial problems

He is also looking at the financial issues currently facing the association.

The LFA has been in financial administration since a December 2017 general review of its finances by an audit company which led to the association being sanctioned by Fifa’s audit and compliance committee (ACC).

“An internal audit is currently ongoing but we have debts that came from the banks in the tune of over US$100,000,” he revealed.

“We came to work. So we will talk to partners, like banks and clubs, that we owed. We will restructure and see where we can service those debts with the support of Fifa and other partners.

“We will reduce the exchange of cash by hands and be more transparent where we can pay via transfers between banks or checks where possible from the LFA accounts based on the proper documents.

“It is difficult to come in as a new person and meet all of these measures because of what happened in the past.

“So we need to work and rebuild the trust of Caf, Fifa and Wafu can have assurance in the new LFA.”

Once the ongoing audit has been completed there will be another by Liberia’s General Auditing Commission which will then be submitted to Fifa.

Raji has also taken immediate action over the financial issues with the suspension of several LFA members while investigations into embezzlement are completed.

Original article published at BBC By Danesius Marteh Monrovia. Liberia

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