Incoming Liberian president George Weah on Saturday sought to dispel accusations he is ill-prepared to take the reins of his fragile West African country, and said his priority would be maintaining peace.
Former international footballer Weah played a friendly match against the Liberian Armed Forces side, fronting his All Stars team of former national players and friends, two days before his inauguration.
Ahead of the game which his team won 2-1, aided by an early goal from the former AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain striker, Weah told journalists that criticism of his political career was misplaced.
“You want to look at me as a former footballer but I am a human being, I strive to be excellent, and I can be successful,” said the senator for Montserrado, a county which includes the nation’s capital, Monrovia.
He said he had faced similar disbelief from his countrymen when he left Liberia in the late 1980s, but went on to play for a string of topflight European teams before being crowned the world’s best player by FIFA in 1996.
“I told them that when I work hard I believe what I believe in and I showed I could persevere,” he said, sporting a red jersey and captain’s armband.
Critics including outgoing Vice President Joseph Boakai, who lost a presidential election last year to Weah, have zoomed in on the fact that he dropped out of high school to concentrate on football, and they say just over three years serving as a senator is not enough to learn how to govern.
Expectations are sky-high he will raise living standards in a nation that ranks near the bottom of international development rankings.