Our Chief Football Writer Fisayo Dairo was in Monrovia, Liberia last weekend for Rivers United’s second leg CAF Champions League game against Watanga FC. He shares a little bit of his experience in Samuel Doe and George Weah’s land.
One of the envious advantages of being an international football journalist is the underrated opportunity to visit other countries to see people of diverse cultures and different ways of life, learning valuable lessons along the line.
Cue-in the words of my favourite folklore musician Beautiful Nubia in his legendary song “Seven Life’s”:
“On my journey through the world, over land and over seas, I see different cultures and different people’s way…..”
I was quite excited to add one of Africa’s earliest countries to attain Independence, Liberia to the list of countries I have visited and genuinely curious to see what it looks like; from the aesthetics to the architectural structure and the people.
This trip could be easily described as a three-day working visit (salute to Nigerian leaders) but for me, every chance to experience some of the countries I was taught their capital cities as far back as the early 90s – the stuff of dreams.
It is important I stave off the urge to be negative in this piece and stay as objectively as I can. To start with, I fell in love with one part of the Liberian people – their simplicity.
After a disjointed flight from Lagos to Monrovia which reminds one of the messy nature of Air travel in West Africa – nay the continent as a whole – the first impression I got in Monrovia was a fascinating one.
Waiting for us at the Arrival Lounge of the Roberts International Airport was the Liberian Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports Andy Quamie and a few staff of the Nigerian High Commission to Liberia.
Mr Quamie was dressed in a simple Polo top and blue Jean trousers with a modest sneakers to boot. When he was introduced to us as the Deputy Minister, we were shocked as there was no razzmatazz that follows people of such caliber in Nigeria.
Apparently, that is the order of the day in Liberia. We were even told that the President, former footballer George Weah do drive around town without escort and any hassles. Such is their lifestyle as their simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication.
Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Liberia, Ambassador Godfrey Odudigbo is a nice, gentleman. Not only did he do everything to facilitate our contingent’s utmost convenience in Liberia but twice did he host and treat the delegation to sumptuous dinners. It’s not every time you see the Nigerian Embassy hosting a Nigerian club to such receptions which makes this a very commendable gesture.
I also experienced a simple act of kindness at the Stadium on Sunday when a journalist Anthony Kokoi provided us with internet facility which we used for everything coverage of the game. I was referred to him by a colleague and he obliged us everything we required despite having never met us before.
Seven hours to kick-off in Monrovia. It's Watanga FC vs Rivers United.— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) September 18, 2022
I took a tour round the RLJ Kendeja Resort, Monrovia where Team Rivers are lodged, a very beautiful place.
Here's my account of it. #TotalEnergiesCAFCL pic.twitter.com/HgBasDIIpT
Lest I forget, another nice thing I saw in Liberia was our accomodation; the RLJ Kendeja Resort. The Commissioner for Sports in Rivers State, Honourable Christopher Green is quite an experienced traveller around the globe and brought his experience to bear on the choice of this Resort described as one of the best in the country.
RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villa is situated at the bank of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a bungalow styled resort placed in a boulevard off the heart of the capital city. It was the perfect place to stay for such a short visit.
Without mincing words, Monrovia was a disappointing place to visit, for a nation’s capital. Looking out of the window as the ASKY Flight W342 from Lome began its descent into the RIA, I got an inkling as to what to expect. All I saw were unpleasant roads and buildings less attractive to the eyes.
Our 90 minutes trip from the Airport to the heart of the city where the Nigerian Embassy is situated did more to further exacerbate the image gathering pace in my mind than to assuage it. What was said to be the effect of the lengthy civil war had its imprint all over the airport and the road leading to it.
It was a tortuous drive along the straight bad road with unfancied structures lining side by side. “Paints must be very expensive in this country,” Nigerian league legend Victor Ezeji quipped in a subliminal reference to the quality of buildings we are seeing.
On getting to the Stadium for Sunday’s match, I saw a fitting summary of the structures I’d seen. The Stadium was recently refurbished by the George Weah but the name inscribed on the outer surface of the mainbowl’s terrace had already lost about seven pieces. The inscription Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex had the entire Complex already detached and O in Kanyon left the group.
Liberia surely will not rank highly in the list of countries I have now visited although the warmth and simplicity exhibited by its people will forever remain with me.