WORLD SOCCER: Can you qualify for the World Cup finals?
MUSA SHANNON: Of course.We have completed the hardest part of the campaign already and we are still top of the group, even after losing our last match in Nigeria. We are in the driving seat, it’s really only up to us to throw it away. We can beat Ghana in Monrovia because we haven’t lost a match at home in years. This team just doesn’t lose at home.
Why has Liberia been able to beat the heavily-fancied sides like Ghana and Nigeria in your qualifying group?
It’s a combination of reasons. A lot of it has to do with George Weah. He didn’t have any major experience with coaching but he brought a level of confidence to the players. He made the players believe in a dream. We also have a lot of good players, who compete in Europe, and the core of this team has been together for a long time. The players are very close, we are like a family. I think this is the most unified side we have had in the history of Liberian soccer.
Is the Liberia team a one-man ‘George Weah’ show?
George does bring an international profile and his presence has given the side a recognition they would otherwise not have had. But in football there are 11 players on the pitch and we have other talented players too. Obviously you have to give the ‘big man’ all the credit; we wouldn’t be where we are right now without him. Weah is committed to the national side and when you see him going back to Africa to play in all the games, it gives the rest of us the motivation to do so too. If he can make the sacrifices, then so can the rest of us.
What will World Cup qualification mean to your country?
It will be one of the major achievements in the history of Liberia. After decades of war and sanctions and a lot of negatives, soccer will give the people joy they haven’t had before. It will make a big difference to people’s lives.
Has your own club career suffered because of the international commitments and has it been worth it?
My club career has suffered but qualifying for the Nations Cup already and almost for the World Cup is definitely worth it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No player at my club would have turned down a similar opportunity. I can live with myself and my decision to put my country first, although African players have a really long and difficult qualifying campaign and a lot of problems with a congested international fixture list. Ultimately you have to decide what you want to do, and I’d prefer to go to the World Cup.