By Omari Jackson
ATLANTA: July 25: As he prepares to join the current Liberia Football Association administration, the newly appointed director of business and development project, Mr. Paye Kulah of Atlanta, Ga, is full of expectation, and ready to accept the challenge that he described as, ďa dream job,Ē worth sacrificing the comfort of the United States, for.
In a lengthy interview Sunday, a week before he leaves for Liberia, Mr. Kulah felt himself fortunate to become part of the current administration, but first he expressed gratitude to individuals whose contribution directed his focus, to become a man who has developed a sense of responsibility, towards his country.
He said, ďI want to thank God first of all, and also to express appreciation towards my parents, (Bishop and Mrs. Arthur Kulah and Dr. and Mrs. Franklin Horton) for their tireless support, and to the president of the LFA, Mr. Musa Bility, for allowing me the opportunity to serve my country.Ē
Mr. Paye Kulah, president of www.nlevelsports.com could not hide his enthusiasm for his new assignment, and so when he was asked to throw some light on it, he remained silent for a moment to gather his thoughts.
Paye Kulah: My job at the Liberia Football Association will involve developing projects for the association and I can tell you how much Iím prepared to give my best for the country. The current administration is up and running and I am, too.
Omari Jackson: You are going to develop projects for the LFA?
PK: Yes, my job is in two fold. It is project development and marketing strategies. I am to attract the business community to the development of the game in Liberia to make sure that our teams are financially capable in their overall development.
OJ: This seems to go along with the commercialization of the game, isnít it?
PK: Exactly. The concept of commercialization may seem alien to many of our people. However, it is what makes teams in Europe and elsewhere successful and are capable to represent them in higher competitions.
OJ: Did you say your job is two-fold?
PK: Yes and the second fold is project marketing, which is basically to manage projects at the Liberia Football Association, with my team under my supervision. I have already begun to make contacts with officials on the ground (in Liberia), and Iím gearing up for the job proper.
OJ: Have you been in Liberia in recent time?
PK: Well, I visited during the administration of Ms. Wesley, and was not impressed of the level of degradation that the game had sunk in. I realized while there that things were not conducive, and that hurt me a lot. The game at the time had lost the excitement, and I believe it was due to a number of factors. Now with the advent of the new administration, Iím glad that things are taking shape for the better.
OJ: Mr. Kulah, letís direct our attention to your involvement in the game. Did you play the game and if yes, how much?
PK: I played the game when I was in school (Harrison Doss High School, Ky, USA) and also in college, (Union College, Ky, USA) and also at the University of Louisville, (in Louisville, Ky in the USA), though I did not play to the professional level or did not travel to Europe to play, I was an excellent player in the various divisions I mentioned.
OJ: That is interesting, and does your involvement in the game at those levels give you a sense of, say, knowing what must be done to develop a project and at the same time manage it, for Liberia?
PK: I am going to Liberia with an open mind. I know there are Liberians at the LFA who had have years of practical experience in management and doing other stuff for the game, I am going to work along with them. I have been fortunate to gain theoretical and practical knowledge at the University of Kentucky, but I recognize the exceptional role and experience of those who may not have had such a beginning.
OJ: Ok your position sounds interesting. How long should we expect to see some results?
PK: I recognize that our people may be expecting too much and maybe for too short a time. However, I must stress that time is needed to get our soccer back on track. To be frank with you, Iím result oriented. My duty is to get sponsorship for the league, and make sure that we form partnership with the business community. We will endeavor to create an attractive atmosphere so that things will be different than in the past.
OJ: Do you support the position that soccer teams from government agencies become part of the league, rather than sponsoring the league?
PK: Yes, I support the idea that such teams should play in the league. Please note that sponsorship is two-fold. It is true that a company with a team in the league will expect some positive returns. So this time, we will help them to gain the maximum exposure that will encourage growth in their business. Our relationship with companies that participate in our league will be on a win-win basis. It will be give and take.
OJ: Are you prepared for that challenge?
PK: Absolutely. Iím for that since there is a way to go about it because this is where my job comes in. In modern sports, it is common to see companies sponsoring teams and therefore our duty is to encourage them to work within the framework of the league. My role is make sure that possible avenues are explored to give them opportunities for growth, as well as the capacity to enjoy what they are doing.
OJ: Iím sure you realize that player-discipline is one of the major drawbacks. I can give you series of experiences but I think you are aware of a time when national team players chose to go to a wedding feast, before a soccer match and lost an important game?
PK: Much has happened in the past and now that we all have that experience, we would work to make sure that player commitment is more important than their personal interest. President Musa Bility, I remember, stressed on player commitment which is consistent with commitment from the administration. Things will be done with a sense of responsibility for whatever we do. In my own life I have developed a sense of mentoring players, encouraging them to put country, and or their goals first.
OJ: Ok it seems to me that you have your work cut out for you. Now, are you returning to Liberia with your family?
PK: No, Iím still single. I have remained single due to school and other engagements. Now that I am returning home with a sense of national purpose, I find myself confronted with a huge task, which is the revival of Liberian soccer. I am glad I am part of this exercise. Mind you I have an extended family in Liberia that is grateful that I am returning to live with them.
OJ: What is your prediction for Liberian soccer?
PK: It is not surprising to say that Liberian football is at the end of the ladder. And it is easy to point fingers at the major cause, the civil war, which brought with it the lack of vision, which resulted into the lack of interest from the government as well as the inability of past administration to direct its focus, to what was needed. Those were factors, nonetheless things have changed and I have hope in the current administration.
OJ: Now to conclude this interview, Mr. Paye, was it hard for you to accept the position to return to Liberia to help the administration?
Paye Kulah: Let me make it clear to you that when the position became available, the thinking process to accept it was short for me. I considered it a dream job. I had no reservation. The idea was making sure that things were in place to make my acceptance a success. When that was done, it was a no brainer. Furthermore, Iíve had experience working with sporting organizations in the United States and limited experience with developing countries and Liberia in particular. Therefore Iím coming in with ideas and willing to work with my brothers who are at home at the LFA. We can blend our ideas together, test, and customize them and with an approach that would work for us in Liberia.
OJ: Mr. Director, thanks for the opportunity to share your expectation with the public.
PK: Itís my pleasure and my doors are always open for the media at home and abroad.