MONROVIA, Montserrado – The goalkeeper for Liberia’s first division club Watanga FC, Jackson Wleh, has announced he will retire from football at the end of the 2015-2016 Liberian Football Association league season. He made the statements in an exclusive interview at his residence.
The 33-year-old has been at the pinnacle of the game for 17 years and has proven his class throughout his career. However, he has struggled with injuries in the past 18 months and has confirmed that this season will be his swan song.
“Over the years when I’ve seen players retire, when you ask them, they said ‘you’ll know when you’re ready.’ I think I know when I’m ready,” Wleh said. “It’s difficult because I still think I can play at the top level. I’m fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career, and now I feel it’s time for me to sit back and allow the younger ones to showcase what they have.”
Wleh started his soccer career back in 1998 with the then-third division team Salvo Professionals. His good work in the goal helped Salvo to clinch the championship before losing in the semi-final of the national third division playoffs.
When Salvo was unable to participate in the 1999 league, Jackson moved on to another third division club, Atlantic Star. With Atlantic Star, Wleh played just a single season, and his excellent goalkeeping attracted the attention of some top clubs within the country, but he decided to move to Watanga Football Club, which was then a second division club.
His first season with Watanga became fruitful as Watanga got promoted to the first division at the end of the 2001-2002 league season. Unfortunately, the civil war caused Wleh to move to Nigeria.
Back from exile in 2004, Wleh resumed duty with Watanga in the first division league. After a year playing first division football, Wleh helped Watanga gain promotion to Liberia’s premier league in 2005. He was also voted the best goalkeeper that year.
His talent then caught the attention of Coach Jericho Nagbe, who was the head coach of Liberia’s national football team. Wleh was invited to the national team twice for the 2008 African Cup of Nation Qualifiers, against Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea but failed to make a single appearance.
Montserrado County’s head coach Amos Smith believes Wleh will go down in history as one of Liberia’s finest goalkeeper.
“He has been a fantastic servant,” Smith said. “I was very lucky to watch him play from third division to his senior level. He was always dedicated to his game and club. His commitment was the key factor to his success. To be honest, he will really be missed.”
The veteran shot-stopper is now considering a coaching role. He currently serves as an assistant coach for third division side Swankamore Football Club.
Featured photo courtesy of Jackson Wleh