The Best Liberian Footballer Who Never Played in Europe

Anthony Snoti Laffor will undoubtedly be mentioned among Liberia’s greatest footballers, due to the number of achievements he’s had in his playing career. With 12 titles under his belt, Laffor is the second most decorated Liberian player ever, behind the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year winner George Weah.

In South Africa, where he has spent the majority of his career, he is currently the third most decorated player ever to play. Laffor is also the only foreigner among the top three, with the first and second being Daine Klate and Thabo Mooki, respectively.

But this journey to the top of African football hasn’t been an easy one for Laffor. In a Facebook podcast, he did on May 22, the 2017 CAF Champions League winner narrated the story of his journey to success.

Growing up in New Kru Town, Laffor always sought opportunities to display his skills. This resulted in him being spotted by the late Francois Massaquoi, who was then president of Zelor Football Club. Laffor got to show his talent on the big stage when Massaquoi invited him to play in an exhibition match for Junior Professional, owned by George Weah, who was plying his trade in Europe.

Scoring twice persuaded Massaquoi to get Laffor his first football boots and offer him a chance to play for Zelor.

“It was a strategy I was using to showcase myself,” Laffor explained how he ensured that he shined on the pitch. “Whenever I go for a game, I’ll join the side with the team that isn’t the favorite and will play well against the favorite teams. By doing that, I was being recognized easily. I was doing that and was proving that I can play on either side with my performances on the field. Many times, I led my teams to victories against the favorites, and my efforts were always recognized.”

Not having the best players on his team helped develop him into a better player, Laffor said, because he had to work harder.

To attend practices and games regularly, Laffor moved to live with Massaquoi. Unfortunately, Massaquoi passed away a few months later and Laffor had to move out. Back home with his family in Bong Mines, Laffor played a few pre-season games with the storied Invincible Eleven, which didn’t sign him.

Despite the disappointment, Laffor was later signed by the first division LISCR Football Club. There, he gained more exposure and his talent was on display to many.

Anthony Laffor with LISCR Football Club; Photo courtesy of LISCR Football Club.

While playing for LISCR, Laffor was called to serve on the national team for an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the trip to Addis Ababa due to the lack of a passport. He later got the opportunity to play for a Ghanaian team when another footballer, Tarkpor Sonkaliey, turned down an invitation.

“The people at the [Liberia Football Association] called me and told me if I wanted to play in Ghana,” Laffor recalled receiving the last-minute invitation in 2003.

“I told them, yes, but I can’t just leave Liberia because my parents had separated and my little brother is disabled. They gave me US$150 and I used some to buy clothes and leave with my family and left Liberia with US$50.”

The young Laffor arrived in Ghana to play for Ashanti Gold Field in the Ghanaian Premier League. He ended being fairly successful and saved up to US$3,000 by the end of the season. Instead of returning home after the 2003-04 season, Laffor opted for a bigger challenge. Fortunately, an offer came from South African club Jomo Cosmos, owned by former South African international Jomo Sono.

The US$3,000 aided Laffor’s move to South Africa for a trial with Jomo Cosmos. Upon his arrival, however, the Cosmos’ assistant coach told Laffor he was not the player the club sought. It was a heartbreaking moment for Laffor, who had used all of his savings to get to this point.

“Imagine using all I have to come to South Africa and being told I’m not the kind of player they needed,” Laffor said.

Nevertheless, the lanky striker remained in South Africa for a week and his fortunes turned when the club’s owner, Jomo Sono, returned from a business trip to France. Sono, who was serving as the club’s head coach, offered Laffor a chance to prove himself in a tryout game for the club. The trial match involved mostly Nigerians who were also hungry for professional contracts. The 34-year-old excelled, scoring five goals, but Sono wanted to test him even further.

“I got five goals in the game but was told I will have to prove myself in a more competitive game,” Laffor noted. “It was a pre-season game in Swaziland. Lots of big stars were there. I was the least and nobody knew me. Fortunately for me, I got a goal in the opening three minutes.”

Minutes after scoring, Laffor went down with an injury. While on the bench, he received the news he had been fighting for – he would be signed by Jomo Cosmos. The Liberian striker’s reaction to the news: “I was hurt but I was happy.”

Anthony Laffor playing for Jomo Cosmos. Photo courtesy of Soccer Laduma

After the game in Swaziland, Laffor’s Ghanaian agent flew to South Africa to finalize the move. The club offered him a salary of around US$2,000 a month, which the agent rejected. The agent tried to negotiate and demanded the money be increased or they return to Ghana. The club stuck to the salary offer and Laffor, who played in Liberia for less than US$50 a month and for around US$400 a month in Ghana, eventually accepted the offer, as he saw it as a rise in his career and a chance to showcase his talent to many bigger clubs.

He went on to be the club’s best player in his debut year and helped them win the Coca-Cola Cup in 2005. Laffor was now the target of many top clubs in South Africa. He spent three years with Cosmos and moved to SuperSport United in the South African ABSA Premiership in 2008. He finished as the club’s top scorer in the league, with 10 goals in his debut season, to help them win their second league title. In his second season at the club, Laffor scored seven goals as the club went on to retain the league title.

Anthony Laffor with SuperSport United. Photo courtesy of SuperSport

After two additional seasons with SuperSport, Laffor moved to rivals Mamelodi Sundowns, where he won nine titles. Those titles include four league trophies, two Telkom Knockout Cups, a Nedbank Cup, a CAF Champions League trophy, and a CAF Super Cup.

To date, Laffor is the only Liberian to win a continental club title and the only Liberian to play at the FIFA Club World Cup.

Though he never played in prestigious European leagues and spent most of his football days in the South African Premiership, ranked the 31st best league in the world by Global Football Ranking, there is no question that Laffor’s achievements have earned him a legendary status in South African and Liberian football.

Featured photo courtesy of Mamelodi Sundowns

T Kla Wesley Jr.

T. Kla Wesley Jr. is a member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia.

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