Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has promised to give $1,000 U.S. dollars and a vuvuzela to any Liberian who correctly predicts the two final teams and the winner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Presidential press secretary Cyrus Badio told VOA all entries must be submitted to the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia before the semi-final matches begin.
He said President Sirleaf is only trying to encourage Liberians who have been captivated by the first World Cup ever held in Africa.
“The president did receive what has become a spectacular phenomenon at the World Cup in South Africa – the vuvuzela. In addition to presenting the vuvuzela, she decided to add a $1,000 cash purse for anyone who would correctly predict the two finalists and the winner of the World Cup. The idea behind that is to encourage the youths here in this country, who are so overwhelmed by the World Cup taking place in Africa for the first time,” he said.
Badio said the competition has already started and Liberians, excited about Africa’s first World Cup, have been inundating the local Truth FM radio station with their predictions.
“Our understanding is that the local radio station here – Truth FM – has been inundated with calls by people who want to win the cash prize,” Badio said.
He said President Sirleaf wanted young Liberians to share in the joy of Africa’s first World Cup, especially the positive images of Africa that the tournament has been projecting.
“$1,000 in Liberia is a lot of money. But, more than the aspect of the money, the fact that the World Cup is taking place in Africa, a continent known most times to the outside world for wars, gloom, famine, or coup d’états, the fact that, for the first time, we are seeing positive images emerging from Africa, the president thought that the youths needed to be part of this exercise,” Badio said.
Badio said the prize money is President Sirleaf’s personal money and did not come from the state treasury.
President Sirleaf has announced she will seek re-election in 2011, and Badio brushed off likely criticism that the president’s offer of a $1,000 prize was an attempt to buy votes.
“There are people, who even the breath that you breathe interrupt it as political. So, it doesn’t bother the president that people will think it’s political,” he said.
The Liberian presidential spokesman said $1,000 prize was another way for President Sirleaf to manifest her interest in the wellbeing of Liberia’s youth.
“Most of the programs of the president are targeted toward the youth. Most of her key ministers, the finance minister, labor minister, planning minister, all of these positions, are occupied by youth. So, it’s another way of manifesting here interest in the wellbeing of this country. It has nothing to do with politics,” he said.
Badio said President Sirleaf has had a chance to try blowing the vuvulzela.
“It takes some energy to blow the vuvuzela, and the president has enough energy. So, she’s tested it and it has worked well,” Badio said.