By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC News, Liberia
Fans of Liberia's football legend George Weah celebrated into the early hours as the former AC Milan and Chelsea star launched his presidential campaign.
Thousands of placard- and banner-carrying supporters thronged Mr Weah's seaside Congress for Democratic Change party headquarters in the capital, Monrovia, to listen to their candidate explain his platform.
Young men are prominent among Mr Weah's supporters
Some placards read: "Rescue Liberia - vote Weah" and
"Weah, the obvious choice".
Many were dressed in t-shirts with Mr Weah's portrait.
"As I look in your faces tonight, I see that I am your
future. As I look into your faces tonight, I see that
I am your destiny, I see that your dream will be
fulfilled," Mr Weah said.
He was dressed in a white safari shirt and wore a baseball
cap with his party's emblem.
His speech - a combination of prepared text and
off-the-cuff remarks - ignited the crowd, mainly young men, who interrupted with thunderous applause.
"Degree holders, were are you, Weah is already in the
[presidential] Mansion?" they chanted, referring to those who question Mr Weah's limited formal education.
In a pre-rally interview, the 1995 World Footballer
described himself as "a patriot who has been called
"Liberian people - the people who have been
devastated by years of war - believe in me, because
I am committed to the nation and people," he said.
Mr Weah, 38, is one of 22 presidential candidates
standing in the post-war country's poll on 11 October,
which will elect a government to take over from the
current two-year transitional government early in January
of next year.
Question of experience
His opponents say he is not educated, he's inexperienced
- and therefore incapable of leading the war-torn
But Mr Weah, whose camp has lately drawn seasoned politicians, dismisses this as mere political talk.
"With all their education and experience, they have
governed this nation for hundreds of years. They have
never done anything for the nation," he said sitting on a
rocking black official chair behind an executive desk.
Mr Weah's speeches were interrupted by his cheering supporters
"Politicians have been up there and the masses have
been down for many years. It is time for the masses to
go up," he said.
His supporters are from diverse backgrounds. They
include tens of thousands of former combatants who are
yet to be reintegrated into the society following the disarmament of warring parties last year.
Mr Weah promised that if he is elected, "my government will
create incentives for them to go to school and learn
skill to become productive citizens. This is
achievable and I am committed to it."
Mr Weah likened his going into politics to the calling of
a military to go to the rescue of a falling nation.
At the rally, Mr Weah said he if elected, he would seek a reduction in the six-year term of office for the
president to four years "because any serious
government should be able to deliver in four years".
Mr Weah was introduced as Liberia's 23rd president, and
addressing a group of supporters in a Monrovia
commercial district earlier, the former world-class
footballer said the number was fortuitous "because I wore the number 14 jersey for the
national team, and the number 9 jersey for AC Milan.
If you combine the two, you will get 23."
Some supporters went beyond wearing their hearts on their sleeves
The Weah camp has lately received support from
seasoned politicians of other parties.
They include two former foreign affairs ministers - one
of whom, Rudolph Johnson, is Mr Weah's running mate.
The other is Baccus Matthews, who told the BBC at the rally he sees George Weah as "a blessing for Liberia in disguise".
"I believe that George Weah poses no threat to any of
us. I believe that George has the level of education
to move this country forward - to provide water and
turn the lights on. That's what the country needs
right now, and I believe he's prepared," Mr Matthews said.
A political analyst and publisher of the independent Plain-Truth newspaper, Cerenus Ceaphus, described Mr Weah as "the voice of the downtrodden masses".
But, he said, "how he's going to transform these campaign promises to reality is what we have to wait and see."