Head coach Ansu Keita missed Liberia’s most recent 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier after receiving death threats made by angry supporters.
He was absent from the 1-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea in Monrovia on Monday – a result which was Liberia’s sixth consecutive loss, leaving the Lone Stars winless in seven matches under Keita.
Some fans demanded the 63-year-old’s resignation after Liberia opened their qualifying campaign in Group H with a 1-0 loss to Malawi on Friday at the Samuel Kanyon Doe sports complex, the same venue which hosted the subsequent defeat by Equatorial Guinea.
Supporters broke a glass shield at the media centre and prevented a post-match news conference from taking place by barricading Liberia’s dressing room, with Keita and his players taking refuge inside for more than two hours.
Several Liberia Football Association (LFA) officials, including president Mustapha Raji, were also forced to remain within the complex for fear of reprisals.
Keita subsequently received a call from LFA vice president Adolphus Dolo on Saturday morning advising him to skip Monday’s game for his own safety.
“I told him that I would still go to the game,” Keita told BBC Sport Africa.
“If Liberians want to kill me for football, then let them kill me.”
However, Keita changed his mind after an LFA committee visited his hotel.
“I knew what the outcome of the meeting was when they came,” said Keita, who called for patience when he succeeded former international Thomas Kojo in January.
“So I told them, ‘I will not go for the game. I will recuse myself.’
“I didn’t want to be part of the match, for my own safety and in the best interests of the country. I am still the national team head coach because I have a two-year contract.”
Liberia’s deputy sports minister, Andy Quamie, said Keita had been threatened because of the team’s winless run.
“His life is very, very important,” added Quamie.
“It was important that he stayed away to save him from attacks.
“The LFA will decide whether Keita’s contract will be reviewed, he will be dismissed, or they will reach a mutual understanding. The government will support whatever decision they will reach.”
Keita has more than 15 years’ experience as a technical director and coach and was given an initial target of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations in neighbouring Ivory Coast in 2024.
The Lone Stars were in contention to achieve that aim after a comeback 2-2 draw in South Africa in Keita’s first game as manager in March, but finished on one point following subsequent defeats to the same opponents and then Morocco.
“Death threats are not welcome and an investigation into [Keita’s] protection has got to take [precedence],” said former LFA vice president Wilmot Smith.
Charles Massaley, president of Liberian top-tier side FC Kallon, has given his backing to the under-fire boss, claiming youth projects were Keita’s “destiny”.
“Liberia needed him to build a foundation where we could all build the roof afterwards,” he said.
“I feel for him but I think he will be axed like others. He is not the national team’s problem. He is leaving the problem behind.”
Liberia are not scheduled to play again until they resume their qualification campaign for the 2026 World Cup in June next year.