George Weah

Week 219 (23 - 29 December 2017)

In 1995, George Weah was at the peak of his footballing powers, becoming the first player to win both FIFA World Footballer of the Year and the Ballon d’Or in the same season. This week, Weah was elected President of his native country Liberia, and now plans to lead his country in a wave of political reform.

It has been an incredible journey for Weah, who grew up in the midst of a brutal Civil War, raised in a Monrovia ghetto as the third of 13 children. Football kept him out of trouble, and after success in the Liberian domestic league, he joined Arsene Wenger at Monaco aged 22. His career was an unprecedented success, winning eight trophies during spells with Monaco, Paris St Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea, as well as three individual African Player of the Year awards. His triumphs in 1995 were the pinnacle of a career that inspired young footballers throughout Africa.

Speaking about his footballing journey, Weah said that the sport kept him away from the potential troubles around him, and presented an opportunity to make a difference. In an interview with BBC Sport, he said:

“Growing up in my community, we did not know our future; we were just hoping one day things would be better. Football kept me out of trouble in the ghetto. Some of my friends were doing drugs and stealing from people, but the time it took to make trouble in our neighbourhood, I would be out playing.

“Everybody who helped me knows I recognise them every day, like the coach who brought me to the Liberian Premier League, and believed in me when everyone else was putting me down. Putting Africa on the world map through sport was the greatest thing that happened to me.”

Even before his retirement from football, Weah had become active in Liberian politics. In 2015, he assumed office as the Senator for Montserrado County and in 2018, Weah will become President, vowing to provide more opportunities for education, creating jobs and improving the infrastructure of Liberia.

“You know I have been in competitions — tough ones too and I came out victorious. I have the people on my side,” Weah said ahead of the vote. After his victory, he tweeted:

“I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task, which I embrace today.”

The elections have been praised globally as a significant step in Liberian politics and now Weah must overcome his greatest challenge to date. Liberia continues to recover from the devastating years of civil unrest and “King George”, as he is known in his home country, will attempt to lead the nation into a new era of democracy.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons