George Weah: The Journey from World best player to President
Over two decades ago, in the days when George Weah donned the colours of AC Milan, he scored one of World Football’s greatest goals against Hellas Verona, finishing calmly after a coast-to-coast run. Benedetta Radaelli, current editor-in-chief of the Rossoneri’s official channel AC Milan TV, was there. ‘I was with my dad. He was saying under his breath ‘they won’t catch him’. Then he started saying it out loud continuously, in disbelief. Then when George put it in the net, my dad burst into laughter. For me as a little girl, it was amazing fun to be there for such an event. The entire stadium erupted in joy.’
The man who bacame an icon to many in Africa, and the World over has just scored his greatest goal yet by winning the Liberian Presidential Election, following the announcement of the results on Thursday.
George Weah has always been one to make history, one to defy all odds. As a footballer, he still remains the only African to be named World Footballer of the year, a feat he achieved in 1995, when he also won European Player of the Year and African Player of the year. A magnificent footballer he was, now he is charged with the responsibility of notscoring goals, or dribbling defenders on a football pitch, instead, he is to replicate his skills on the field to a new pitch – the country, Liberia.
George Weah- The Football Star
George Weah started his football on the streets of Liberia before moving to Europe in 1988, when Arsene Wenger signed him for Monaco. Weah sees this as his first step to conquering Europe with his football skill. The man who is quick to give credit to others rather than himself, recently acknowledged the role Wenger played in his success story, stating that:
“He was a father figure and regarded me as his son. This was a man, when racism was at its peak, who showed me love. He wanted me to be on the pitch for him every day.
“One day, I was quite tired of training and told him that I was having a headache. He said to me: ‘George, I know it’s tough but you need to work hard. I believe that with your talent, you can become one of the best players in the world.’ So, I listened and kept going on. Besides God, I think that without Arsène, there was no way I would have made it in Europe.”
However beyond this, he carved a niche for himself in his nomadic career as a footballer. After spending four seasons at Monaco, he moved to PSG in 1992 where he won the Ligue 1 title in 1994. He was also the top scorer in the 1994-1995 UEFA Champions League. Then he switched countries in 1995 and moved to Italy, where he starred Italian giants AC Milan. He won two Serial A titles, and it was in those years that he conquered African, European and World Football, winning numerous individual accolades. He also played for the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City before ending his Football career with Al- Jazira in 2003.
At International level, George Weah represented Liberia in two African Cup of Nations,won 60 caps, and scored 22 goals for the Lone stars. It was difficult for him to replicate his club successes at International level, largely due to the dearth of talent around him. Despite this, apart from being the star player, he later coached and funded the team. However, they missed out on qualification for the 2002 World Cup to Nigeria, by one point. Hence, he never featured in the biggest football event.
After retiring from football, Weah sought another way of impacting the people of Liberia, and decided to go into politics.
George Weah – The Politician
In 2005, after the Second Liberian Civil war, Weah voiced out his intention to run for Presidency. He formed the Congress for Democratic Change and despite his popularity, his candidacy was questioned, as many felt his lack of education and inexperience made him unfit to lead the people of Liberia. In contrast, his opponent, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson was educated in Harvard University, had served as Minister of Finance and held positions at World bank in the past.
The elections went on as Weah won the first round of voting. However, he lost the second round of voting by 18.8% and Ellen Sirleaf Johnson emerged as the President of Liberia.
Weah refused to let this stop him, as he remained in Liberian Politics. He obtained a degree in Sports Management from Parkwood University. He also obtained a Business Administration Degree from DeVry University in 2011and added a Masters degree from Keller Graduate School of Mamgement in 2013.
In 2014, he ran for election to the Senate in Montserrado County and emerged victorious against Robert Sirleaf- son of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
By the time he declared his intention to run for presidency in 2016, it was clear to all that Weah, like he did in 1996 against Hellas Verona, can not stop running until he gets his goal.
On Thursday evening, Liberia’s National Elections Commission declared George Weah as the winner of the election, after scoring 720,023 votes, which is 61.5% of the votes cast at the election, ahead of Vice President Joseph Boakai who scored 451,08 votes which is 38.5% of the votes.
After the announcement, the former football star took to social media to express his joy. “My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today.
“Change is on.”
George Oppong Weah started from the slums of Monrovia and moved to Europe where he dazzled the World with his football skills. After retirement, he refused to stop running as he desired to score one more goal, to hear some more “ole, ole”. With this victory, Weah has scored his greatest goal yet and has taught the world that with determination, you can be whatever you want to be!
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