George Weah is a retired Liberian soccer star. He was named the African, European and World Player of the Year in 1995 and has since set his sights on politics, being really involved in Liberia’s development.
He was born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966. His parents were separated and so he was raised by his grandmother. Weah developed into a tall athletic teenager and started playing soccer for the Young Survivors club at the age of 15. He would move on to other prominent local clubs as his skills increased, two of which were Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven.
By the time George Weah hit 22, he had been discovered by then Cameroonian national team coach, Claude Le Roy. Claude Le Roy would be instrumental to George Weah’s future prominence as he relayed the news of Weah’s abilities to AS Monaco manager, Arsene Wenger. Arsene Wenger then flew to Liberia to get a look at George Weah’s abilities for himself and signed the player to his club.
George Weah turned out to be a great bet. He was a raw talent with little formal training and so it did not seem that way at first. He appeared over-matched as he commenced his European career. He, however, soon caught up with the competition and by the 1991 French Cup championship, he had developed into quite the goal scorer.
He moved to Paris Saint-Germain and increased his appeal when he helped his club win the French Cup in 1993 and the Ligue 1 title in 1994. George Weah has been described as practically unstoppable during the 1994-95 season, he carried PSG to French and Ligue Cup victories and finished as the Champions League’s leading scorer.
It was after that great year that he was named the named the African, European and FIFA World Player of the Year. At the time, it was an unprecedented achievement and even now it is still incredibly impressive.
He moved to AC Milan for the 1995-96 season where he continued his stellar career run by leading the club to the Serie A title. It was soon after that that he had one of his worst and best moments; on the best side, he scored one of the most famous goals of his career at the start of the next season.
The goal had seen him outracing seven Verona defenders before netting the ball. That was soon followed, however, by a terrible moment where he smashed an opponent’s nose with a headbutt.
Milan would go on to win the Serie A title again in 1999 but they loaned George Weah to Chelsea in January 2000. George Weah scored in his debut match as a Chelsea player and became a key figure in Chelsea’s march to the FA Cup. He spent 2000-01 with Manchester City and Marseille, and then played two seasons with Al-Jazira. He then retired in August 2003.
Besides the three-pronged win in 1995, George Weah was also named African Player of the Year in 1989 and 1994, and was voted the African Player of the 20th century by the continent’s journalists. When Pele compiled a list of football’s greatest living players in 2004 for the FIFA 100, George Weah made an appearance on the list.
George Weah after retiring from football
Weah was already involved in the affairs of Liberia whilst still pursuing football. The country had been torn apart by civil war and some of his involvement led to his being named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1997. He would use the platform to partake in educational initiatives to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and to rehabilitate child soldiers with vocational training.
It was estimated that George Weah spent $2 million of his own money on travel, equipment and salary expenses for the national team, the Lone Stars.
He understood the place of soccer as a stabilizing force in Liberia and he served as player-manager for the Lone Stars, leading them on an impressive run through the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds. The Lone Stars, however, fell short of securing an invitation to the World Cup.
After his retirement, George Weah was able to channel all his energies into Liberian affairs. He ran for Presidency as a member of the Congress for Democratic Change in 2005. He, however, lost in a run-off to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party.
In 2011, he ran again on the CDC ticket for the Vice Presidency but President Sirleaf won again and remained in office. H did not, however, let those setbacks stop him from participating in politics in Liberia. He is still a very influential and popular figure in Liberia; he has served as an ambassador for 1 Goal, a FIFA-supported campaign that aims to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged children.
In December 2012, Weah announced that he had agreed to represent President Sirleaf’s administration as a peace ambassador. He was elected last year as Senator of Montserrado County and may still run for the Presidency again in 2017.