Ex-Footballer Elected Liberia's President

Ex-Footballer Elected Liberia's President

Aktualno-politična novica
George Weah
21. 1. 2018 - 12.00

George Weah 

George Opong Weah moves from a childhood in the slums of the capital Monrovia to Europe's most famous football pitches and now he has entered into Liberia’s hall of power as president. So how did the man known as "King George" to his supporters come to be contesting for Liberia's top job?

It will take you less than half an hour to drive between Clara Town, the slum where Mr. Weah grew up, and the Executive Mansion.

And yet, they are a world apart.

Mr. Weah was sent to Clara Town - an area built on a swamp and beset by disease and overcrowding - to live with his grandmother by his parents, who lived in south-eastern Grand Kru County, one of Liberia's most under-developed areas.

This less-than-auspicious start is one of the things which makes him such a hero to his supporters.

"Weah is grassroots, a son of the soil - he is a star, but he has the country at heart," Oliver Myers, an unemployed 39-year-old from just outside Monrovia, told news agency Reuters this year.

It was Mr. Weah's talent and determination which gave him a route out of Clara Town. As a teenager, he began playing league football in Liberia, eventually dropping out of school in his final year to concentrate on the sport - a decision that led to riches but which would come back to haunt him almost two decades later.


Football star

Mr. Weah's life changed forever when, aged 21, Arsene Wenger spotted him playing for a team in Cameroon.

The manager brought him over to Europe, where he would play for AS Monaco. From there, it was on to Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City and Olympique Marseille.

Along the way, the Liberian would pick up a cabinet-full of accolades, winning both FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or in 1995.

But he never forgot his home country, by then tangled in a civil war which would claim about 250,000 lives.

He often paid out of his own pocket for the cash-strapped national football team to travel to matches abroad. A passionate musician, he also joined up with fellow African stars to produce a song to discourage wars in Africa.

He would turn to music again years later, in 2014, when he and a popular Ghanaian musician would produce a song to create awareness about Ebola.

These small acts are still remembered today.

"The heart George has for Liberia is unbelievable," former teammate Thomas Kojo told Reuters in October. "He made sure the national team was always trying to bring home some pride."

Mr. Weah dipped his toe into the world of philanthropy, becoming a UNICEF ambassador, and political networking before he hung up his football boots.

Former President Charles Taylor, who stepped down in 2003, suspected Mr. Weah was after his job when the footballer refused to remove his sunglasses in the president's presence - seen as a sign of the utmost disrespect.

Perhaps he was right. Mr. Weah formed the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) ahead of the 2005 election and ran as their presidential candidate.



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