Known to football fans as King George, George Weah was one of the finest African players ever to grace the European football stadiums. But more than a footballer, George has become an icon in his home country Liberia, where he strives to build his legacy not only as a successful footballer, but as a man who dedicated his life to his fellow Liberians.
In the marshland slums of Clara Town, Monrovia, youngsters start playing football almost as soon as they can walk. Their commitment to the game is especially strong, and for good reason. They play on the same field that saw the beginnings of a man who will surely go down in history as one of the greatest Africa footballers of all time.
That man is 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah.
In the early stage of his career, Weah played for Liberian Premier League, Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven. During this period, he scored in almost every game on average. “George was a magnificent player” recalls former teammate, “when there was no goal, George would come on and he would make the difference.”
At 22, after playing in Cameroon for a short while, George was brought to Europe by current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, then the chief technician at AS Monaco. Weah was extremely successful in the Ligue 1, the top division in French football, scoring 79 goals in 199 appearances for Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain.
His influence on the pitch and his astounding dribbling skills caught the attention of one of the most prestigious clubs on the continent, AC Milan. It was after transferring to Milan that George was at the peak of his ability. He won award after award, including the prestigious Ballon d’Or, Fifa, World Player of the Year and was voted African player of the Century, elevating him to the company of such illustrious players as Brazilian legend Pele.
After his retirement in 2003, he decided to go into politics. George’s involvement in Liberian politics began when he publicly called for the UN to intervene in the disastrous civil war that raged in the West African country between 1989 and 1996.
“When I was on the field, for 90 minutes I tried to uphold the positive image of Liberia. After the match, I would go home and it was like my whole world was crumbling.” he said.
The move angered Charles Taylor’s militias, who raided all of Weah’s properties and raped his relatives.
During the war, Weah used his personal fortune to finance and coach the Liberia National football team, paying for chartered flights and all expenses. “It was my responsibility,” he said.
In 2005 he ran for president, losing the run off to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by a 19% margin. He ran in the presidential election again in 2011 as the vice-president on presidential candidate Winston Tubman’s ticket, but Ellen Sirleaf was reelected to a second term.
In 2017, George Weah ran again for president in a hotly contested election. He won after a run-off was carried out between him and Joseph Boakai.
“My dream is for every Liberian to be part of the society and that everyone live the Liberian dream that we all expect,” he told Faces of Africa team.