George Weah – The soccer player who became president of Liberia

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George Weah, 1996- Foto: Sconosciuto
George Weah som professionell fotbollsspelare 1996 för Milan – Foto: Sconosciuto, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Lilian Neg - Press photo: NewsVoice
Lilian Neg – Press photo: NewsVoice

LIBERIA. Since the 22nd January 2018, the former soccer champion George Weah is the new president of Liberia, a country in West Africa with a population of more than 4 million people. A success people are celebrating all over the world and that brought us to the following question: What could be the reason of this great joy?

By Lilian Neg, Africa Correspondent for NewsVoice

Living in the most uncomfortable environment in Liberia, ”Mister George” as people often called him had a difficult childhood. He was born on the 1st of October 1966 in Monrovia and grew up with his grand mother who gave him as greatest gifts, love and wisdom. When he was just 22 years old, he knew he had something to share with the world.

A tremendous journey of success

Liberia - Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0
Liberia – Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0

George Weah (George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah) was a very talented football player, recognized by everyone in Clara town in Monrovia neighborhood. He was admired by team mates of (Mighty Barolle, invincible eleven) and friends who use to encourage him while playing in the local championship. But his dream could have been aborted due to the unstable nature of the country which was devastated by sociopolitical crisis, if a Cameroonian administrative manager of late Dominique Ebode in search for a good player for his team Tonnerre Kalara Club of Yaounde had not gone to Liberia in 1987 for a recruitment procedure of the one people described as a born football star.

Ebode said George Weah was more than his expectation; he was exceptional. His venue to Cameroon was short but very significant. Not standing the fact he changed his environment, the challenges were above adversity since he was not accepted by everyone in his new team, he had to work harder to be integrated. Few months were sufficient for him to put his mark, not as a striker but a charismatic player and leader; a characteristic most European clubs cherish.

He was lucky because at that moment mister Claude Le Roy was engaged in Cameroon as team coach, he loved his playing style and further facilitated his transfer from Tonnerre Kalara Club to AS Monaco to play for Arsène Wenger in 1988. Then Paris Saint Germain in 1992. Three years after, he joined Milan AC and was awarded in 1995 as world best player of the year. Then he went later to Chelsea, Manchester City, Olympic Marseilles and United Arab Emirates were he ended his career in 2003.

George Weah´s engagement in politics

While playing football, George Weah was not comfortable with news coming from Liberia. The sociopolitical crisis has reached an unstoppable point from 1989 to 2003; Liberia was in a total civil war with Charles Taylor in front line of the chaos which left more than 250000 deaths. George Weah, heart broken called for peace at United Nations made the rebels to burn his house in Monrovia and abduct his two cousins. It was at that moment he knew he could not as most footballers of his generation embrace football management at the end of his career because his destiny was different.

He wanted to help the entire nation and the most appropriate way was his engagement in politics. Being based in America, he decided to relocate with his family to Liberia to face the reality in the field. Two years after the end of his sporting career, he was candidate at the Liberia presidential election under the party called the Congress of Democratic Change (CDC), a remarkable debut in politics. Nevertheless he failed to succeed in his first attempt but had the privilege to be carried to second round of the election by a good number of Liberians.

Conviction of change

His conviction of change made him learn more about the Liberian society, the gap between the rich minority and the poor majority, poverty and lack of development projects concerning infrastructure, electricity and water system etcetera. He consecrated a large number of his time to seek for appropriate solution. He created an association to assist vulnerable people in the society and try to reeducate youths of his community.

Later in 2011 after gaining maturity and experiences in the field he participated as Vice President at the presidential elections alongside the main candidate Winston Tubman, but Liberian in majority gave Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a second victory to carry to the end projects she implemented during her first mandate as acting president. Liberian commitment for peace and stability was visible but development still remains a preoccupation considering the high nature of corruption. 64% of the population lives under poverty, 62% from 15 to 24 years has not ended their primary studies.

Drastic figures that encouraged and embarked George Weah to run for the senatorial seats. In 2014 he was elected senator of Montserrado and later due to the above mentioned elements and the cruel and fatal cases of Ebola, he was convinced that an ultimate run for presidential election was very necessary and he was not mistaken because accompany by his vice president Jewel Howard Taylor ex wife of Charles Taylor, he won with a large majority.

The population was overwhelmed by the result which showed some improvement in the electoral process. So much is expected from him but one thing is certain: George Weah has proven to the entire world that people should not give up no matter the circumstances and adversity; courage, endurance and hardworking are the key words for success because from ghetto to presidency is a matter of conviction.

By Lilian Neg, Africa Correspondent for NewsVoice

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