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Weah, George (1966- )

Image Ownership: Public domain

George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, the newly elected president of Liberia, was born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966.  During his professional sports career he was considered one of the best soccer players on the African continent.  For much of his youth, Weah was raised by his grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown, who provided for him while allowing him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.

Weah played for Monrovia teams including the Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle, and Invincible Eleven before leaving Africa for Europe.  In 1987, at the age of 21, Weah signed for the French Ligue 1 giants, AS Monaco.  Throughout his career at the club, Weah scored 55 goals in 155 appearances from 1987 to 1992.  After Monaco, he played on a series of other European teams, including Paris St. Germain (1992-1995), AC Milan (1995-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Manchester City (2001), and Olympic Marseille (2001-2002).  During his 15-year career in Europe, Weah amassed an astonishing 172 goals.

Weah was selected as the African Player of the Year in 1989, 1994, and 1995.  In 1995, he also received European Player of the Year and World Player of the Year honors.  This was the only time all three awards have been won by an African competitor.  Arguably, Weah was the best professional soccer player in the world in 1995.  Weah was later voted the African Player of the Century.  Brazilian soccer player Pelé won the South American Player of the Century award and Johan Cruijff was named the European Player of the Century.

After retiring from professional soccer in 2003, Weah returned to Liberia and became involved in politics.  In 2005, at the age of 39, he ran for president of Liberia but lost to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.  Despite the defeat, Weah continued to promote humanitarian projects in Liberia.   He also continued his involvement with soccer.  Although their effort was unsuccessful, he helped fund the Liberian National soccer team in their attempt to reach their first World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

When Weah ran for president in 2017, he won, defeating Joseph Boakai, the Liberian vice president. Weah won 61.5 percent of the votes compared to Boakai’s 38.5 percent. Much of Weah’s support came from Liberian youth. In addition, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s did not endorse Boakai.  In his inaugural address on January 22, 2018, Weah promised to fight corruption, pay civil servants, and show the private sector that Liberia is open for business.

Sources:
Henry Winter, “On The Spot: George Weah,” London Daily Telegraph, January 22, 2000; Michael Lewis, “Guiding light: player, coach, and financier, George Weah means everything to Liberian soccer--and Liberia means everything to Weah,” Soccer Digest Magazine, January 2002. “George Weah,” New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/world/africa/george-weah-liberia-election.html; “George Weah,” BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42773165.

Contributor(s):
Mohn, Stephen
University of Washington, Seattle

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