Friday Apr 24, 2020. 09:00
With top-level football ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus epidemic, we look back at a legend of yesteryear. This week’s spotlight falls on Liberia’s George Weah.
What’s his origin story?
Born in Monrovia, Liberia on 1 October 1966, George Manneh Oppong Weah began his football career with local clubs Young Survivors Claratown and Bong Range United.
The striker quickly made a name for himself through the mid-to-late 1980s at Mighty Barolle, Invincible Eleven, Africa Sports (Ivory Coast) and Tonnerre Yaounde (Cameroon) before he was recommended to Monaco manager Arsene Wenger by Indomitable Lions coach and African football raconteur Claude Le Roy.
Weah joined the Ligue 1 club in 1988 and enjoyed a fruitful four year-spell in the principality, including the first of three African Footballer of the Year prizes in 1989 and the Coupe de France in 1991. The Liberian’s next stop was Paris Saint-Germain, where further success followed from 1992 to 1995: one Ligue 1 title, two Coup de France triumphs and the Coupe de la Ligue.
In the prime of his career, at age 28, Weah moved up to the big leagues and joined Italian Serie A giants AC Milan. His performances in his final season with PSG and his first half campaign with the Rossoneri earned him major individual accolades, including the coveted FIFA World Player of the Year award – the Liberian remains the only African to have been recognised with this honour.
Weah’s career tailed off after his time at Milan, though he did go on to represent major clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Olympique Marseille. He called time on his club career in 2003, at age 37, after a spell with UAE side Al Jazira.
Weah’s career with Liberia’s national team spans from 1987 to 2018 – though the latter date is only because he appeared in a specially arranged friendly against Nigeria at age 51, with the event honouring his contribution to the country.
The striker, who was universally lauded as one of the greatest players of the 1980s and ‘90s for his skill, speed and attacking instincts, had the misfortune of never appearing in a World Cup, while Liberia only qualified for two Africa Cup of Nations in his time with the team and they exited the tournament in the group stage on both occasions.
Yet Weah’s international career is about so much more than the bare statistics (61 caps, 22 goals): he was the talisman, driving force, one time coach and even financier of the Lone Star, though his herculean efforts were never enough to bridge the gap from his abilities to those of his teammates.
“Football has been good to me. Everyone has their destiny, but you have to make use of the opportunities. I have spent 15 years at the top of my game. It makes me happy. I love the game. I love scoring goals. But I have always taken it seriously. It is not what the game gives you, it is what you give it.”
What’s he doing now?
Oh, he’s just the president now. No, really… Weah went into politics after hanging up his boots and ultimately won the 2017 election in Liberia, claiming over 60 percent of the vote ahead of final rival Joseph Boakai. He was sworn in on 22 January 2018, completing Liberia’s first democratic transition in 74 years.
Anything else to add?
His sons, George Jnr. and Timothy, are both professional football players. The latter is currently on the books of Lille after breaking through at PSG in 2018, while he has also represented the United States (the country of his birth) at junior and senior international level.
Check out this compilation of George Weah’s goals for AC Milan: