George Weah is the only African footballer to have been awarded World Best Player in the history of football. He got the award in 1995 after spectacular performances with Paris St. Germain and then AC Milan where he scored 58 goals in 147 matches. He is a Liberian national and has been recently rumoured to have emerged as the President-Elect of the southwestern county. There are some facts you might not have known about the former World Best, his birth, football career, education, religious belief, and particularly political career.
Did you know the former Ballon D’or winner shares something in common with Nigeria? George was birthed in Monrovia, Liberia. He was born on October 1st, 1996 on the sixth anniversary of Nigeria’s independence.
Monaco was the first foreign club to have secured the services of the mercurial player but what you might not have known is that current Arsenal Coach, Arsene Wenger was the one who brought Weah to Europe in 1988. Weah went on to play for Paris St. Germain where he won the Ligue 1 title and later moved to AC Milan in 1995 where he added two Spanish league titles to his cabinet after staying there for four years.
He has also played for English clubs including Manchester City and Chelsea. The last club he played for was Al – Jazira but there’s something more about his career you might have never heard of.
George was banned from six European matches for breaking the nose of Portuguese defender, Jorge Costa on 20th November 1996 in the players’ tunnel after Milan drew against Porto in the Champions League.
George Weah was born into Christianity but sometime later in his life, he got converted into the faith of Islam but later reverted to Christianity and says he was happy to have had a background in Islamism. In his words, I had a rough childhood, and growing up things were so difficult that I found it difficult to pay my school fees. I barely made it past primary school, and secondary school was looking like an impossibility. I had a Muslim friend then, who gave me the opportunity to join the Muslim Congress, an English and Arabic School. I attended for a year, and even though I grew up in a Christian home, I fell in love with the Islamic way of life.
“I told my grandmother, with whom I lived, that I’m attending the English and Arabic School, to learn their discipline, to learn how to pray five times a day. She said, “well, George, God is God and how you serve him doesn’t matter”. So I went and was so fascinated by it all, that in 1989 I converted to Islam. I chose the name Ousmane for its similarity to one of my names, Manneh. For almost 10 years, I was a Muslim and I learned the teachings, fasting and all of it. After my grandmother died, I reverted to Christianity”.
George has his first and only university degree at the age of 39. In 2005, when he vied for the position of President in his country, a contest he emerged second, a lot of buzz was made by his critics about his lack of a college degree. According to George, they said he was not fit for such an enviable position but at the age of 39, the former African Footballer of the Century graduated with a degree in Business Management from Devry University in Florida.
This is what he said after obtaining the degree, “We all often strive to have college degrees. Some did, some never had the opportunity and some waited until the appropriate time was afforded. So, in my case, it is something I have always strived for, but I never had the opportunity because of my [football] career. And so, what I did, I did online courses. But, after my career, I decided to go back to class because it is the right thing to do, and I am very glad, and I made my parents and even my critics proud.”
When the three times African best player declared his intention to run for the presidency in his country in 2005, many were surprised and thought it was just a joke. He lost the elections but from that moment he never looked back.
In 2011, he ran as Vice President on Winston Tubman’s ticket and lost yet again. That would have been enough to puncture the ego of the legendary footballer but then, in 2014, he was chosen to to represent the Congress for Democratic Change in the Senate. Weah won the elections this time around with massive support.
Today, all over the world, rumors have gone viral that Weah who stood yet again on the same party’s platform to contest for the position of President 12 years after, emerged victorious but then this might just be the next piece of history the football legend might make; the first ex-footballer to be elected president of a country.