Sometimes poverty, difficulties, and any barriers fall short in front of a stalwart dream to reach the zenith. George Weah is one of the epitomai of how to achieve success after fighting with childhood poverty, hunger, and many difficulties. And at the end, it was his dream that won the battle against such barriers and he reached the very top of world football at his time and never looked down since then to date. Let’s take a look back at the story of how a poor boy from a third world country became a man living his dreams.
Early Life and Introduction to Football
George Weah was born in the Clara Town district of Monrovia. He is a member of the Kru ethnic group, which hail from south-eastern Liberia’s Grand Kru County, one of the poorest areas of the country. His father, William T. Weah, Sr., was a mechanic while his mother, Anna Quayeweah (d. 2013), was a seller. He was largely raised by his devoutly Christian paternal grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown after his parents separated when George was still a baby. He attended middle school at Muslim Congress and high school at Wells Hairston High School and reportedly dropped out in his final year of studies.
He started his football journey with Young Survivors youth club at the age of 15 and later moved to other local football clubs, assuming starring roles for Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven. Weah even worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician before moving to Europe with a pair of dreamy eyes to become what he wished since his childhood.
Senior Club Career
Weah started playing in the Liberian domestic league at the beginning of his successful career and winning several national honors such as the Liberian Premier League and the Liberian Cup. His abilities were discovered by the Cameroon national team coach, Claude Le Roy, who relayed the news to Arsène Wenger.
Weah moved to Europe in 1988, for just £12,000 from Cameroonian club Tonnerre Yaoundé when he was signed by the then manager of AS Monaco, Arsene Wenger – who flew to Africa himself prior to the signing and Weah regards him as an important influence on his career. During his time with Monaco, Weah won the African Footballer of the Year for the first time in 1989; this was his first major individual award and he took it back home for the entire country to celebrate. George Weah also won the Coupe de France in 1991, and he helped Monaco reach the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992, scoring four goals in nine cup appearances.
Starting for Paris
George Weah then moved to the Franch capital to play for Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 and he won the Coupe de France in 1993 and 1995, the French Ligue 1 in 1994, and the Coupe de la Ligue in 1995 during a highly prolific and successful period; he also became the top scorer of the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League, with seven goals, after reaching the semi-finals with the club, one of which was a skillful individual “wonder-goal” against Bayern Munich in the group stage, on 23 November 1994.
During his time at the club, he also managed to reach the semi-finals of the 1992–93 UEFA Cup, and the semi-finals of the 1993–94 European Cup Winners’ Cup; in total, he scored 16 goals in 25 European games for the Paris outfit. In 1994, he won the African Footballer of the Year Award for the second time in his career.
George Weah moved to Italy to join A.C. Milan in 1995, with whom he immediately won the Italian league in 1996 under manager Fabio Capello, playing alongside Roberto Baggio and Dejan Savićević in Milan’s attack and finishing the season as Milan’s top goalscorer; he won the Serie A title once again in 1999. During his time with the club, he also reached the 1998 Coppa Italia final and finished as runner-up in the Supercoppa Italiana on two occasions, in 1996 and 1999. Despite their European dominance in the early 1990s, Milan was less successful in Europe during this time, however, with their best result being a quarter-final finish in the 1995–96 UEFA Cup.
Exhibiting skill, athleticism, and goalscoring prowess, George Weah became famous at Milan for scoring several notable goals, in particular a solo goal against Hellas Verona at the San Siro which saw him deftly control the ball from Verona‘s corner kick just outside his own penalty area, before he set off. With all his teammates back defending the corner Weah made a beeline for goal, leaving his own teammates in his wake. Weah finished by rifling the ball into the bottom left corner before an exuberant goal celebration.
It was an incredible run. We were thinking, ‘When’s he going to stop? When’s he going to stop? He’s not going to stop! He’s never going to stop.George Weah’s Milan teammate Zvonimir Boban on THAT goal against Verona
1995 is regarded as the most successful year of his career. Due to his performances with both Paris Saint-Germain and Milan, Weah was the recipient of several individual awards: he won the Ballon d’Or, the Onze d’Or, and was named FIFA World Player of the Year, becoming the first and, currently, only native African player, to win these awards; George Weah dedicated his FIFA World Player of the Year victory to his former manager, Arsène Wenger, stating that it was thanks to him that he was able to develop into a world-class player.
That year, Weah also won the African Player of the Year Award for the third time in his career and was named to the Onze de Onze by the French football magazine Onze Mondial. In 1996, Weah finished second in the FIFA World Player of the Year ranking; he was also the recipient of the FIFA Fair Play Award and was voted the African Player of the Century by sports journalists from around the world.
Controversy followed when Weah was banned from six European matches for breaking the nose of the Portuguese defender Jorge Costa on 20 November 1996 in the players’ tunnel after Milan’s draw at Porto in the Champions League. George Weah said he exploded in frustration after putting up with racist tauntings from Costa during both of the teams’ Champions League matches that autumn. Costa strenuously denied the accusations of racism and was not charged by UEFA as no witnesses could verify Weah’s allegations, not even his Milan teammates.
Weah later attempted to apologize to Costa but this was rebuffed by the Portuguese, who considered the charges of racist insults leveled against him to be defamatory and even took Weah to court. The incident led to Costa undergoing facial surgery and he was subsequently sidelined for three weeks. Despite the incident, George Weah still received the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1996. Weah left Milan after 5 years scoring 58 goals in 147 appearances across all competitions for the Rossoneri’s.
Moving to England
Weah then moved to England to sign for Premier League club Chelsea on loan from Milan on 11 January 2000, in a deal which would keep him with the West London club until the end of the 1999–2000 English season. Although past his prime, Weah’s time in England was deemed a success, especially at Chelsea where he instantly endeared himself to their fans by scoring the winner against rivals Tottenham Hotspur on his debut and scored further league goals against the likes of Wimbledon and Liverpool. He also scored twice in Chelsea’s victorious 1999–2000 FA Cup netting crucial goals against Leicester City and Gillingham. This led to him starting in the final, which Chelsea won 1–0.
Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli did not make George Weah’s move permanent, and, on 1 August 2000, he officially left Milan on a permanent basis and signed for newly-promoted English Premier League side Manchester City on a free transfer on a two-year contract worth £30,000 a week declining the offer of a £1 million pay-off from Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi.
He played 11 games in all competitions for City, scoring four times, before leaving on 16 October 2000 after becoming dissatisfied with manager Joe Royle for selecting him as a substitute too frequently; he had only played the full 90 minutes in three of his 11 games for the Maine Road club. At City, he scored once in the league against Liverpool and three times against Gillingham, this time in the League Cup; once in the first leg and twice in the second leg.
After his time in England, Weah moved across the English Channel to France and had a short spell at Marseille, where he remained until May 2001. His last professional club was Al-Jazira in the UAE Pro-League, where he remained until his retirement as a player in 2003, at age 37.
Weah made his debut for the Liberia national team against Sierra Leone in 1986. He played 75 games over 20 years, scoring 18 goals for his country. As one of the smaller nations in world football and perennial underdogs, Weah did much to support the national squad: aside from being the team’s star player, he also later coached the squad and even funded his national side to a large extent.
Despite all the efforts, he was unsuccessful in helping Liberia qualify for a single FIFA World Cup, falling just a point short in qualifying for the 2002 tournament. However, he did help Liberia to qualify for the African Cup of Nations on two occasions: Weah represented his country in the 1996 and 2002 editions of the tournament, although Liberia failed to make it out of their group both times, suffering first-round eliminations. Weah has been named by several media outlets as one of the best players to never play at the World Cup.
One of the greatest African players of all time, George Weah was, like his namesake George Best before him, hamstrung in World Cup terms by hailing from a global minnow.Scott Murray writing for The Guardian on George Weah’s “stand alone effort” to get his nation to a World Cup.
George Weah returned to the national team for a specially arranged friendly against Nigeria on 11 September 2018, his final international appearance, playing at the age of 51 while in office as the country’s president. His number 14 shirt, worn by Weah at his playing peak, was retired after the friendly, with Weah receiving a standing ovation when he was substituted.
Life Outside Football : The President of Liberia
Weah married his Jamaican-born wife Clar Weah in 1992 and has three children named George, Tita, and Timothy. Both of his sons became footballers and signed for Paris Saint-Germain although only Timothy played for the first team. Both played youth internationals for the United States but only Timothy was capped for the senior USMNT side.
Following the end of the Second Liberian Civil War, Weah announced his intention to run for President of Liberia in the 2005 elections, forming the Congress for Democratic Change to back his candidacy. While Weah was a popular figure in Liberia, opponents cited his lack of formal education as a handicap to his ability to lead the country, in contrast with his Harvard-educated opponent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Weah’s eligibility to run for Presidency was also called into question as it was reported that he had become a French citizen in his footballing career at Paris St. Germain, but these complaints were rebuffed by the electoral commission in court, and Weah was allowed to proceed. Weah’s lack of education became a campaign issue.
With all their education and experience, they have governed this nation for hundreds of years. They have never done anything for the nation.Weah on those who called his lack of Education to run for the Presidency
He initially claimed to have a BA degree in Sports Management from Parkwood University in London, however, this is an unaccredited diploma mill, which awards certificates without requiring study. Weah then pursued a degree in business administration at DeVry University in Miami.
George Weah was sworn in as president on 22 January 2018, making him the fourth youngest-serving president in Africa, marking Liberia’s first democratic transition in 74 years. He cited fighting corruption, reforming the economy, combating illiteracy, and improving living conditions as the main targets of his presidency. Two other world-class African strikers, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o attended the inauguration.
We wish him a very happy birthday and all the best for his future life as the President of his country as well as his personal life.
What’s your opinion about George Weah as a player ? Let us know in the comment section below.