George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah (born October 1, 1966) is a Liberian humanitarian and politician, and an ex-footballer. He ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election he ran for vice president on Winston Tubman‘s ticket.
He also spent 14 years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy, and England, and won trophies in each of these three countries. In 1995, he was named FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year.
George Tawlon Oppong Ousman Weah was born on October 1, 1966 in the Clara Town slum of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Little did his parents know at the time that their baby boy would one day rise to become their country’s most famous son.
Raised largely by his grandmother, Weah studied hard at school although it was apparent from a young age that he was destined for football stardom. Little George Weah was prodigiously talented with a football at his feet but this aptitude wouldn’t truly become evident until he made the move overseas.
As the future goal-scoring master looked for his golden ticket, he worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician, whilst playing in Liberia for Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven.
It was at Invincible Eleven that Weah caught the eye of the visiting scouts: not only did his 24 goals in 23 games win his side the title, but also earned him his much awaited move abroad.
Weah moved to Europe in 1988 when he was signed by Arsène Wenger, the manager of Monaco, who Weah credits as an important influence on his career. At Monaco, Weah was a member of the team that won the French Cup in 1991. In the 1990s Weah subsequently played for Paris Saint Germain (1992–95), with whom he won the French league in 1994 and became the top scorer of the UEFA Champions League 1994–95; and AC Milan (1995–1999), with whom he won the Italian league in 1996 and 1999. In 1995 he was named European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year. Weah also became famous at Milan for scoring a wonder goal against Verona at the San Siro. After leaving Milan in January 2000 Weah moved to Chelsea, Manchester City and Olympique Marseille in quick succession, before leaving Marseille in May 2001 for Al Jazira FC, in the United Arab Emirates, where he remained until his retirement as a player in 2003.
As successful as he was at club level, Weah was not able to bring over that success to the Liberian national team. He has done everything with the squad from playing to coaching to financing it, but failed to qualify for a single World Cup, falling just a point short in qualifying for the 2002 tournament. This has all led to Weah being known as one of the best footballers never to have played in a World Cup.
FIFA World Player of the Year 1995
Weah was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995, becoming the only African player to win the award. He was the fifth recipient of the award. The Silver trophy was won by Paolo Maldini, and the Bronze by Jürgen Klinsmann. The other four recipients were: Lothar Matthaus ’91, Marco Van Basten ’92, Roberto Baggio ’93, and Romario in ’94. Weah also won the silver trophy the following year which was won by Brazilian striker Ronaldo.
African Player of the Year 1989, 1994 and 1995
Weah won the African player of the year in 1989 when he was with AS Monaco and 1995 with AC Milan. That year he won almost every award a footballer could win. When he won the award in 1989, it was his first major award and he took it back home for the entire country to celebrate, similar to what he did when he won the world best title and the Onze Mondial title.
European Player of the Year 1995
Weah won the European Player of the Year in 1995, becoming the only African to win the award. Sports writers from all over Europe voted and awarded Weah as the best player in Europe for the year.
Onze Mondial 1995
- The French Magazine name Weah as the top player in Europe for 1995
- Fifa Fair Play Award 1996
- African Player of the Year
African Player of the Century
Weah was voted the African player of the Century by sport journalists from all around the world. This award puts Weah in the company of some of the greatest players to have ever played the game. Pelé won the same award as the South American player of the Century and Johan Cruijff as the European player of the century.
Weah was banned from six European matches for breaking the nose of the Portuguese defender Jorge Costa on November 20, 1996 in the players’ tunnel after AC Milan’s draw at FC Porto. Weah said he exploded in frustration after putting up with racist tauntings from Jorge Costa during both of the teams’ matches that autumn in the Champions League. 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 team mates. Weah later attempted to apologise to Costa but this was rebuffed by the Portuguese, who considered the charges of racist insults levelled against him to be defamatory and took the Liberian to court. The incident led to him undergoing facial surgery and he was subsequently sidelined for three weeks. Despite the incident Weah still received the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1996.
Spell in England
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 Wimbledon and Liverpool. He also scored twice in Chelsea’s victorious 1999/2000 FA Cup campaign, 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 Weah’s move permanent, and on 1 August 2000 he signed for newly promoted English Premier League side Manchester City on a free transfer on a two-year contract worth £30,000 a week. 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 (as he did at Chelsea), and three times against Gillingham (again as he had at Chelsea), this time in the League Cup; once in the first leg and twice in the second.
Weah is a devoted humanitarian for his war-torn country. At the 2004 ESPY Awards, he won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his efforts. Weah was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004. He has also been named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a role which he has suspended while he pursues a political career.
Football and children
Weah has tried to use football as a way to bring happiness and promote education for children in Liberia. In 1998, Weah launched a CD called Lively Up Africa featuring the singer Frisbie Omo Isibor and eight other African football stars. The proceeds from this CD went to children’s programmes in the countries of origin of the athletes involved.
Weah is President of the Junior Professionals, a football team he founded in Monrovia in 1994. As a way to encourage young people to remain in school, the club’s only requirement for membership is school attendance. Many of the young people, recruited from all over Liberia, have gone on to play for the Liberian national team.
In 1998 a documentary about Weah’s footballing career at AC Milan was made broadcast on The A – Force BBC-TV, it was made by Pogus Caesar a British award winning producer and director.
George Weah was born and raised in the Clara Town slum of Monrovia. He is a member of the Kru ethnic group, which hails from south-eastern Liberia’s Grand Kru County, one of the poorest areas of the country. His parents were William T. Weah, Sr. and Anna Quayeweah. He was raised largely by his paternal grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown. He attended middle school at Muslim Congress and high school at Wells Hairston High School. Before his football career allowed him to move abroad, Weah worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician.
Following the end of 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. Analysts also noted Weah’s lack of experience, calling him a “babe-in-the-woods”, while Sirleaf had served as Minister of Finance in the Tolbert administration in the 1970s and had held positions at Citibank, the World Bank and the United Nations. 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 obtained a plurality of votes in the first round of voting on 11 October, garnering 28.3% of the vote. This qualified him to compete in a run-off election against Sirleaf, the second placed candidate. However, he lost the run-off to Sirleaf on 8 November, garnering only 40.6% to 59.4% for Sirleaf. Weah alleged that the election had been rigged through voter intimidation and ballot tampering, and many of his supporters protested the results in the streets of Monrovia. However, after assurances that the vote was fair several prominent African leaders called on Weah’s supporters to accept the result with grace and dignity, and Sirleaf became President. The African Union had characterized the elections as “peaceful, transparent, and fair”.
Weah’s lack of education became a campaign issue. He has been highly critical of those who say he is not fit to govern: “With all their education and experience, they have governed this nation for hundreds of years. They have never done anything for the nation.” 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.
Weah also remained active in Liberian politics, returning from the United States in 2009 to successfully campaign for the Congress for Democratic Change candidate in the Montserrado County senatorial by-election. Some analysts saw these moves as preparation for a repeat run for the Presidency in 2011, and Weah did indeed later announce his intention to challenge Sirleaf in the 2011 election. After a series of failed alliances with other opposition parties, the Congress for Democratic Change chose Weah as its 2011 vice presidential candidate, running with presidential candidate Winston Tubman.