George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah (born 1 October 1966)is the new President of Liberia and retired professional footballer who played as a striker.
Regarded as one of the greatest African players of all-time and as one of the best forwards of his generation, in 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first African player to win these awards.
In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was named the African Footballer of the Year, and in 1996, he was named African Player of the Century. Known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goalscoring and clinical finishing, Weah was described by FIFA as “the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today”. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
After starting his career in his home country of Liberia, Weah spent 14 years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy and England.
Arsène Wenger brought him to Europe when he signed for Monaco in 1988. Weah moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where he won Ligue 1 in 1994 and became the top scorer of the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League.
He signed for Milan in 1995 where he spent four successful seasons, and won the Italian Serie A twice. His most notable goal in Italy saw him run the length of the field against Verona.
He moved to the English Premier League towards the end of his career and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, before returning to France to play for Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazira in 2003. At international level, he represented Liberia at the African Cup of Nations on two occasions.
An idol in Africa, Weah has been heavily involved in politics in his homeland Liberia. 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.
Running as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate, Weah was elected to the Senate in 2014.
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.
In 2014, he ran for election to the Senate as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate in Montserrado County. He was overwhelmingly elected to the Liberian Senate on 20 December 2014. Weah defeated Robert Sirleaf, the son of President Sirleaf, becoming the first Liberian international athlete elected to represent a county in the Legislature. He won a landslide victory, receiving 99,226 votes, which represented 78.0% of the total votes from the 141 polling centers, while Sirleaf, his closest rival received 13,692 votes, which is nearly 11% in the election marred only by a low turnout.