The George Weah Story: Inspiring Tale to Change Lives of Underprivileged

8
3769
Amb. George Weah is being sworn in as President of the Republic of Liberia today.

The story of George Weah’s rise from poverty and hopelessness to soccer stardom and up to becoming president of Liberia is well documented throughout the world as an inspiration for those at the lower rungs of the ladder to ponder the popular expression that “Wonders shall never end.” Weah’s search for the Liberian leadership commenced in 2005 when he lost to the proverbial ‘iron lady’ Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

George Weah of AC Milan is presented the ‘European Footballer of the Year’ award in 1996

But previous to that he had exhibited some level of interest in the presidency, even during the administration of jailed former president Charles Taylor, who had once pointed out Weah’s intention for the country’s top job. Though people’s reaction to Taylor’s revelation was rather shocking, in the end Taylor proved prophetic.

Of course, keen observers of Weah’s meteoric rise to leadership may remember when he (Weah) assumed the leadership of the National Football Team but might not have realized or foreseen a role for him in national politics. After all Liberian footballers in the 60’s and 70’s were described as ‘grona,’ a pejorative expression.

This was largely so because most soccer players at the time were generally perceived as  uneducated since they hailed from poor families in the slum communities around the country with no future to look forward to after their careers. Discouraging reports of footballers dying in poverty abound – too depressing to recount in this article.

The pinnacle of Weah’s career came with Paris Saint Germain, with whom he won the Ballon D’or

Truth be told, many talented footballers in the 60’s and 70’s died unsung and unrecognized, including goalkeeper David Momoh, who was reported to have turned down offers to play professional football in England.

It is said because of widely held perceptions at the time that such a move to the UK would be considered unpatriotic, Momoh opted to remain with the national football team. In later years, according to reports, he became an alcoholic and met his untimely end in an inglorious fashion right on Broad Street. It was some sympathizers, according to reports, that gathered his remains for burial.

Another player was Jackson Weah, famous for his scissors kick, who had been encouraged to return from Ghana, to where his parents had emigrated. He played sterling roles on the national football team. He later died as a pauper virtually unrecognized by the Government of Liberia for his patriotism and service to country.

Former footballer George Weah, 51, is pictured for the first time since being announced president-elect of Liberia

Until Weah’s emergence on the soccer scene (the 80’s upwards), majority of Liberian footballers did not possess high academic credentials, and therefore at the end of their football playing days, and finding little else to do, ended up as indigents.

Some of such players included Sylvester Weah (popularly known as “St. Joseph Ray”) of St. Joseph Warriors, whose funeral Ambassador George Weah was reported to have attended and made the remark: “That’s how footballers die in Liberia.”

His poignant observation came after Ambassador Weah was told that there was no official from the government; that is, the Ministry of Youth & Sports, at the funeral program, besides a wreath sent from the ministry to honor his memory. Sylvester Weah had been sick, and had cried out for help that did not materialize.

Another former player, still alive, is goalkeeper William Wleh, formerly of St. Joseph Warriors and Lone Star. Wleh, now an amputee, begs for survival  in New Kru Town.

Growing up in New Kru Town and later in Clara Town,  a similar fate might have awaited  George Weah if Providence had not intervened.

Additionally, there were many prominent Liberians who were then interested in soccer and were prepared to assist in many ways to develop Weah’s generation of footballers, which included James Salinsa Debbah, Jonathan Sogbie, among others. Those prominent men also used their connections and contacts to provide means to make the players more appreciated.

Weah grew up in Clara Town, a tiny slum on Bushrod Island in Monrovia

Among such persons were Sam Burnette (SB), Christopher Neyor, Paul E. Mulbah, Lawrence M. Doe, Archie F. Bernard, among others. Either by accident or fate, the 80s saw the emergence of popular support to footballers, particularly when Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe took over the country in a military coup d’état and later assuming the leadership of the Liberia Football Association as its chairman.

It must be pointed out that while there are rules against officials meddling in a country’s football association’s leadership, President Samuel Doe though served as chairman but stayed in the background and allowed sports administrators to run the show; and as a result, he did not draw any negative attention from either CAF or FIFA.

Willis D. Knuckles, Jr. was then appointed as vice chairman of the LFA; Paul E. Mulbah as Chief of Operations; and Marcel E. Bertin, Secretary-General, among many others. Until Doe’s assumption as chairman of the LFA, there was no regular league season for many of the teams that were in the country.

Putting his organizational skills to work, Willis D. Knuckles, Jr., a master organizer, brought to life the regular league that in the end produced winners and their most talented players. It was during the execution of the league that George Oppong Weah and his contemporaries were identified. Through President Doe, the national team, Lone Star, including Weah, visited Brazil on a training tour.

Heading the 3rd division’s Union of the Liberia Football Association Sub-committee (ULFASCOM) was Mr. Assamady Kabba of the then Central Monrovia LFA Sub-Committee. Other members included M. La-Marks Kerdoe of the Logan LFA Sub-Committee and representatives from the West-Clara LFA Sub-Committee and other sub-committees across Monrovia.

Young Survivors FC participated in the 3rd Division at the West Clara LFA Sub-committee where a lanky striker, known in the community as George Oppong Weah, and teammate Joe Nagbe emerged. In fact, Edwin Volawuo of Bong Range United (BRU) in his persistent search for players had stumbled upon George Oppong Weah that led Weah to play for the club. It was N’daborlor Saingbe, now secretary to the Liberian Senate, who signed his official transfer from Bong Range United to Invincible Eleven(IE).

Weah won countless awards during a sensational footballing career, including being named the World Player of the Year in 1995

Weah was always available to play for his team (Bong Range United FC) whenever he came to Bong Mines, Volawuo said. At the time, young footballers traveled across the country to play friendly matches to earn honorariums and sometimes to play for free and for the love of the game.

Of course, the annual County Sports Meet which was initiated in 1956 by President William Tubman as his unification strategy to bring the country together was one of the effective means to identify young talented footballers from the countryside. Players like Ezekiel Doe (Zico) of Invincible Eleven fame who played in the 80’s, and another Invincible Eleven player, known then as ‘Break Dancer’ (Robert Clarke), emerged onto the national scene from a County Meet engagement.

From Young Survivors FC, Weah decided to join Mighty Barrolle but because there was fierce competition among the players, he chose instead to join their rivals, the Invincible Eleven Majesty Sports Association. With Willis D. Knuckles, Jr., supported by President Samuel Doe, the organization of association football began in earnest and successful leagues were held.

Regrettably, Knuckles would resign his position as vice chairman of the LFA because of “Policy differences” with President Doe who later appointed Cletus S. Wotorson to replace him. Wotorson had been running effective leagues as chairman of the Liberia Basketball Federation.

As head of  the new LFA executive committee, Wotorson decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LFA in 1986. The LFA was organized in 1936. Wotorson’s LFA invited Fisheries of Sierra Leone and Tonnerre Klara of Yaounde, Cameroon to join Invincible Eleven and Mighty Barrolle for the celebration.

The LFA decided to invite the Cameroonian club simply because Mohammed Konneh, a Liberian who was living in that country wanted Liberian players to play in that league. Cameroon football was also at its peak, following Roger Miller’s impressive performance at the World Cup in 1982, when they drew all three group games and finished in the 17th position.

The celebration of the LFA’s 50th Anniversary, held sometime in 1997, was a blessing for George Weah, who was ever ready to play all their scheduled games. The Cameroonians at the end of the competition were convinced of what Mohammed Konneh had told them about Weah’s exceptional talent.

They were nevertheless disappointed not have seen at the time, Liberia’s Most Celebrated Player, James Debbah, in action. What was wrong with The Celebrated? “Well, he could not play the games because of injury,” admitted a long time follower of the game, a Barrolle fan.

So as injury kept Debbah out of the games, Weah took advantage of the situation and played his best. The Cameroonians afterward could not leave Weah back when they left for Yaounde. Weah had played for two seasons with Invincible Eleven in Liberia: 1985-86, 1986-87.

Weah played for clubs including Paris Saint Germain, Milan and Monaco during his glittering career

In Cameroon was Claude de Roy, the Frenchman who was the head coach of the Cameroonian national soccer team, the Indomitable Lions. He saw George Weah’s extraordinary skills and within a short time, recommended him to Arsene Wenger, who was then coaching AS Monaco in the French first division.

Weah played five seasons with AS Monaco (1987–92) and scored 57 goals. With Weah, Monaco won the French Cup in 1991. Weah’s ability to dribble and shoot the ball endeared him to the crowd wherever he played. In the end, he earned what was described as a ‘lucrative’ contract with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Weah led PSG to the French Cup, to the league title, and to the semi-finals of the 1995 European Champions League. He later transferred to AC Milan (1995–2000) in Italy’s Serie A, helping the club win their 1996 and 1999 league titles.

In January 2000, AC Milan loaned him to Chelsea of London, where he contributed to that team’s FA Cup victory. As his career drew to a close, he played for Manchester City and Marseilles in France. Weah is credited for scoring more goals and playing in more matches than any other African professional player in Europe.

Weah, pictured during a rally in 2016, faced a tough start to politics, with many saying he did not have enough education to run for office

Among his achievements in Europe included helping AC Milan to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup (1992-93), the Cup Winners’ Cup (1993-94) and the Champions League (1994-95). It was in 1995 that Weah enjoyed a real ‘Golden’ year when Milan took him to Serie A and growing from strength-to-strength under Fabio Capello.

A change in the rules to the Ballon d’Or voting meant that non-European players could be nominated for the first time and Weah defeated Jurgen Klinsmann and Jari Litmanen into first place. He finished ahead of Paolo Maldini to win the Fifa World Player of the Year award.

Admirably, Weah dedicated the award to Coach Arsene Wenger, claiming it was the Frenchman who made him into a world-class player. When the Liberian civil-war raged on, Weah made periodic visits to Liberian refugee communities across the West African sub-region and provided relief to thousands.

Weah showed interest to run for president of the LFA but was frustrated because he was not a president of any local club, as the rules indicated. It was later that he decided to run for the president of Liberia by organizing the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). In 2014, he stood for the Senatorial Race and won overwhelmingly to represent Montserrado County.

Now that Weah is elected President of Liberia, it can be said that success in life depends on an enabling environment, with corresponding support, individual determination and a little bit of luck to make all the difference.

And it is hoped that lessons of Weah’s life story could serve as a force to influence behavioral change among many of the youths, especially those at risk, at the very bottom of society who are called by a pejorative – ‘zogos.’

Authors

8 COMMENTS

  1. Well researched and penned (despite the typo of 1997 instead of 1987).
    And I love this part, “Now that Weah is elected President of Liberia, it can be said that success in life depends on an enabling environment, with corresponding support, individual determination and a little bit of luck to make all the difference.”

  2. Well researched and well penned (despite the typo of 1997 instead of 1987).
    And I love this part, “Now that Weah is elected President of Liberia, it can be said that success in life depends on an enabling environment, with corresponding support, individual determination and a little bit of luck to make all the difference.”

  3. Once president elect George weah adopt an attitude of listening to advice and has the God giving wisdom of screening the various advice and accept those that he perceive to be good and reject others he perceive to be bad, he will do well in his job as president. He needs to be willing to take criticism through such means he will succeed. success in any new job does not come about by one who thinks he or she knows it all but actually come about to those who listen and those who think carefully before making decision. I wish the best for President elect His excellency George Weah. His success on the job will be success for Liberia. His failure on the job will be failure for Liberia. I pray that he listen well, think carefully before taking decision so he can succeed and so Liberia as a nation will succeed.
    The Job of President of the Republic goes with great responsibilities and it is analogous to chief executive Officer of a company in a managerial setting. that is while at time the position of President of the Republic of Liberia is sometime described as chief executive.
    further descriptions of how to view the function of a government and the function of a company.
    a company is own by shareholders
    the shareholders appoint members of the Board of Directors
    shareholders in consultation with members of the Board may appoint the general Manager or chief executive Officer of the company
    the chief executive officer in consultation with the Board may appoint in-House Legal counsel of the company who shall provide all legal guidelines for the company to pursue.
    Like in the case of a company, the citizens of Liberia are the shareholders of the Liberian Nation and that all citizens of the country has a stake in the Liberian Nation. as owners of Liberia, all citizens of voting age make decision through their votes on National election day as to who becomes their legislators and chief executive and vice chief executive (President and Vice president).
    Like under corporate arrangement, the Board of Directors are like members of the legislators. Like how members of the Board Monitors and supervise the work of the General Manager or CEO and all other corporate officers in the management of the company, the members of the legislators do the same by monitoring and directing the work of the President and cabinet ministers to ensure proper governance are carried out. Like under a corporate arrangement, just like how the in-house legal counsel of a corporation provide legal guidelines to the Board of Directors and the chief executive Officer, the Chief Justice and the four associate Justices provide legal guidelines and directions to the legislators and the President as to the appropriate legal action to pursue in the governance of the country.

    so in a corporate environment, the management of a corporation is the responsibility of both the members of the Board of Directors and the chief executive Officer. similarly, the Governance of a country in a democratic setting is the responsibility of both the legislators and the President of the country. so if the government fails it is blame on the president and members of the legislators because the legislators were expected to provide directions to the president. everyone look up to the president for governance but the fact remain that those who ought to provide governance is the legislators because their role is like that of the Board of Directors of a corporation. If the Board of Directors in their Board meetings make determination that directions provided to the Manager were not followed and such resulted into poor management of the company in a given period, the Board can vote to change the manager. In the same manner, the legislators has enforcement power to make the president followed their instructions and directions and if the legislators make a determination that instructions and directions that were given the president were not pursue, the legislators has the jurisdiction or authority to vote for the replacement of the president for failing to follow laws.

    with such power of the legislators, Liberians must begin to hold their legislators accountable for failure in any governing process. the tools are all available for good governance and the president who heads the executive cannot play a dominating role in the entire governing process if the Legislators know exactly what to do as legislators. Past president of Liberia had been dominating the governing scene of Liberia simply because the legislators had not been doing its Job.
    the one case in point in the Liberia History that saw the legislators of Liberia instituting action against the president was at the time President charles D. B. King served as President of Liberia and Allen N. Yancy served as Vice President of Liberia. It was established through the league of Nation now United Nation that both the President and Vice President were sending Liberians out of the country to work as Laborers and their pay were sent to Liberia and the president and vice president were involved in converting the wages of these Liberians who worked and were never paid abroad.
    the legislators were men who look right into the faces of the President and vice President and told both men to resign their respective position else they would face impeachment.
    since that historic event in the Liberian society future legislature became rubber stamp and did just what the president of Liberia wanted. this became visible during the presidency of William V. S. Tubman. It continued up to the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
    this trend has to change. the 54th legislatures must provide guidelines and directions to the president just like how the Board of Directors does in a corporation. It the legislature play an uncompromising role and the president also play an uncompromising role in the discharge of their respective duties, this country will make tremendous progress towards development, good governance and economic soundness.

    ECONOMY
    the equitable distribution of resources in a given society is the objective of economist
    MACROECONOMIC deals with national Economy; that is to say, how to stabilize National economy is what Macroeconomic is all about.
    what are the tools used by Macro economist in achieving government economic stabilization policies?
    1) Policies involving government revenue, expenditure and National Budget; while 2) monetary polices are the other sets of Government Stabilization policies.
    Key institutions for regulating Government policies on revenue, expenditure and Budget are:
    1) Liberia revenue authority (L.R.A.)
    2) Ministry of Finance, Development and Planning(MFDP)
    Key institutions for regulating Government policies on monetary policies are:
    1) central Bank of Liberia
    2) Ministry of commerce and Industry
    central Bank of Liberia to ensure foreign exchange is available within the Liberian Economy by instituting Banking policies to avoid capital flight. capital flight is a situation in which individuals and businesses engaged in huge movement of large amounts of foreign exchange that are generated by the Liberian economy.
    Potential areas that generate foreign exchange for the Liberian Economy is the Export sector, remittances by Liberians abroad and the Liberian Maritime programs. foreign exchange is also generated from foreign direct investments, grants, loans from bilateral and multilateral institutions like the world Bank, IMF, African Development Bank.
    the Ministry of commerce and the CBL are to monitor the export sector to make show that foreign exchange generated from this sector are maintain within the Liberian economy and not transported in other economy. commerce Ministry through its foreign trade division identified the potential buyers abroad for the Liberia products, demand that as a condition for granting export permit, they buyer abroad must establish some Letters of credit (LC) with a foreign Bank that will guaranteed that when the product leave Liberia based on terms of sale, the foreign Bank will transfer the money back into the local account of the exporter. this information is passed to the central Bank. central Banks monitor the commercial bank to ensure that all export earnings are remitted to Liberia Banks. this is one way of ensuring foreign exchange is available on the Liberian economy.
    Institutions connected to exporters of Liberia products
    Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy… should monitor the mining and export of all Gold, Diamonds, Iron Ore and any other minerals Generated within the Liberian economy. such information is shared with LRA, commerce, and CBL. In this manner all export earnings from the mineral sector will be capture.
    Agriculture Ministry in connection with LPMC should monitor all export of agricultural products to include rubber, cocoa, coffee, Palm Oil, Palm kernel oil, fish catch from Liberia waters, swims, etc. information of companies in the export of these commodities be shared with LRA, COMMERCE, CBL to collect taxes from these sectors and the capture all export earnings generated from such sector
    Bureau of Maritime to review the whole maritime program to see how Liberia as the largest registered vessel in the world can maximize additional foreign exchange from this sector. foreign exchange earning through this sector may increase Liberian foreign exchange earnings.
    foreign exchange from direct Investment and grants
    commerce to identify goods and services that may be acquired locally using foreign exchange from investment and Grants
    Ministry of Labour to identify skill labor within the Liberian Labour Market who may benefit from investment money and Grants, in this way foreign Labour will not be employ to take way foreign exchange from Liberia.
    Only skill labour that are not available in Liberia and goods and services not available will be acquired from abroad.
    there are more to follow on economic policies and programs that the new Government need to follow. with sound economy policy, Liberia will improve. Officials of government need to be nationalistic.

    Another key factor of capital Flight is the dominance of ownership of businesses by foreigners. about 95% of businesses in Liberia are own by foreigners. this clearly show that the economy is in the hands of the foreigners and not the Liberians or citizens. these foreigners regularly transfer foreign exchange to their home country.
    the employment of foreigners in well paid jobs in large companies like Firestone, LAC, Arcelor Mittel, Local and International organizations, United nations institutions. the Labour Ministry must ensure that Liberian who are qualified occupied these positions. Liberians both within and without Liberia are qualified in various job, the Ministry of Labour must identified qualified Liberians both at home and abroad who can be recommended to occupy highly paid jobs in the private sector in Liberia. when Liberians and not foreigners are employed, this will also reduced capital flight.

  4. RECOMMENDATION TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT LED BY H. E. GEORGE WEAH
    1. TO CREATE JOB FOR IMMEDIATE EMPLOYMENT WE NEED TO TURN TO THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR BY INSTITUTING THE FOLLOWING MEASURES:
    FIRESTONE RUBBER PLANTATION must elevate from the level of exporting latex and unprocessed rubber to the stage of engaging in the manufacturing of finished product of rubber such as vehicle tires and all other manufactured rubber products like condoms, etc. LIBERIA AGRICULTURE COMPANY (LAC) should be made to do likewise.
    IF FIRESTONE AND LAC lacks the resources to engaged into manufacturing of rubber products , the Ministry of commerce and industry should identified potential investors in the international community who will buy rubber produce by Firestone, LAC and private farms and used such farm products in rubber factories to make car tires, inner tubes , etc. Lots of job will be created in the tire factory.
    WHEN tires, inner tubes and other rubber factories are established in Liberia, FIRESTONE, LAC, AND THE PRIVATE rubber farmers will not export unprocessed rubber but all unprocessed rubber will be sold to the manufacturers at a local market price to be regulated by the Domestic trade division at the ministry of commerce.
    IRON ORE MINING COMPANY
    companies operating in this sector must be made to engage in the manufacturing of steel rod, steel sheet, and all marketable finished steel products and if the existing IRON ORE Mining company like Mittel steel and china Union are not willing to go into manufacturing activities, the Ministry of commerce and industry should be made to negotiate with potential investor in the manufacturing of steel products. this will also create Job for the many unemployed Liberians.
    The establishment of factories to manufactured steel products from iron ore produced in Liberia will put an end to the exportation of raw iron ore

  5. Congratulations President Weah and VP Jewel! Humble yourselves and reachout to all Liberians. Further, we call on all Liberians to roll up their sleves and join hands with President Weah and his VP in working hard to build LIB. Remember, MANNA will not drop from Heaven. Remember, humility, hardwork and determination have brought President Weah thus far.

    God bless you Mr. President, and we wish you long life!

  6. Yes, well written and very inspiring and interesting. “A man’s journey is determine by his dreams”. _black baby. Congratulations President Weah and VP Jewel. Another journey ahead.

Leave a Reply to wellington glea bedell, sr Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here