Weah: From slum to Executive Mansion

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George Weah life has been in three phases, moving from a gutters  of Monrovia, to Europe’s most famous football pitches and now to the country’s seat of power, The Executive Masion.

Weah  referred to as “King George” by  his supporters contested  Liberia’s top job, winning the hearts of many who saw him as a patriot that stood by Liberia in her darkest hour.

Clara Town, the slum where Weah grew up, is just an hour away from the Executive Mansion, the country’s seat of power, yet,  new president of Liberia in his childhood, never allowed the division between the two areas to stop his ambition of leading the country.

Born on October 1, 1966, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah a retired professional footballer who played as a striker, is one of the greatest African players of all-time. In 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first and to date only 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 goal scoring and 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.

It will take you less than half an hour to drive between Clara Town, the slum where  Weah grew up, and the Executive Mansion.  And yet, they are a world apart.

Weah was sent to Clara Town – an area built on a swamp and beset by disease and overcrowding – to live with his grandmother by his parents, who lived in south-eastern Grand Kru County, one of Liberia’s most under-developed areas.

This less-than-auspicious start is one of the things which makes him such a hero to his supporters.

Oliver Myers, an unemployed 39-year-old from just outside Monrovia, told Reuters  earlier this year that, “Weah is grass roots, a son of the soil – he is a star, but he has the country at heart.”

It was Weah’s talent and determination which gave him a route out of Clara Town. As a teenager, he began playing league football in Liberia, eventually dropping out of school in his final year to concentrate on the sport – a decision that led to riches but which would come back to haunt him almost two decades later.

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