Weah, George

▪ Liberian athlete
in full  George Oppong Weah 
born Oct. 1, 1966, Monrovia, Liberia

      Liberian football (soccer) player, who was named African, European, and World Player of the Year in 1995—an unprecedented achievement. He won his first African Player of the Year award in 1989. His talents on the field were equaled by his activism on behalf of his homeland, where he worked to bring an end to a long civil war.

      Weah learned his football on the dusty streets of Monrovia before playing for Invincible Eleven, Mighty Barolle, Bongrange Bonguine, and Young Survivors of Claretown. After leading Young Survivors, a team without a coach, into the first division, Weah signed a three-year semiprofessional contract with top Cameroonian club Tonnerre of Yaoundé, which won its league in his first season (1987) with the team. Shortly thereafter, the promising 22-year-old striker was signed by AS Monaco of the French first division. In his five seasons with Monaco (1987–92), he scored 57 goals, and the team won the French Cup in 1991. His exceptional dribbling and shooting skills made him a crowd favourite, and his uncompromising work ethic and technical ability landed Weah a lucrative contract with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). In his most acclaimed season, he led PSG to the French Cup, to the league title, and to the semifinals of the 1995 European Champions League. Subsequently he transferred to AC Milan (1995–2000) in Italy's Serie A, helping the club win the 1996 and 1999 league titles. In January 2000 AC Milan loaned him to Chelsea of London, where he made an important contribution to that team's Football Association Cup triumph. At the end of his career, he played briefly with Manchester City and Marseille in France. Weah scored more goals and played in more matches than any other African professional in Europe.

      Though Weah established a new home for his family in New York City, he maintained close ties to Liberia, where he is known as “King George” and enjoys considerable popularity. Wracked by poverty and civil war in the 1990s, Liberia was able to sustain the Lone Star—the national team—only with the assistance of Weah, who played for, coached, and to a large extent financed the team. In 2002, after the Lone Star nearly qualified for the World Cup and then performed poorly at the African Cup of Nations, Weah retired from football. Following the ouster of President Charles Taylor (Taylor, Charles Ghankay) in 2003, Weah returned to Liberia as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. In 2005 he ran for president as a member of the Congress for Democratic Change party. After winning the first round of voting, he was defeated by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Johnson-Sirleaf, Ellen) in the runoff election in November 2005. Weah initially challenged the election results in court, but he dropped his case the following month.

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Universalium. 2010.

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