George Weah at home in Liberia on his private basketball court.

George Weah is the man of the moment: the super striker from Liberia has walked off with all the awards. His crowning success came at the beginning of January in Milan when he was voted FIFA World Player of the Year.



Unlikely as it may seem, Young Survivor of Clartown, Bongrange of Bonguine, Mighty Barroll, Tonnerre of Yaoundé and AC Milan are all football clubs with something in common.

George Weah.

The full list also includes AS Monaco and Paris St. Germain. Indeed, Weah himself, newly crowned FIFA World Player of the Year, would certainly want the club from the principality to be mentioned. For it was Monaco's coach, Arsène Wenger, who, according to Weah himself, was the decisive influence in the fairy-story career of the man who has put Liberia on the world football map. When Weah was playing in Yaoundé, he was spotted by Frenchman and FIFA instructor Claude le Roy, then Cameroon national coach, and recommended to Monaco. That is when Wenger stepped into the young striker's life.

"He made me the footballer I am today," Weah calmly told the audience at the Milan gala as he received his trophies and called the French coach spontaneously to the stage. "He taught me to persevere, to live a decent life, and to play fair. He initiated me into European ways, but he understood my African origins and respected them. He let me play my game, my way."


George Weah was born in Monrovia, Liberia on 1 October 1966, and is a dual French/Liberian citizen. He stands 1.84m and weighs in at 77 kilos. His clubs to date: Young Survivor of Clartown, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barole, Invincible Eleven (Liberia), Tonnerre de Yaoundé (Cameroon), AS Monaco, Paris St.Germain (France), AC Milan (Italy). Successes: Cameroon Champions 1988 (Tonnerre de Yaoundé ), French Champions 1994 (Paris SG), French Cup Winners 1991 (Monaco), 1993 and 1995 (Paris SG), French League Cup Winners 1995 (Paris SG), European Cup Winners' Cup Finalists 1992 (Monaco).
George Weah has played 45 times for the Liberian national Team.

And just in case anyone doubted his sincerity, he promptly handed over one of his newly acquired trophies to Wenger by way of thanks. Weah's uninhibited generosity is just one of the characteristics which have made him popular as well as successful. A difficult childhood in Monrovia led to a troubled adolescence before he became a devout Moslem - and a talented footballer. Known early in his career under his African name, Oppong, he quickly attracted attention with his forthright style, growing rapidly in size and strength and managing to find the happy combination of physical presence and ball control, especially on the run. Already then the ferocity of his shooting was becoming legendary.

From Liberia to Cameroon to Monaco to Paris St. Germain - and to Milan. The world stage was already opening up for Weah twelve months ago as the team from the French capital established itself abroad as well as at home, but Italy beckoned and the inevitable happened.

AC Milan engaged him essentially as a direct replacement for one of Weah's predecessors as FIFA World Player of the Year, Marco Van Basten, whose career had been brought to an untimely end through persistent injury. Weah has the same touch and acceleration and, above all, balance as the brilliant Dutchman.

Even so, Van Basten was a tough act to follow. But any doubts about Weah's ability to survive in the pressure of Italian league football soon evaporated as the goals began to flow, including some truly spectacular efforts that catapulted him to the forefront of media attention once again. More than anything, he has become the symbolic leader of the 350 or so African footballers throughout Europe.

It is a role which George Weah never sought but which fits him well. His home country has suffered more than its share of domestic upheaval in recent years, but it is not a major football power and has enjoyed the fame of its most popular ambassador all the more. And Weah has not been slow to express his patriotism by helping finance the construction of a children's hospital and a sports school, and the foundation of a youth football club, Junior Professionals.

"I'm beginning to feel a sense of social responsibility that I didn't feel a couple of years ago," he says. "When I look around in Liberia, I see young boys playing football all over the place. It's time Liberia established itself as a footballing nation."

George Weah is feted as a national hero whenever he visits his home country.

Whenever he visits his home country, Weah is feted openly in the streets as a national hero who has conquered the world. A crowd of over 20,000 turned out to see him when he went to Monrovia after last year's ceasefire in the civil hostilities, and his every move was a public event.

Equally at home in Paris, New York or Monrovia, and quickly finding his feet in Milan, Weah enjoys nothing more than to be with his family. In addition to his own two children, he has an adopted 12 year-old daughter, Jessica, born in Jamaica.

"I have to be realistic," he says. "Liberia will probably never qualify for the World Cup. I shall never play in the world's biggest event. But we have made it to this year's African Cup of Nations, and confidence is high. And I can win trophies with AC Milan. I'm happy."

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