Full name: George Tawlon Oppong Ousman Weah
Date of birth: 01/10/1966
George Weah was the best African footballer of the 20th century. That’s official. Sports journalists from around the globe voted the Liberian hitman the continent’s best player of the century – and it’s hardly surprising.
After 14 years plying his trade in Europe, King George collected a gargantuan haul of trophies, both club and individual. The former FIFA World Footballer of Year was an awe-inspiring force on the field and off it, as a libertarian and politician in his native homeland.
George Tawlon Oppong Ousman Weah was born on October 1 1966 in the notorious Clara Town slum of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Little did his parents know at the time that their baby boy would one day rise to become their country’s most famous son.
Raised largely by his grandmother, Weah studied hard at school although it was apparent from a young age that he was destined for football stardom. Little George Weah was prodigiously talented with a football at his feet but this aptitude wouldn’t truly become evident until he made the move overseas.
As the future goal-scoring master looked for his golden ticket, he worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician, whilst playing in Liberia for Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven.
It was at Invincible Eleven that Weah caught the eye of the visiting scouts: not only did his 24 goals in 23 games win his side the title, but also earned him his much awaited move abroad.
Football Career abroad
Mr George’s scoring had grabbed the attention of Cameroonian champions, Tonnerre Yaoundé, and a move soon beckoned. After helping his side to their second successive Cameroon Premiere Division title his goal scoring exploits saw him move to Europe, after just a season in the Cameroonian capital.
The Liberian hitman got the move he dreamt of, leaving Africa behind for the glitz and glamour of Monaco. Weah was brilliant, though gauche, but adapted quickly to the fast pace and sophistication of the French League under manager, Arsene Wenger.
Described by Wenger as "useless at the start" his never-say-die attitude reaped just rewards as he outshone all at the Stade Louis II, leading the Les Rouge et Blanc to the Coupe de France in 1991.
From humble beginnings, Weah was making the most out of his newfound fame and fortune, and went looking for more, leaving the tax haven of Monaco for pastures new at Paris Saint-Germain. Weah continued causing havoc for defences, leading the line as PSG won the Coupe de France in 1993, before winning Ligue 1 a year later.
The honours and goals kept coming for King George, who got his big move in 1995 to a colossal European force – A.C. Milan. Weah’s first season in Serie A earned him all the plaudits.
The Lone Star striker won the African Player of the Year for the third time, became the first African player to win the European Player of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year en-route to the Serie A title and Golden Boot. Not a bad haul.
After filling his trophy cabinet, Weah had precious little to put in there in his four further seasons at the Rossoneri, despite continuing his mesmerising performances. The 1998-99 Serie A title proved to be his last, as the hitman moved on loan to pre-Ambramovich Chelsea.
Weah failed to hit the heights in England that he had reached whilst plying his trade in France and Italy but still managed to add another bauble to his brimming trophy cabinet, winning the FA Cup in the last final to be played under the crumbling twin towers of Wembley.
The FA Cup win proved to be the last trophy in King George’s illustrious career as he saw out his final seasons at then perennial strugglers, Manchester City, a brief spell at Olympique de Marseille and then a money-spinning period at Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates – one that proved to be his last.
Despite Weah’s incredible success at club level, no matter how much he tried, success couldn’t be brought to the Liberian national team. Weah is seen as the patron saint of The Lone Stars, having not only played and coached them, and spent upwards of $2 million to help finance their quest for glory.
Unfortunately, no matter how much Weah tried, Liberia still fell short, falling just a point short of World Cup qualification in 2002. Despite their ultimate failure the Lone Stars became a national rallying point, providing the citizens of a fractured country with a distraction and respite from war.
When Weah retired as a footballer, not intent just to watch Liberia and its people suffer, he became a devoted humanitarian for his war-torn country. Weah had become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1997 whilst at A.C. Milan, working to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and trying to rehabilitate child soldiers from war-ravaged countries through vocational training initiatives.
In April 2004 he continued his work, counselling child soldiers and getting first-hand experience of UNICEF’s post-war rehabilitation of 15,000 Liberian children. This work was recognised at the ESPY Awards when he was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his work. And it didn’t stop there.
Later in 2004 he suspended his UNICEF duties to stand in the Liberian presidential elections the following year. Despite being a favourite for the election, and receiving a hero’s welcome when returning to Monrovia from his Florida home, he lost out to finance minister, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female president in Africa.
- FIFA Fair Play Award: 1996
- African Player of the Century: 1996
- Onze Mondial Top Player in Europe Award: 1995
- European Player of the Year: 1995
- African Player of the Year: 1989, 1994, 1995
- FIFA World Best Player: 1995