5 Things You May Not Know About George Weah
Former Liberia football International George Weah is currently the man of the moment.
He made history on Wednesday by emerging as the first ever former footballer to become the President of Liberia.
The 51-year-old former World Footballer of the Year swept thirteen (13) out of the fifteen (15) counties with his 73-year-old opponent Joseph Boakai getting only two (2) counties.
Bounce News gives some insight at some of the things you may not have known or heard about the newest president in town.
George Weah was born and raised in the Clara Town slum of Monrovia. He is a member of the Kru ethnic group, which is from south-eastern Liberia's Grand Kru County, one of the poorest areas of the country.
His parents were William T. Weah, Sr. and Anna Quayeweah and was raised largely by his paternal grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown.
He attended middle school at Muslim Congress and high school at Wells Hairston High School. Before his football career allowed him to move abroad, Weah worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician.
He has three children: George Weah Jr, Tita and Timothy. After a trial with Chelsea in 2013, Timothy signed with Paris Saint-Germain in 2015.
He also played for the United States at youth level. George Weah's cousin Christopher Wreh was also a professional footballer, most notably for Arsenal FC.
George Weah converted from Protestant Christianity to Islam, before converting back. He hopes for peace for Muslims and Christians, and says they are "one people".
Following the end of Second Liberian Civil War, Weah announced his intention to run for President of Liberia in the 2005 elections, forming the Congress for Democratic Change to back his candidacy.
While Weah was a popular figure in Liberia, opponents cited his lack of formal education as a handicap to his ability to lead the country, in contrast with his Harvard-educated opponent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Analysts also noted Weah's lack of experience, calling him a "babe-in-the-woods", while Sirleaf had served as minister of finance in the Tolbert administration in the 1970s and had held positions at Citibank, the World Bank and the United Nations.
Weah's eligibility to run for Presidency was also called into question as it was reported that he had become a French citizen in his footballing career at Paris St. Germain, but these complaints were rebuffed by the electoral commission in court and Weah was allowed to proceed.
Weah obtained a plurality of votes in the first round of voting on 11 October, garnering 28.3% of the vote. This qualified him to compete in a run-off election against Sirleaf, the second placed candidate.
However, he lost the run-off to Sirleaf on 8 November, garnering only 40.6% to 59.4% for Sirleaf. Weah alleged that the election had been rigged through voter intimidation and ballot tampering, and many of his supporters protested the results in the streets of Monrovia.
Weah also remained active in Liberian politics, returning from the United States in 2009 to successfully campaign for the Congress for Democratic Change candidate in the Montserrado County senatorial by-election.
Some analysts saw these moves as preparation for a repeat run for the Presidency in 2011, and Weah did indeed later announce his intention to challenge Sirleaf in the 2011 election.
After a series of failed alliances with other opposition parties, the Congress for Democratic Change chose Weah as its 2011 vice presidential candidate, running with presidential candidate Winston Tubman.
In 2014, he ran for election to the Senate as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate in Montserrado County. He was overwhelmingly elected to the Liberian Senate on 20 December 2014.
Weah defeated Robert Sirleaf, the son of President Sirleaf, becoming the first Liberian international athlete elected to represent a county in the Legislature.
He won a landslide victory, receiving 99,226 votes, which represented 78.0% of the total votes from the 141 polling centers, while Sirleaf, his closest rival received 13,692 votes, which is nearly 11% in the election marred only by a low turnout.
In April 2016, Weah announced his intention to run for President of Liberia for a second time.
Weah is a devoted humanitarian for his war-torn country. During his playing career he became a UN Goodwill Ambassador. At the 2004 ESPY Awards at the Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles, Weah won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his efforts. He has also been named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a role which he has suspended while he pursues a political career.
Football And Children
Weah has tried to use football as a way to bring happiness and promote education for children in Liberia. In 1998, Weah launched a CD called Lively Up Africa featuring the singer Frisbie Omo Isibor and eight other African football stars. The proceeds from this CD went to children's programmes in the countries of origin of the athletes involved.
Weah was President of the Junior Professionals, a football team he founded in Monrovia in 1994. The team is now defunct. As a way to encourage young people to remain in school, the club's only requirement for membership is school attendance. Many of the young people, recruited from all over Liberia, have gone on to play for the Liberian national team.
In 1998, a documentary about Weah's footballing career with Milan was broadcast on The A-Force BBC-TV; it was made by Pogus Caesar, a British award-winning producer and director.
The Diya Group chairman and Indian entrepreneur Nirav Tripathi announced a multimillion-dollar partnership with George Weah in 2016 whereby global football academies would be established to help assist youth in both impoverished and emerging nations.
The motivation for the academies is cited as a shared experience between both Tripathi and Weah in how sport can transform lives in their nations of both India and Liberia, which both still suffer from severe poverty.
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