October 16 – It isn’t every day that an international footballer ends up becoming president of the government of his country.
George Weah emerged from Liberia’s slums to become a footballing household name in the 1990s.
While civil war raged in his country, Weah was playing for a string of European clubs notably Paris St Gemain and AC Milan, becoming the first African player to win both FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d’Or.
Now, after 12 years of seeking political credibility to match his footballing success, Weah is in pole position to lead his country, facing a runoff next month with current Vice President Joseph Boakai after Liberia’s elections commission said he was heading for victory in the first round.
After running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2005, when he was defeated by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – whom he now hopes to succeed – Weah says he has “gained experience” since becoming a senator in 2014.
He has been derided by one of his fiercest critics, longtime opposition leader Charles Brumskine, as being “completely out of his league.”
Yet he is supported by thousands of younger voters who idolise him as ‘Mister George’ and view him as a poor boy from the slums who made good against the odds.
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