Weah is the best inspirational true life story, It is not always common to see personalities that define history with an extraordinary impression that is ingenuous and indelible, football kings are very few when compared with the number of players that play the game and rare for those that stand out and become royalty, more especially from Africa, but George Opong Weah`s uniqueness in reaching his full potential in a diverse career from a poor coastal area known for diamonds, gold and war, His talent which has indeed shown like diamonds in the sky making Liberia synonymous with Weah a football god rather than the notoriety that it is known for, his career started from Liberia, a west African country surrounded by Sierra Leone,Cote d`Ivoire and Guinea at the age of 15, with a paradoxical club known as young survivors. A name that seems to reflect his struggle to become a professional footballer and overcome impossible circumstances. He showed signs of being a champion winning the Liberian league and cup double with mighty Barolle in 1985/1986 season and then another domestic title with the Invincible Eleven the following year. He played a significant role in those successes. Then he moved abroad.
His movement abroad was to Cote d`Ivoire where he briefly played for African Sports then to African football powerhouse Cameroun, an improvement and opportunity for more exposure, a lesson for professionals on how to make tiny but positive progress in a career while waiting for better openings for success. This was where the discovery was made possible, Frenchman Claude le Roy, the foreign national manager of Cameroun (he led them to their second AFCON title) and has coached so many others, discovered Weah and informed Arsene Wenger and the young man was moved from Tonnerre Yaounde to the principality and he joined Monaco in 1988, The discovery of diamond for refinement was complete, Wenger one of the all-time great coaches, a goldsmith in refining talent had one of the greatest talents at his disposal. Weah has always referred to Wenger as a major influence; he was at the right place with the right coach and rightly started producing outstanding results.
Weah won his first African footballer of the year award in 1989, barely a year after leaving Africa, he had put Liberian football on the limelight the only player from that country to achieve such feat, he even celebrated the award by travelling home for a victory party. Monaco was just a stepping stone for more achievements. He helped them to the coupe de France in 1991 and to reach the cup winners finals in 1992. He left for another French club PSG, another tiny leap in the right direction, he joined in 1992 and played for three years, he won his second coupe de France which was his first silverware for his new club in 1993 then, he won the French title in 1994, his biggest achievement in France this enabled him to win another African footballer award in 1994 and he added another coupe de France and coupe de la ligue in 1995.He also helped the Parisian club to three consecutive semifinals in Europe. They reached the UEFA cup in 1993, then the cup winners in 1994 and the champions’ league in 1995, he was the highest goal scorer with seven goals. The first from an African player. The beauty of club football is, as the best you will always play with the best at some point without the restrictions that international football imposes.
The best in the World.
He joined Italian giants AC Milan the best club in Europe helping them to two serie A titles(1996 and 1999) which was the highpoint of his club career and a glowing testament to his ability, he was brought in to replace the great legendary Dutchman Marco Van Basten a former world player of the year and Ballon d` Or winner in fact he won it thrice, he had as attack partner Roberto Baggio the world’s best player in 1993, Milan was the crème de la cream Of European football and the greatest club in that era.He fitted in seamlessly and in his first season finished as top scorer for his club with 15 goals and won the Italian league. Weah was not overawed He had won an unprecedented treble of individual awards which have not been repeated by any African player, he won the African footballer of the year, the Ballon d`Or and the world player of the year. The first and only non European player by nationality to win both prestigious awards. It was a reward for his outstanding performances. He was crowned king by FIFA and became football royalty or what better way to describe being recognized as the best. He dedicated it to Wenger, his first foreign coach whom he claims made him world class. The following season he was voted the African player of the century by a global collection of sport journalists and finished second best player in 1996 to the great Ronaldo. In 2004, Pele recognized him and included him in the FIFA 100 greatest living players in the world. This recognition was indicative of his quality and consistency.
His talent can be described by his playing style which was well rounded and distinctive, at that time. In the nineties, players like Romario 1994 winner of the world best player award before him and Ronaldo(a multiple winner of the world best player award) thereafter, Both Brazilians plus Weah, were regarded as the epitome of the modern strikers because of their ability to link up with team mates deep in their own half and also their ability to carry out attacking threats with the ball at their feet from outside the eighteen yard box unlike the other strikers who were limited and played just within the box, his most legendary goal resembled that of Maradona in beauty and quality, in terms of distance it was better,he controlled a loose ball from a corner and carried the ball from his penalty area, dribbled past several players, his pirouette at the middle of the pitch which evaded some tackles was sublime, he outwitted another player by sending the ball to one side and gliding past on the other when he reached the box, calmly slotted the ball beyond the goal keeper.A display of Pace,ball control, finesse and coolness. These kind of goals were usually not scored by strikers. Similar goals(not necessarily from one end of the pitch to the other but similar in the sense that the opposition players were overwhelmned with a repertoire of skills) have been scored in club football by Messi and Okocha(both also played for PSG), talented playmakers with Messi evolving into a creative and proficient goal scorer, seemingly Weah was the perfect illustration of a player that can combine all the offensive elements in a game, this helps to put in perspective his array of multi-dimensional skillset of pace, great dribbling despite his height, vision, technical ability, strength and stamina, he scored crucial goals towards the dying minutes of games. He was also a great passer of the ball with a decent goal assists record and a team player.it was not surprising that he scored a variety of goals. He was a truly complete striker a precursor of what the future attackers were to become, a glimpse of the more recent modern players like Messi and Ronaldo.
He was renowned for a variety of important goals during his peak although his best was that against Verona scored in the 87th minute, he scored in both matches against Bayern Munich notably a brlliant goal when he received the ball from about 35 yards and set off with his mesmerizing moves which left two players on the pitch then he turned another before unleashing a shot near the eighteen yard box that beat Kahn, he scored against Barcelona in the quarter finals in he first leg at the Nou camp, his equalizer helped them take a crucial away goal to Paris, At international level he scored the opener in the 2-1 defeat of Nigeria that almost took them to the Korea/ Japan world cup and in the 2002 Nations cup in a 1-1 draw with Host Mali his first and only goal at the tournament.
Other career milestones
He was the first African player to score a hat trick in serie A in 1998(they are currently five) he helped Liberia qualify for their only two (AFCON) nation’s cup (1996 and 2002) appearances which is a great achievement in itself because of the situation in the country, it was largely because of his influence on the field and off it-he was famous for his financial contribution and sponsorship of the team to enable them meet their sporting needs. They came close to reaching the world cup finishing a point behind Nigeria in a group that also had Ghana In 2001. He also temporarily coached them.
He went on loan to Chelsea during the twilight of his career which was part of the effective strategy in growing the English league at that time by attracting great players that still had football in them and also leadership and experience to give, he was one of the pioneers in that regard and helped the London club win the FA cup in 2000 their first significant trophy this century. He scored some crucial goals in England, the winner in their derby against Tottenham Hotspurs and also scored against English giants Liverpool in the league which endeared him to the fans and two goals enroute to the FA cup final against Leicester and Gillingham. He joined Manchester City the following season when they were promoted and also scored against Liverpool. He returned to France to play for Marseille in 2001, he finished his football career in Asia with Al Jazira in 2003 and started another history defining career
He was a United nations goodwill ambassador , had an academy and his charity work was not limited to Liberians but extended in partnership with other stars and brands to empower people through sports, he started his political career in 2003 and became a senator in 2014,which would had been impressive if his political career had ended at that point which was already a highpoint but Weah, always destined for the peak became President in 2018 after several setbacks, Arsene Wenger his mentor was invited for the inauguration which had in attendance stars such as Drogba, Eto and Okocha with various heads of State and football executives. His talent was not just limited to football and reaching the top but also to politics at the highest level, he was adept at leading people to greatness, again Weah will not be synonymous to football alone but also as President, depending on your area of interest either sports or politics his name transcended both. As President of Liberia he played his testimonial and final match aged 51 years against Nigeria, on record the oldest player to play an international match, He was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the second half and his famous number 14 jersey was retired in his honor, the match ended 2-1 in favor of Host Nigeria. It was a fitting end as a player, combining both careers in an encounter watched by an audience that was witnessing history. He never played at the world cup, history somehow compensated him, his son Timothy Weah played for the United States at the 2022 world cup in Qatar where they reached the second round, and at the group stage he scored a goal against Wales. Weah became the first President, Ballon d`Or and world best winner to reach that level.
George Weah`s achievement was very impressive, most players became leaders within a particular field which was usually sports, becoming great at playing and managing a team, names like Didier Deschamps(world cup winner as player and coach)Ancelotti, Rijkaard(champions league winners as player and coach)others rose to become their federation President Eto and Bwalya. Some became Sport Directors Van der Sar(Ajax), Emenalo(formerly for Chelsea)Platini and Beckenbauer took it to another level with their achievement in several football careers, both Ballor d`Or winners with Platini becoming UEFA President while the German coached Bayern Munich to Bundesliga success, was their President and also the vice President of the German Football Federation. Both were also in the organizing committee of different world cups. but George Weah was exceptional reaching the only available position at the top in both careers, he has given the human race a valuable lesson that greatness is possible irrespective of your background or upbringing and that any achievement can be actualized. He is a true inspiration to us.
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