The former World Footballer of the Year, George Weah has been elected the President of Liberia. The 51-year-old George Weah, the first non-European player to win the Ballon d’Or in 1995, defeated the sitting vice-president of Liberia Joseph Boaka to win the hotly contested Presidential election.
With 98.1% of ballots counted, George Weah had won 61.5% of the vote, according to the announcement by Liberia’s National Elections Commission on Thursday. The 61.5% vote victory means there will be no re-run.
Weah, who entered politics after his retirement from active and glorious football career had been serving as a senator in Liberia’s parliament. He will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, who defeated Weah in the 2005 Presidential elections.
As one of the best strikers in world football in the 1990s, George Weah owes his success to Arsene Wenger, his coach at Monaco, who brought him to Europe in 1988. Soon George Weah became a household name in the European football, scoring amazing 47 league goals for Monaco in four years. His solo goal against Verona, while he was playing for AC Milan in 1996, saw him dribble past almost the entire Verona team from his own penalty area, established his status as one of the greatest strikers ever. He also played for Paris St-Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea and briefly, Manchester City.
Having shown his football skill and brilliance, the question is: will George Weah transcend his football acumen into political achievements? Will he be able to urgently address the social needs of an average Liberian, who has been terribly failed by previous leaders?
Unfortunately, Liberia, Africa’s oldest modern republic has never seen a smooth transfer of power since 1944. The country has experienced a lot of bloodshed as a result of military coups, civil wars, and other political instabilities. Many are wondering whether George Weah is the long-expected Messiah, Liberians are yearning for. With Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of the former warlord turned ex-President Charles Taylor, as George Weah’s running mate, some have expressed doubts that the new President-elect is not a puppet of Charles Taylor after all. Although Mr. Taylor is serving a 50-year jail sentence in the UK prison in the neighbouring Sierra Leone, he is believed to still wield enormous influence in the Liberia politics.
Definitely, many Liberians – especially the youths – have hopes in George Weah; now that he has won the election, he needs to win the hearts of all Liberians as well. To achieve this demanding task, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah definitely, needs more than his football talismanic skills and wizardry to succeed. Certainly, Liberians – and the rest of the world – are eagerly watching.