George Weah, the only African to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or, has become the first former professional footballer to be president of his country.
Footy-Ghana.com looks to at the most notable events that marked the life of a footballer whose sporting excellence earned a global respect and acceptance:
Mighty Barrole – His first professional club
Weah’s historic achievement means his 11 former clubs will be ready to take pride in associating with his presidential success for the honorable fact that he once donned their shirts and the first of the lot to claim such right is Liberia’s Mighty Barrole – Weah’s first professional club with whom he won the league and Cup double in the 1985/86 season before other clubs like Tonnere Yaounde, AS Monaco, PSG, AC Milan followed.
5 October 1988 – Scored his first Uefa Champions League goal
First Round – AS Monaco 2 Valur 0 – Remi Vogel 15th, George Weah 37th. Monaco had lost the away first leg by a goal to nil before winning 2-0 at the Stade Louis II.
January 1989 – He wins France Football African Footballer of the Year
This is the first heavy individual accolade George Weah won during his illustrious soccer career. That is how it all began before other honours were added. Not the heaviest among his individual awards but this was the first of all.
8 June 1991 – lifted first trophy with an European side
After arriving in Europe in 1998, Weah helped AS Monaco then managed by the current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to Coupe de France success in 1991. What makes this title special was that it was won at the expense of Olympique Marseille who were the best French team at that time and paraded the likes of Abedi Pele, Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle. Wenger named Weah, Youssouf Fofana, Yuri Djorkaeff in his starting line-up that defeated rivals Marseille 1-0 thanks to Gerald Passi’s 90th minute strike.
Weah went on to win 8 trophies in total throughout his 13-year trade with European clubs.
26 January 1995 – He makes history. First African player to win the Ballon d’or
France Football published the newspaper numbered 2594 on Monday 26 January 1995 in which the name of the winner of the Ballon d’or was revealed and it was history time. For the first time, France Football – the organizers of the award, changed the rules of the award that made non-European players also eligible for the accolade. And interestingly enough, it took just the maiden edition under the amended rules for a non-European to win it and that person was George Weah of AS Monaco.
It is also important to note that whilst George Weah remains the first African player to win the Ballon d’Or, the prestige of the first African-born footballer to win the award belongs to Eusebio the great Portuguese superstar who was born in Maputo, Mozambique – the 1965 Ballon d’Or winner.
20 November 1996 – receives 6-game ban
Weah was banned from six European matches for breaking the nose of the Portuguese defender Jorge Costa on 20 November 1996 in the players’ tunnel after Milan’s draw at FC Porto in the Champions League.
No World Cup appearance
Weah achieved a lot but one thing that he missed was the Fifa World Cup.
“Of course I would have liked to have played at the World Cup, but I achieved so much in my career as a footballer that I can’t have any complaints.” Weah told fifa.com in an interview.
11 October 2005 – Contested first ever presidential elections
Weah’s presidential ambition started to take shape from this day he successfully stood against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2005. He managed to push the electoral contest into a second round but lost out to Sirleaf on November 8.
20 December 2014 – won Senate election
He was elected to the Liberian Senate on this day defeating Robert Sirleaf – son of president Sirleaf – becoming the first Liberian international athlete to represent in the country’s legislature. This victory meant Weah was moving from strength to strength in his political career.
26 December 2017 – Weah wins presidential election
After the 10 October 2017 election failed to produce a clear-cut winner, the new Liberia President had to be determined by a run-off contest originally slated for November 7 but done on December 26. Weah lost the 2005 elections in a run-off but this time he and his Coalition for Democratic Change party emerged victorious coming ahead of incumbent vice-president Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.