When considering some of the greatest players of all time, soccer fans can start with a G. George Weah is heralded as one of the greatest players to never make a World Cup. His scoring prowess was unrivaled, his leadership unmatched. It would be something that continues to be with him in his second career.
George Weah is one of the few star athletes ever to call Liberia home. A native of Monrovia, the capital, Weah started his playing career locally before moving to Ivory Coast and then Cameroon. It was there he was discovered by Arsene Wenger, who brought him to Monaco in 1988. It was there where Weah began to shine, scoring over 40 goals in his 4 seasons in the European principality. He then moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where his star quality grew to a new level. There, he helped PSG win Ligue 1 in 1994 and starred as the Golden Boot winner of the 1994-95 UEFA Champions League.
After his first stint in France, George Weah moved to AC Milan, where he won Serie A twice and notched 46 goals. In 1995, he became the first African player (and only) to win the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world. He also won the FIFA World Player of the Year, the first African to win that award as well.
Probably his most spectacular goal came in 1996 against Verona, where he calmly collected a corner kick in his own end and dribbled the length of the field to score, snaking past Verona defenders like they were traffic cones and putting on a dazzling display of will and swagger to score:
George Weah was known specifically for his pace, his physical attributes, and his clinical finishing skill. He also mixed that power with incredible creativity and a tough work rate. He had speed, he had strength, he had agility...he had it all. In FIFA’s profile of Weah, they wrote about his game:
An exceptional goalscorer, it is no exaggeration to describe him as the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today. Quick, skillful and boasting a powerful physique, fierce shooting power and deadly finishing skills, in his pomp Liberia’s ‘Mr George’ was rightly considered one of the giants of the game.
Towards the twilight of his career, Weah had stints at Chelsea (where he helped the team win the 2000 FA Cup), Manchester City, and Marseille, before finishing with Al-Jazira.
For Liberia, George Weah was the face of the national team, its brightest star. Liberia had zero history of success on the international level. Before Weah hit the scene, Liberia had never qualified for any major tournament. With Weah’s tenacity and will, Liberia was able to qualify for its first (and only) two Africa Cup of Nations, in 1996 and 2002. He had 60 caps for Liberia, scoring 22 goals. Still, the one tournament that eluded him was the World Cup. Liberia came closest to qualifying in 2002, where it ended a point shy of making it to South Korea/Japan. Sadly, Liberia has not come close to qualifying for the World Cup since.
George Weah’s accolades need their own article: 3-time African Footballer of the Year, 4-time FIFA XI, Onze d’Or, Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, FIFA Silver World Player of the Year, and IFFHS African Player of the Century. In 2004, Pelé included George Weah on his list of the greatest 125 soccer players of all time.
Still, some of his greatest accolades have come off the field. Throughout his career, George Weah worked hard to help his country through sponsoring humanitarian projects in Liberia and all over Africa. For his efforts, ESPN awarded Weah the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2004. Weah, however, knew his work wasn’t done. He decided to enter politics and ran unsuccessfully for president of Liberia in 2005. Not to be denied, he continued to educate himself and remain active in politics, running for Vice President in 2011. Weah eventually won a Senate seat in 2014. Finally, late in 2017, he ran for president against the incumbent and won the election, receiving more than 60% of the vote in the run-off election. He was sworn in January 22nd for a 6-year term.
George Weah’s will and tenacity on and off the field has led to his success. Fans of the United States will hope that his son Timothy inherited some of his skill and his will. Timothy Weah, who currently plays for PSG’s youth team, starred for the United States U-17s at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. With his rise through the ranks, it’s possible that the president of one nation could see his son play soccer for another. In any case, George Weah will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but he will undoubtedly also be in the record books as one of the greatest humanitarians to play the game.
Check out some of George Weah’s best goals and recognize a true hero of the game: