Former 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, AC Milan legend and arguably one of the greatest African players of all time, George Weah was inaugurated as Liberia's 25th president on Monday to great cheers and much joy.
'I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other.'– George Weah, Liberian president
Weah, 51, is the successor of Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's first female head of state. Weah beat 73-year-old vice-president Joseph Boakai in the election.
"I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other," Weah said at his inauguration. He also gave credit to Sirleaf for "laying the foundations on which we can now stand in peace". According to AFP, expectations are sky-high among Liberians that Weah will deliver on his promises of jobs and better schools.
Weah has made a unique journey – from being the world's best football player in 1995, to becoming the democratically elected leader of Liberia.
Here is a brief timeline of the remarkable moments in that journey:
Weah was born in 1966 in Clara Town, one of the poorest slums in Monrovia, the country's capital. At the age of 15, he began his career playing domestic league football and won various awards.
As a result of his displays at home, he caught the attention of coach Arsene Wenger and was signed by French club Monaco for a reported R20,000 (£12,000). The move would prove to be the best decision of his life, as the years that followed catapulted him into global football recognition in the 90s.
World's best player
Weah's move to France in 1988 was the catalyst – in 1989, he was crowned African player of the year. He would later join Paris St-Germain from 1992-1995 for a successful spell that ended atop the 1995 Uefa Champions League – which earned him a move to Italian juggernauts AC Milan.
In Milan, Weah achieved the unprecedented feat – and one that is yet to be matched – when in 1995 he became the first African-born player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or, the two most prestigious awards in football. He was applauded for his athletic attribute, work-rate and attacking prowess, and he scooped the accolades from under the noses of greats like Brazil's Ronaldo.
Weah also managed to make the front pages for all the wrong reasons – he was banned for six matches, after breaking the nose of Portuguese defender Jorge Costa in 1996. In Weah's defence, he exploded out of frustration in the tunnel over Costa's racist taunts.
Weah's individual awards:
1989, 94, 95: African Player Of The Year🇱🇷 🏆
1995: Ballon d'Or Player of the Year🇮🇹 🏆
1995: FIFA Player Of The Year🇮🇹 🏆
1996: FIFA Fair Play Award🇮🇹 🏆
Costa went for facial surgery afterwards, but ironically was awarded the 1996 FIFA Fair Play Award. Weah would move to England in 2000, then on to Abu Dhabi side Al-Jazira in the twilight of his career. He retired as a player in 2003, aged 37.
Weah then became a devoted humanitarian in his war-torn country. Following the end of the Liberian Civil War, he announced his intention to run for president in the 2005 elections. Backed by the Congress For Democratic Change, he lost the run-off to Sirleaf with only 40.6 percent. Sirleaf took 59.4 percent, and Weah claimed the vote was rigged.
He wanted to run for president in the 2011 election. but his party nominated him as their vice-presidential candidate. He bounced back in 2014, when he ran for election to the senate as a Congress for Democratic Change mamber. This time, he won.
As a result, Weah gained the political power and influence he needed in the West African nation to contest the 2017 presidential race. He was declared the winner on December 26, 2017, beating 73-year-old vice-president Joseph Boakai.
On Monday, he was sworn in as Liberia's 25 president.