George Weah makes history in Liberia


The former Milan striker was normally much more interested in speaking about his indigenous nation than his following video game in Serie A

This 7 days, the earth will witness a really historic, but desperately severe minute when the former FIFA Globe Player of the 12 months, Liberian George Weah, is sworn into workplace as the following President of Liberia.

There is, of study course, very little new about a top amount experienced sportsman or woman making a second career for themselves in political lifetime when their sports career finishes, typically at a nevertheless relatively younger age. The listing of famed predecessors to Weah is infinite – Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser, English athlete Sebastian Coe, US wrestler Jesse Ventura have all ventured into politics in just one type or a different.

Right here in Italy, just one of the country’s most famed footballing sons, “Golden Boy” Gianni Rivera, Milan and Italy idol of the 1960s and 1970s, moved from the San Siro to government household soon after his football career. An elected politician from 1987 to 2013, Rivera ultimately served as Junior Minister of Defence in four various centre-left governments amongst 1996 and 2001.

All that is just one issue but no experienced sportsman or woman has at any time ended up as President of their nation, as is now the circumstance of 51-calendar year-aged Weah. Not surprisingly, critics wonder if a gentleman who owes his achievement in essence to his exploits on the football area will have the knowledge, practical experience and know-how to govern just one of Africa’s poorest international locations.

As a really encouraged striker for Monaco, PSG, Milan, Chelsea, Man City, Marseille et al, Weah utilized to have his get the job done minimize out discovering his way by some rough defences. Nonetheless that practical experience may possibly feel like rooster-feed in contrast to attempting to run a 4.6 million populated country which has found much more than 250,000 men and women killed in bloody civil wars amongst 1989 and 2003 not to mention the much more modern devastation inflicted by an Ebola epidemic which killed approx. 5,000 Liberians.

Now, Liberia is ranked 177 out of 184 on the UN’s growth index. This is a nation exactly where around 60 per cent of the inhabitants reside underneath the poverty line and exactly where the typical wage is just one and a fifty percent dollars per day. How can an ex-footballer, even just one who has long gone back again to analyze very long soon after his football career had ended, take care of this sort of a complicated job?

Moreover, Weah has a rough act to observe in the person of outgoing President, the Harvard educated Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Her 14 decades in electricity were widely perceived as constructive, supplied that she managed to stabilise the economic system, get the cancellation of $5 billion personal debt and secure some basic human rights this sort of as totally free speech.

Weah, in distinction, has been criticised not only for his lack of political practical experience but also for what seems like the opportunist shift of selecting Ms. Jewel Howard, the ex-spouse of former warlord Charles Taylor, as his deputy. For most of his political lifetime, Weah has been a virulent critic of Taylor and his National Patriotic Bash (NPP). So what does this candidacy indicate?

It appears like this could be an experiment that could go poorly wrong. Perhaps not, though. Much more than 20 decades in the past, when your correspondent interviewed Weah through his days at Milan, I was quickly struck by his “political” head. He was extremely various from his Milan staff-mates and not just due to the fact of the colour of his skin. He was much more interested in speaking about his indigenous Liberia than about Milan’s following Serie A video game, telling me: “I’ll continue to keep heading back again to Liberia, that is exactly where I was born and that is exactly where I am heading to die just one day. You know, I have been actively playing for Liberia for 15 decades now and I have received very little from the nationwide affiliation, zero. On the contrary, I have supplied a ton.  but what can I say, it’s my nation, this was not an obligation, it’s some thing I desired to do and I did it with my coronary heart and I have no difficulties with that.”

Appropriate now, Weah is preparing to provide his whole nation instead than just its football staff. His development (or lack of) will be scrutinised closely but he is mindful of that, telling the BBC this 7 days: “You [journalists] only appear at me as a former footballer but I’m a human getting. I strive to be excellent. I can be productive. I was productive in advance of in my career. When I left below men and women asked me the exact question: ‘Will you be productive in Europe?’ I told them that when I get the job done challenging and believe that in what I believe that in, I show I can persevere. I believe that that with the support of the Liberian men and women I will be productive.”

Right here is wishing very well to both Liberia and George Weah.

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