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David Schiavone On December - 8 - 2010

Legend of Calcio: George Weah

Born on the 1st October 1966 in the Clara Town slum of Monrovia, Liberia and raised principally by his grandmother, George Weah was a good student; he studied hard at Wells Hairston High School, although it was apparent from a young age that he was destined for football stardom.

The young George Weah was prodigiously talented with a football at his feet but this aptitude wouldn’t truly become evident until he made the move overseas.

Before he made his big move, he worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician, whilst playing for local sides Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven, before joining Cameroon’s Tonnerre Yaounde.

It was at Tonnerre Yaoundé that Weah caught the eye of the visiting scouts: not only did his 14 goals in 18 games win his side the title, but also earned him his much awaited move abroad. He was 21 years old.

Upon his move to Europe in 1988 he joined Monaco, managed at the time by a certain Arsene Wenger. It was during his time under the tutelage of Wenger, whom he credits as a major influence on his career, that he first tasted professional football glory by winning the 1991 French Cup after defeating Marseille in the final.

As a result Monaco competed in the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup and reached the final only to be beaten by German side Werder Bremen. Annoyed by the defeat so much, Weah decided to move to another French club, Paris Saint German in the summer of 1992.

It was in Paris Weah was to enhance his reputation unequivocally. He became top scorer in Ligue 1 during the 92/93 season and also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, after being eliminated by Juventus.

Following a strong campaign in the league, PSG were crowned champions in 1994 meaning they would compete in the following years Champions League. Weah was at the pinnacle of European football and had the chance to show off his talents against Europe’s top sides.

PSG were faultless in the initial round robin tournament winning six out of six, and then eliminating Barcelona in the quarter-finals before facing AC Milan in the semi-final. The Italian side were a step too far and the PSG were eliminated once more in the semi-finals of European competition, however Weah’s 8 goals in 11 matches plus a strong showing against Milan caught the eye of the Italians who promptly signed him in the summer.

Weah Always Had An Eye For Goal

He was an instant success for the Rossoneri, scoring six minutes into his debut against Padua, then assisting a late goal for Franco Baresi. While not scoring a massive amount of goals he was fundamental to Milan who went on to win the Scudetto in 1996.

During the next two years Milan were at a low, but Weah was still able to bag a regular number of goals including what is remembered as his best. It occurred on the 8th September 1996 against Verona at the San Siro. Weah picked up the ball in his own box and slalomed his way through the entire Verona team before slotting the ball home.

The goal known as ‘coast to coast’ took him past seven players, a goalkeeper after galloping 90 yards.
Milan though got back to winning ways in 1999 when they won their 16th Scudetto and he was still an important part of the side scoring two in Turin against Juventus as Milan won 2-0 on 9th May 1999.

But after 58 goals in 147 matches he joined Chelsea in January 2000 and scored on his debut for the London club against Tottenham Hotspur, also playing a vital role in their march to the F.A. Cup final which Chelsea won 1-0.

After only 11 matches for Chelsea he moved to Manchester City, where he managed only seven games before a return to France with Marseille but only five goals in 19 matches meant he was moved on at the end of the
2001/01 season. A couple of years in the UAE with Al-Jazira spawned 13 goals in 8 games but he was soon to retire in 2003.

Known in Liberia as ‘Mr George’ he did everything he could to help his national side, he is seen as the patron saint of The Lone Stars, having not only played and coached them, and spent upwards of $2 million to help finance their quest for glory.

Unfortunately, no matter how much Weah tried, Liberia still fell short, falling just a point short of World Cup qualification in 2002.

George Weah may not have a massive haul of club trophies but his personal accolades speak volumes. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995, becoming the only African player to win the award. Given the Ballon d’Or in 1995, becoming the only African player to win the award.

He was voted African Footballer of the Year in 1989,1994 and 1995, whilst also being named African Footballer of the Century by the continent’s sport writers in 1999.

Since retirement Weah has become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he also ran for President of Liberia in 2004 only to finish second in the race with, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female president in Africa. Though he has vowed to run again in 2011.

There is also a rumoured film in the works about the life and times of one George Weah. If that doesn’t make you a Legend of Calcio, nothing does.

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