George Weah was world footballer of the year, Arsene Wenger is his mentor and he played for Chelsea… but now he will become president of Liberia!

| January 22, 2018

The sun had gone down on another sweltering West African day and mosquitoes and bats filled the humid air while goats roamed the sandy ground of this swampland.

In a clearing away from the bamboo-thatch huts that offered slim shelter from the oppressive heat, sat a circle of chairs, 13 of them on the front row, with all eyes turned on the man dressed in a white ‘high-high’ suit, the African tunic and trousers worn by the boss men.

For he was the former Chelsea and Manchester City striker, once the best footballer in the world, George Weah. And on Monday at around lunchtime, if arrangements go to schedule, which they never do around here, he will be sworn in as the 25th president of Liberia.

George Weah will become the 25th president of Liberia on Monday at around lunchtime

We are a 30-minute drive out of Monrovia, the capital of unimaginable poverty. It is not so much a journey to where we find Weah at this secluded resort as a slalom of horn-beeping danger, dodging pedestrians with food balanced on their heads, snaking motorcyclists without helmets and high-speed cars that intermittently come at you the wrong way.

For the moment, Weah is relaxed, away from the formal engagements that lead up to his inauguration. He offers me a plate of jellof — rice, tomatoes and fried chicken and fish — from the buffet and contemplates why he is seeking to emulate Samuel K Doe, a president he respected.

A master sergeant in the Liberian Army, Doe mounted a military coup in 1980, ending the rule of Americo-Liberians who had held sway here since the republic was established by American slaves in the 1820s.

But Doe’s dictatorship ended with him howling for mercy as his enemies tortured and decapitated him. His chief tormentor, Prince Y Johnson, sipped a beer as Doe’s ears were cut off.

Sportsmail's JONATHAN MCEVOY recently met up with Weah for an interview

Sportsmail’s JONATHAN MCEVOY recently met up with Weah for an interview

A billboard of Liberia's new president George Weah is seen in a street in Monrovia

A billboard of Liberia’s new president George Weah is seen in a street in Monrovia

Civil war followed from the late Eighties, killing eight per cent of the population of some four million, and then the Ebola illness struck four years ago, further blighting this land fortune forgot.

The stadium where Monday’s ceremonies will take place is named after Doe. Does Weah not fear for his own chances of success, if not life itself? Why is a man who once earned £30,000 a week and won the FA Cup while briefly on loan at Chelsea in 2000 taking this hideous job?

‘Nobody ever thought I would win the Ballon d’Or,’ Weah told me of his recognition as Europe’s best footballer in 1995, an accolade he took along with the World Footballer of the Year award, making him the only African to win the honour. ‘So I am confident that we can make Liberia a better place. Nothing is impossible.

‘I came from a slum. I had no money. I succeeded. I worked hard. That is what I am calling on Liberians to do now. They have to work with me and take the chances that I am offering them.’ He is not specific about policy.

George Manneh Opong Weah, known as King George to his countrymen and now aged 51, grew up one of 14 siblings and 10,000 unfortunate souls in the Claratown community in Monrovia, close to the Montserrado River. He kicked a ball in the dust whenever he could, played for local teams before going on to the neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he was recommended in 1988 to Monaco, falling under the benign managership of Arsene Wenger.

Source Dailymail

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