Johannesburg (People's Daily) –After a slow ballot count and a few premature celebrations, election officials declared former FIFA all-star, George Weah, as the winner of Liberia’s presidential election, defeating incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai.
On Tuesday it was reported that Weah had won 13 or the nation’s 15 counties, claiming an overwhelming majority, but not an official victory as some had believed.
He is the only footballer to win FIFA World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or and African Footballer of the Year. Weah was also named African Player of 20th Century. He remains the most decorated African footballer in the history of the sport.
Weah in known to many as the Hero of Liberia and the Hero of Africa. And the former AC Milan striker is well-known in China.
Weah grew up in Clara Town, one of Liberia’s poorest regions, and many feel his story is the real “Slumdog Millionaire,” a film about an impoverished young boy trying to survive in a cold world.
Before he became an international footballer, he worked as a switchboard technician.
His life changed when he moved to Europe in 1988 and made the Monaco team where he played under Arsène Wenger, one of the most highly regarded football managers in the sport today.
Weah won African Footballer of the year in 1989 and six years later was named FIFA World Player of the Year.
Throughout his career, he played for AC Milan, Chelsea, and Manchester United. He retired from professional football in 2003 and started his political career shortly afterward.
An second civil war was underway in 1999 that would go on to claim 250,000 lives, roughly 8 percent of the country’s total population, by the end of 2003, the same year Weah hung up his cleats.
By 2005, an earlier peace agreement had paved the way for democratic elections, and Weah made his first bid for the top office.
But critics cited Weah’s lack of formal education and political experience, raising doubts among voters. In a runoff election, he lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Noble Laureate and Liberia’s first female president.
A 2011 election rematch ended with a second Sirleaf victory. She will step down in January, ending her twelve-year run. Liberian presidents serve six-year terms.
In 2016, Weah announced he would run for the presidential office for a third time on the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) ticket.
Weah secured a seat in the nation’s Senate three years ago, and two years into his rols as Senator, he announced his plans to run again for the presidency.
Weah will be sworn into office on January 22 during an inauguration ceremony in the nation’s capital city of Monrovia.
Weah’s victory marks the first time in modern history that a former professional footballer has gone on to become president of a nation.