George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah was born on 1 October, 1966. He is a Liberian politician, and retired professional footballer who played as a striker. Regarded as one of the greatest African players of his-time and as one of the best forwards of his generation, in 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first African player to win these awards. In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was named the African Footballer of the Year, and in 1996, he was named African Player of the Century.
Known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goal-scoring and finishing, Weah was described by FIFA as “the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today”. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
After playing in the Liberian domestic league at the beginning of his successful career, and winning several national honours (including the Liberian Premier League and the Liberian Cup), Weah moved to Europe in 1988, when he was signed by Arsène Wenger, who was the manager of Monaco at the time, and whom Oppong credits as an important influence on his career. During his time with Monaco, he won the African Footballer of the Year for the first time in 1989; this was his first major award and he took it back home for the entire country to celebrate. Weah also won the Coupe de France in 1991, and he helped Monaco reach the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992, scoring four goals in nine cup appearances.
Weah joined Milan in 1995, with whom he immediately won the Italian league in 1996 under Fabio Capello, playing alongside Roberto Baggio and Dejan Savićević in Milan’s attack, as well as Marco Simone, on occasion, and finishing the season as Milan’s top goalscorer; he won the Serie A title once again in 1999.
An idol in Africa, George has been heavily involved in politics in his homeland Liberia. He ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election, he ran for vice president on Winston Tubman’s ticket. Running as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate, he was elected to the Senate in 2014. Oppong is currently a candidate for President of Liberia in the 2017 general election against Vice President Joseph Boakai.
As successful as he was at club level, Weah was not able to bring over that success to the Liberia national team. In total, he played 60 games for Liberia over 20 years, scoring 22 goals. As one of the smaller nations in world football and perennial underdogs, Oppong did everything he could in order to support the national squad: aside from being the team’s star player, he also later coached the squad, and even funded his national side to a large extent. Despite his efforts, he was unsuccessful in helping Liberia qualify for a single FIFA World Cup, falling just a point short in qualifying for the 2002 tournament.