He cried, the champion. Thursday, December 28, George Weah, the star of African football, won the most important game of his life. But in his own country this time. At 51, the former international footballer has been widely elected president of Liberia. In front of a crowd in trance came to applaud his “hero”, he struggles to hide his emotion.
By the way, that night, in Monrovia, nobody tried to hide his. In the capital, immersed in an unparalleled euphoria, thousands of fans sang, danced, shouted and celebrated their future president. “Mister George” is their hero, “the one who will finally give us a voice” , repeated his supporters came to celebrate in his headquarters.
His popularity, already growing during his career abroad, is exceptional among the most disadvantaged classes of Monrovia, who represent the bulk of the population , crammed into the many ghettos in the capital. “Imagine that you live in a country where a small elite has everything, and the rest has nothing.Today, our new president will give back his power to the people” , explained, tears in the eyes, an old lady come to participate to the festivities.
Phone repairer being a child
After starting as a goalkeeper in a small club in the suburbs of Monrovia, George Weah finds himself at the center forward position in a Cameroonian club. In 1988, then aged 22, the young footballer is spotted by the French Arsène Wenger, coach at the time of AS Monaco . The same year, he flies to the Principality.
Committed to the humanitarian
Meanwhile, in Liberia, an atrocious civil war ravaged the country from 1989 to 2003. George Weah was absent from the conflict, which killed some 250,000 people while he was leading his brilliant career in Europe. “I never heard a single Liberian criticize Weah for that,” said Hassan Bility, a human rights activist , for them it was the only positive thing that Liberia had at that time: a success story that gave a brilliant image, for once, of the country. “
From France, he is involved in humanitarian work. The player then pleads for peace in Liberia, calling on the UN to save his country. In retaliation, rebels burn his home in Monrovia and take hostage two of his cousins.
In the time of Charles Taylor, the former militia leader became president, the star of the round ball “swear not to return to the country while he is president,” says one of his relatives. While living in the United States, installed with family in Miami where he built a house with his fortune, “relatives came to the view and asked him to present the 2005 elections” , says Bility. “He was the only one, because of his absence, not to have been involved in the war, he was the neutral candidate , “ the activist said.
A “son of the people”
Back in Liberia, George Weah decides to take the political step . But to dribble to the presidency, the path is longer than expected. In 2005, he was defeated by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the current outgoing president of Liberia. Six years later, reviewing its ambitions downwards, he ran again against M me Sirleaf, this time on the electoral ticket of the opposition. Another failure. Finally, he is elected Senator of Montserrado, where the capital is, in 2014.
His status as a son of the people also played. Member of the Kru ethnic group and not part of the elite descendants of former American slaves, called “congo”, which traditionally dominate the life policy , George Weah is considered a “native”, the word used to describe the Liberians of origin.
“In Liberia, there is an apartheid system, in a way, because the freed slaves from the United States have segregated and have ruled the country continuously since,” said Maurice Mahounon, doctor of political science . With the exception of the presidency of Samuel Doe (1980-1990), who took power through a coup. “There, Weah has no connection with this caste,” says Mahounon.
Charles Taylor’s ex-wife as running mate
Critics do not miss, however. In particular, he was criticized for his lack of education – even though he holds a master’s degree in management in 2011 from a private American institution. To this, the people answer: “At least he knows our problems, he will work tirelessly to help us .”
For now, in Monrovia, the many supporters of “Mister George” are preparing to celebrate for the second night in a row his victory, without a shadow of a doubt on his ability to change their lives. “George Weah can change things, but people expect too much from him,” warns Hassan Bility.
With a margin of maneuver is limited and that will definitely hit the socio-economic realities, “King George” risk, despite himself, to deceive a people may be too optimistic.