November 18, 2004


Can a former footballer unite Liberia?: Wildly popular soccer star George Weah announced this week he'll run for president next year. (Mike Crawley, 11/19/04, CS Monitor)

There's a saying here that only one thing can bring Liberians together: their love for soccer.

Now the most talented Liberian ever to kick a ball wants to parlay that love for the sport into votes at election time. Soccer star and national hero George Weah announced this week that he will run for president.

Mr. Weah's candidacy is anything but trifling - his popular appeal here cuts across ethnic groups, gender, class, and even warring factions. Many people perceive him as a neutral who could heal a bitterly divided society, a man with the stature to transcend the coups and civil war that have plagued Liberia for the past two decades.

Coming from outside typical political channels, he could be called the Arnold Schwarzenegger of West Africa.

"At this moment, he's the only person who can unify the entire country," says Joseph Dortu, general manager of Royal Communications, which consists of a TV station and radio station owned by Weah in the capital Monrovia. Weah is "embedded with charisma, a born leader," continues Mr. Dortu. But he cautions: "I've told him he's got to be strategic. This isn't football, this is a nation." [...]

"The bottom line is that he has a good heart," says Jacqueline Capehart, owner of a travel agency in central Monrovia and a prominent figure among a group of women supporting Weah's candidacy. "He has always helped his friends, his family, his neighbors, and people he doesn't even know."

Weah has certainly shown more of a social conscience than the typical pro athlete.He has been a United Nations Children's Fund goodwill ambassador for seven years, speaking out about AIDS prevention, urging children to stay in school, and publicizing the plight of child soldiers. In July, the actor Denzel Washington presented him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to a sports figure for outstanding humanitarian work.

Seems like he'd be particularly staff and advisor dependent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2004 6:48 PM

So was Reagan, and that turned out alright.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 19, 2004 12:29 AM

He was a wonderful player, in case you're remotely interested.

He played for Italian giants AC Milan and was the World Footballer of the Year in 1995.

Thus single-handedly ensuring that yet another country overtook Belgium in the Famous People charts.

Posted by: Brit at November 19, 2004 5:15 AM


No, Reagan had a stark vision of what he wanted to do so got by with generally crappy staff.

Posted by: at November 19, 2004 8:17 AM


We aren't.

Posted by: oj at November 19, 2004 8:34 AM

Brit: Remember that goal against Verona?

A thing of pure beauty.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at November 19, 2004 12:34 PM