History has been made from African football. Former great player George Oppong Weah has been sworn in as the 24th president of the Republic of Liberia.
Weah was named as a FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995 — becoming the first and to date only African player to win this award. He was also named the African Footballer of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1995 and in 1996 he was named African Player of the Century.
He is known for his personal financial contribution towards helping the Liberia national team participate at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. With Liberia, he won 60 caps, scoring 22 goals and he represented Liberia at the Africa Cup of Nations on two occasions.
Weah spent 14 years playing for clubs in France, Italy, and England. Arsène Wenger first brought him to Europe, signing him for Monaco in 1988 before moving to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where he won Ligue 1 in 1994 and became the top scorer of the 1994-95 UEFA Champions League.
He signed for Milan in 1995 where he spent four successful seasons before moving to the English Premier League towards the end of his career and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City. He then returned to France to play for Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazirain 2003.
Weah became involved in politics in Liberia following his retirement from football. He formed the Congress for Democratic Change and 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 unsuccessfully as vice president alongside Winston Tubman. Weah was subsequently elected to the Liberian Senate for Montserrado County in the 2014 elections. Knowing that education was what was hindering him from the success in politics, Weah went back to school and graduated.
Maybe young Malawian players can begin to learn that there is always life after football as long as they properly prepare themselves with the correct qualifications during their active sports. Not to become politicians or heads of state but some strong academic qualifications they can lean on for life after football.
There are many great players who took their academic paths very seriously. The corporate world is awash with many executives who played football at the highest club level after graduating from the university such as FAM president Walter Nyamilandu, NBS Chief Executive Phillip Madinga, Hannock Ng’oma, Al Osman, Chiza Nyirongo, Alick Tahuma and even the former Chief Justice Richard Banda.
There are so many of them out there who played well but never made it into the national team, let alone the top tier club football and wouldn’t it be prudent to engage them to start giving career talks to young footballers — especially those that are still in school.
Such career talks can inspire youngsters to consider their academic paths just as serious as their passion for football so that they can lean on it once they hang up their boots
Before his football career allowed him to move abroad, Weah worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician. Some of the names I gave as an example also attended training sessions coming straight from work and they eventually quit football to concentrate more on their jobs.
It’s very sad that many players, who were stars at their prime, ended up as beggars after their playing career. This should be discouraged in the up and coming young players that it’s their own responsibility to look after themselves after their football careers.
It’s not on that the public or the government or the football governing body to be taken to task that they have forsaken former players who are now languishing in poverty. It’s their own fault they never took education seriously or that they never invested anything from the earnings they received during their playing years.
Walter, Phillip Madinga, Hannock, Al Osman, Chiza Nyirongo, Alick Tahuma are you game to consider giving our young footballers some career talk?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :