To the cheers of a crowd fired by his promise to bring them jobs and prosperity, former football star George Weah was sworn in as president of Liberia on Monday, completing the country's first transition between democratically-elected leaders in three generations (since 1944). Weah, 51, becomes the 25th president of the West African nation, taking power from Nobel laureate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who ruled for 12 years and steered the country away from the trauma of a civil war but failed to ease dire poverty.
The first African player to win both FIFA's World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d'Or, Weah becomes the 25th president of the West African nation,"I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other," Weah said, as he thanked Sirleaf for "laying the foundations on which we can now stand in peace."
A member of the Kru ethnic group, Weah was raised by his grandmother on a reclaimed swamp in one of the worst slums of the capital Monrovia. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has likened Weah's life to a film script, while the former striker has described Wenger as a "father figure" who stood by him as he faced racist attacks in Europe.
Wenger signed Weah in 1988 when he was manager of Monaco, guiding his career for the next four years, and views the 1995 FIFA world player of the year as a shining example to the rest of the game."I remember when I saw him for the first time in Monaco, coming in a bit lost, not knowing anybody, not being rated by anybody as a player and after, in 1995, becoming the best player in the world," Wenger said in January.
"Now he's president of his country — it's an unbelievable story. But it's down to the fact that one thing that was common in George's attitude is being strong mentally, absolutely unbelievably convinced that he has a mission."
Younger voters have overwhelmingly favored Weah, helping to propel him to power, but they are expecting quick results.
"The expectation of the people and the country is all up to him (Weah). Everybody believes that if he fails us, the majority will be disappointed with politics," said Samuel Harmon, 30, a street trader.