Cameroon was Weah’s stepping stone on his way to becoming a top football player in Europe. Many of his former team mates have fond memories of Liberia’s president-elect. DW’s Moki Kindzeka spoke with some of them.
Former Cameroonian national coach Jean Paul Akono still vividly remembers the day George Weah’s extraordinary talent as a football player was discovered by his fellow countrymen.
“It was during a match that the Tonnerre Kalara football club of Yaounde played in Liberia that my late predecessor and friend Bendongo Paul Gaston spotted George Weah,” Akono told DW.
“His prowess helped his Liberian side defeat Tonnerre.”
During the match, Weah scored two goals for his Liberian club Invincible Eleven. After the game, Tonnerre’s president Pierre Semengue called for negotiations with Weah to get him to join his team.
By then, Weah could already look back at a successful football career in his native Liberia. He had played for the country’s two top clubs: Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven. In 1987, Weah was the Liberian football league’s top scorer and chosen as the best player of the season.
In Cameroon, he also quickly lived up to expectations.
“When he arrived, the first match he played was against Canon. He scored two goals, Semengue remembered.
But outside the football field, life wasn’t easy for Weah. Semengue recounts that he spent several months in a one-bedroom apartment with some of his team mates.
“The house was called ‘The boy’s quarter’. Before he moved there, he was hosted by my wife, together with other players,” Semengue told DW.
Weah’s most outstanding performance in Cameroon was when he lead his team to win the 1988 Challenge Cup. Cameroon’s president Paul Biya was in the audience at the time.
‘I shouted with joy’
Weah’s talents did not go unnoticed, even outside the country. Claude Leroy, then coach of Cameroon’s national team, introduced Weah to officials from the French club, AS Monaco. After six months in Cameroon, Weah joined AS Monaco in 1988. Despite some language problems in the beginning, he quickly became the club’s top scorer.
In 1989, the readers of French football magazine “France Football” selected him as “African football player of the year.” In 1994, the magazine awarded the title again. The African football federation also chose him as African player of the year in 1995.
From Monaco, Weah went on to play for some of the best clubs in Europe, including Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Despite his brief stint in Cameroon, many of Weah’s former team mates are still closely following his career and will be watching his inauguration.
“I shouted with joy when it was announced that he had won the presidential elections in Liberia,” former team-mate Dieudonne Nke told DW.
“It is not every day that you have a team mate that finds himself in the highest position of a country.”