It’s taken 12 years since his first stab at the presidency. But George Weah, world footballer of the year in 1995, has realised democracy is a slow cook compared to his sizzling quick dribble. The footballing world celebrates as one of its finest is all set to take over as head of state of Liberia. But the inspirational fairy tale of the boy who grew up in the slums of capital Monrovia is tempered with the reality of politics, as Weah sets conservative targets to lead one of the most impoverished African nations.
It took nothing less than a Harvard-trained, Nobel-feted economist, and Africa’s first elected woman head, to keep Weah away from the presidency 12 years ago. Weah, the first African winner of Ballon d’Or, was a legend in his country, but the electorate that had seen two massive civil wars, corruption scandals and economic hardships and an outbreak of Ebola, recognised the need for a leader with a skill-set that wasn’t to be confused with the talent of kicking a mere ball.
Weah would go on to get his high school diploma at age 40, proceed to complete his college education and get a management degree from the US before taking a second jab at office. And in this realism lies the hope for sportspersons around the world. Politics is a different ball game, needing more humility than what sporting arenas usually equip stars with. Perhaps the biggest reality to hit sporting legends going into politics is about to strike Weah too — working quietly in the background can be a task for those accustomed to be front and centre of the searing spotlight.