George Weah’s illustrious football career is hardly mentioned without the role former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played in it. The footballer-turned-President had always pointed to the latter as responsible for his development. And now, Wenger has arrived in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, for an award ceremony in his honour on Friday, Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told the BBC.
Weah, former FIFA World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or winner, and currently, President of Liberia, will honour Wenger with Liberia’s Order of Distinction and the title of Knight Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption – the country’s highest rank possible in recognition of his “contribution to sports in Africa” and work in giving “many Africans opportunities”.
During the 22 years Wenger was at Arsenal, he coached 16 African players, including Ivory Coast’s Kolo Touré and Nigeria’s Nwankwo Kanu. President Weah was signed by Wenger in 1988 when he coached Monaco, going on to play for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, and retiring from football in 2003 to venture into politics. He won last year’s election by a landslide.
He has often spoken of the impact Wenger had in bringing him to Europe, where he has said that Wenger “took care of me like his son” when he went to Monaco, adding that “besides God, I think that without Arsène, there was no way I would have made it in Europe”.
Speaking in January, Wenger called the president’s life story “a miracle” saying, “I remember when I saw [Weah] the first time at Monaco, coming in a bit lost, not knowing anybody, not being rated by anybody as a player and becoming the best player in the world in 1995 and today becoming the president of his country,” he told journalists. “The life of this guy is a real film. It is unbelievable. It can make a fantastic film.” Weah is the only African to have been named World Player of the Year, claiming the honour in 1995.
BBC reports that the induction is set to happen on Friday, 24 August. In addition to the national award, Arsenal Fan Club of Liberia will also give Wenger a chieftaincy title. The award not only conveys their personal connection, but also that he has contributed to sports in Africa and has given many Africans opportunities, according to information minister Eugene Nagbe.