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George Weah: Exhibiting Sportsmanship Off the Pitch

Six years have passed since football icon George Weah was democratically elected as Liberia’s 24th president, and in two months, he will step down. How time runs so fast.

When he emerged victorious in 2017 as president of Liberia, the oldest republic in Africa, most of the country’s young citizens celebrated this long-awaited realization.

Weah’s ambition to lead Liberia and the hopes of the majority of the younger generation were delayed, as the football legend had to wait 12 years after missing out in 2005 as a presidential candidate and in 2011 as a vice presidential candidate.

However, Weah dodged the bullet. He kept the hope alive. On December 29, 2017, the former FIFA Ballon d’Or winner was officially declared Liberia’s 25th president-elect.

Having served six years in office, the football legend entered the 2023 elections with confidence that he would be re-elected. Like every team or player would go into a match.

Moreover, Weah, according to the National Elections Commission, topped the first round of the elections with 804,087 votes, constituting 43.83%. At the same time, his rival Joseph Boakai, a former Vice President, secured 796,961 votes, which represents 43.44%. With neither candidate reaching the 50% threshold.

Sadly, the football legend’s expectations were not met in the run-off elections.

After 99.58% of the results were announced, Weah conceded defeat, something that is rare on the African continent.

Weah, a football legend, is aware of the “golden rule” of sports, which is to treat your opponents and teammates with the same respect that you would like to receive. 

“The results announced tonight, though not final, indicate that Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai is in an insurmountable lead. A few moments ago, I spoke with President-elect Joseph N. Boakai to congratulate him on his victory and to offer my sincere commitment to working with him for the betterment of our beloved Liberia,” the football legend said in his concession speech.

Additionally, sportsmanship isn’t just reserved for the people on the field; it is also a style and an attitude that can have a positive influence on everyone around you.

“To the members of the Mighty Coalition for Democratic Change, I understand that this is not our desired outcome. Although we did not emerge victorious, your hard work and support have been the backbone of our campaign, and for that, I am deeply grateful. I urge you to follow my example and accept the results of the elections.” 

Weah, 57, received dozens of commendations from world leaders for his sportsmanship.

As an athlete who utilized every opportunity he had in world football to become a motivation for African football athletes and a global football icon, it was the hope of many aspiring sports talents, especially football talents, to see the Liberian sporting sector improve in six years under the football legend.

Whether their expectations were met or not, the results just didn’t go Weah’s way, but that didn’t stop him from showing one of his attributes as a football icon: sportsmanship.

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