Liberian President and former soccer star George Weah awarded former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger with the nation’s highest honour in a ceremony on Friday.
The award, it was disclosed, was for services to African soccer that included launching Weah’s personal acclaimed profession.
Wenger discovered Weah playing for Cameroon’s Tonnerre Yaounde and brought him to French side Monaco in 1988.
The transfer paved the best way for the striker at some of Europe’s top clubs, including AC Milan, Chelsea and Paris St Germain.
In 1995 Weah was named World Footballer of the Year and received the Ballon d’Or, still the only African to win both award.
“You proved your self as a trainer when you revolutionised forever the approach of scouting younger talents all around the planet, particularly throughout Africa,” Weah stated of Wenger during a ceremony in the capital Monrovia.
Wenger was named a Knight Grand High Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption, the highest rank in Liberia’s Order of Distinction.
Fellow coach Claude Le Roy, who first informed Wenger about Weah’s expertise, also received the award on Friday.
Thousands of spectators clapped and cheered as Wenger received his medal in a hall at the national stadium adorned with the national red, white and blue.
Thousands more listened to the ceremony on the radio in the stadium, once a shelter for people displaced by a civil war that ended fifteen years ago.
Weah’s footballing successes helped launch his political profession back home.
His unlikely rise, from kicking a ball on the dusty streets of a Monrovia slum to world fame, won him support in one of the world’s poorest nations.
Development in the West African nation has been hobbled by the 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 and an Ebola outbreak which killed thousands from 2013-16.
He succeeded Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president after a landslide election victory in December last year.
“I believe Wenger deserves it. If he had not noticed ambassador Weah in those days, he wouldn’t have reached this level,” stated university student Cynthia Kollie.
Some took concern with the awards, saying the president’s selection was based mostly on private ties rather than on what the recipients did for the countr “President Weah is bestowing our nation’s highest honour on his two former soccer coaches who’ve made no direct impact or contributed to Liberia’s collective interest,” stated Martin Kolle, a pupil.
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