Africa's greatest footballer calls time on LiberiaPosted: Monday January 28, 2002 6:46 PM
Updated: Monday January 28, 2002 7:11 PM
MOPTI, Mali (Reuters) -- George Weah, the only African to be named World and European Footballer of the Year, bowed out of international soccer on Monday after Liberia were eliminated from the African Nations Cup.
Weah, 35, had said he would quit the national team to spend more time with his family after the tournament in Mali, and he stuck by his decision when Liberia were beaten 1-0 by the Super Eagles of Nigeria and finished third in their group.
"I'm happy... but I'm sad Liberia was thrown out of this tournament," Weah said after the match.
"This is it, this is final. That's the game, you have to give the young guys a chance."
Weah was brought up in poverty in the war-ravaged West African country of Liberia.
He remembers that when he was sent searching for food, he stayed out and played football in the streets instead.
"There are no regrets," he added. "I think football is a beautiful game. I enjoy it and I'll stay enjoying it by watching it."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger ignited Weah's career when he plucked him from Africa and took him to French club Monaco in 1988.
After winning the French Cup with Monaco in 1991, Weah switched to Paris St Germain, picking up a French championship medal in 1994 before moving to Italian giants AC Milan a year later.
There he enjoyed his best moment as a player, helping Milan clinch the Serie A title in 1996.
After five years at Milan, Weah moved to Chelsea in the English Premier League and then had a brief, unhappy spell at Manchester City.
After a short stop in Marseille, Weah went to the United Arab Emirates, where he now plays for Al Jazira.
First named African Footballer of the Year in 1989, Weah picked up the award again in 1995, the same year he won the European and World titles.
Dancer, painter, singer
A UNICEF ambassador, dancer, painter and singer-songwriter -- he once released a single -- millionaire Weah singlehandedly kept the national side going at one point, even down to providing the players' shirts.
Weah had been highly critical of Liberia's management of the national side, and became a potent symbol of unity and hope in a poor, war-torn country.
Appointed technical director in September 2000 for Liberia's World Cup qualifying campaign, Weah came within a whisker of taking the team to this year's finals in Korea and Japan, eventually being pipped by Nigeria.
However, his time as coach was not always a happy one. He threatened to resign in July after the Lone Stars lost a crucial match at home to Ghana. He was reduced to tears after fans hurled abuse and missiles at him, and insulted his mother.
But he was finally persuaded to stay by Liberia's president Charles Taylor, a former warlord on a United Nations blacklist for allegedly running trade in arms and diamonds.
Weah also threatened to pull Liberia out of the African Nations Cup when his players left him in the lurch at the team's training camp in the Ivory Coast.
They wanted US$15,000 each to appear in the finals while the Liberian football authorities were offering $6,500.
Weah's parting plea to the authorities was to consign his No. 14 shirt to a museum cupboard.
He said: "If they want to play with the No. 14 jersey they're welcome.
"But if they want to do something for me, they should take it out of the team, just in remembrance of what I have done for the country and the African continent."
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