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George Weah receiving an award from members of the African Student Association

George Weah, right, receives an award from members of the U's African Student Association.

Soccer legend Weah visits Twin Cities campus

By Bob San

Published on March 3, 2005

For all that he has accomplished, Liberian-born soccer legend George Weah exuded considerable humility and compassion during his visit to the University of Minnesota at Coffman Union on February 25.

Weah is a soccer legend of the highest order. He was named African Player of the Year in 1989, 1994, and 1995; European Player of the Year in 1995; World's Best Player in 1995; and African Player of the Century in 1998. Weah is the only soccer player to win African, European, and World Player of the Year honors in a single year (1995).

But his most impressive accomplishments have come off the soccer field. Despite being secure and safe playing for a European team, Weah returned to his native, war-torn Liberia in 1997, and used his fame and wealth to spearhead humanitarian projects across the country in an attempt to save a generation devastated by war.

"Get educated and achieve and go back to help," Weah urged students. "Go back to teach and you will help people and you will be happy."

He donated $2 million of his own money to rebuild the Liberian national soccer team. Weah's humanitarian accomplishments earned him the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2004 ESPY Awards ceremony. He is also the UNICEF Ambassador to Liberia.

Standing in front of about 100 mostly Liberian students on the Coffman Union Theater stage, Weah accepted an award presented to him by the U's African Student Association leaders, and said he will cherish the award as much as any of the others.

Weah said he never forgot his roots despite the success and the fortune he made as a soccer star. "I made my first million dollar when I was 19, but that didn't change me," Weah said. That's why he decided to return to Liberia to help those less fortunate countrymen who were left behind. Besides helping rebuild Liberia's soccer program, Weah also gave generously to help children fulfill their educational dreams. He estimated that he has helped send 5,000 Liberians to college.

He also tried to inspire the students to serve their native country. To those Liberian young people lucky enough to have immigrated to the United States, Weah asked them to seek education in a variety of fields because Liberia needs experts in many areas. "Get educated and achieve and go back to help," Weah urged the students. "Go back to teach and you will help people and you will be happy."

Weah's visit to Minnesota, sponsored by the Liberian Aspiring Communal Esteem organization, was designed to raise funds to improve the plight of Liberian children. While in the Twin Cities, Weah also visited African churches and hosted a fundraising ball and dinner.