Football great George Weah recently paid a visit to VOA in Washington. Weah is the only African ever selected as World Player of the Year by FIFA, football's international governing body. He earned that honor in 1995. He is currently UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He is also one of the most identifiable names in Africa with an established record of humanitarian work, particularly in the field of child soldiers.
In a live in-studio interview with English-to-Africa reporters Sonny Young and Ted Roberts, Weah said he remembers listening to VOA as a boy growing up in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. (CLICK ABOVE LINKS TO DOWNLOAD OR LISTEN TO INTERVIEW)
Weah has also built a radio and television station in Liberia as part of his contribution to the reconstruction and reconciliation process in his homeland.
Weah said one of the main objectives of his visit was to check on the possibility of airing VOA programs on his new communication network. Sonny Young, the host of the very popular “Sonny Side of Sports” presented Mr. Weah with a VOA soccer ball, a VOA T-Shirt and other VOA promotional items, as well as a special plaque from Liberia Heroes and Heroines, a U.S.-based Liberia advocacy group.
Following his visit, Weah wrote to Sonny Young:
"Dear Mr. Sonny Young, I must start by saying you are a young man. Thanks for your e-mail. It lifts me up knowing that my fans still love me and follow me. Like I said to you on your program, I'm grateful to my many fans for their blessing throughout these years. I know they still want to see me play, but I also know that they understand it's time for everything, I have played my part. Now, I hope and pray that Weah Jr. carries on the legacy and also makes them proud. I love my fans and I will always love them. Thanks for having me on your show and I hope that our relationship will grow, both you and I, VOA, and Mr. Steve Lucas. God bless you and have a wonderful day."
Weah is planning to broadcast VOA programs at his new radio and television station in Liberia's capital, Monrovia.
Lots of listeners responded to the football star’s visit to VOA. Here’s a sample of their comments along with a few photos of George Weah and VOA staffers.
"I was really pleased with your interview with George Weah, and I am happy to hear what he is doing to upgrade the standard of soccer in Liberia. I do hope that other footballers will do the same for their countries. I am also happy he has a footballing lineage and his son is taking after him ... like father, like son, Sonny. I hope he comes back to play in the senior league, like "Uncle" Ted Roberts asked, and George gives it strong consideration." -- Dunoi Afam, Warri, Nigeria
"Good day! I listened to the radio interview you did with Weah yesterday, and I am most impressed with the football star. He did say he's trying to be humble. I see him as the most patriotic Liberian footballer. One can only imagine the number of times he mentioned Liberia in that interview. That shows how patriotic he is. I am very happy for him. 'Queen' Josephine Kamara said he's a hero of Africa. I completely agree with Josephine." -- Dauda Yusuf (no address given)
"Thanks, Sonny, for every evening's entertainment. I am a regular listener here in the small southwestern Ugandan town of Kisoro. Last evening, I was overwhelmed with your interview with King George Weah. As in his words, I am greatly humbled. I greatly appreciate the King's contribution to African football, especially his sole efforts in uplifting Liberia's football. Sonny, remember that great time when more than half of the Liberian team was made up of refugees?" -- Emmery Mbaha, Kisoro, Uganda
"Hello Sonny, how are you doing today? I hope you're cool. I just wrote to tell you how much I enjoy your program everyday, especially the interview you had with the one and only George Oppong Weah of Liberia. It was interesting and inspiring. I was made to understand during the interview that George has retired, but he's not tired (laugh). Now, he is doing something great for Liberia, and he is also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, which is a big plus to his reputation. I hope other African football stars emulate him. I am also quite happy for George when he said his son is presently in the youth team of A.C. Milan of Italy. O boy!" -- Idumwonyi Osamede, Benin City, Nigeria
"Greetings from Lagos, Sonny! Listened in to the Weah interview yesterday on the Sonny Side of Sports, and was quite thrilled. He is really the "hero of Africa." Well done, as they say in these parts!" -- Segun "Dot On The Spot" Adeyemi, Lagos, Nigeria
"Hi, Sonny. How are you doing today? It was great listening to you and the legendary George Oppong Weah. It was a real kick to hear you guys in the studio. I mean it, Sonny." -- Jonas Efughu, Abuja, Nigeria
"Hi, Sonny. I enjoyed the story about King George Oppong Weah on your broadcast. You see, Sonny, George Weah is not just a sports hero. He is also a patriotic citizen of our dear country. Presently, Weah has a radio and television station in Monrovia, and these stations are rewarding. Please extend my heartfelt greetings to King George Weah and his son. Also, extend my greetings to all the many sports fans of the Sonny Side of Sports." -- D. Levi Hinneh II, Monrovia, Liberia
"I'm a regular listener of your program every Monday through Friday evening for some years now, and I want to say that your programs are very inspiring and soul lifting. I also enjoyed your conversation with world best player and African footballer of the year George Weah. Keep on, Sonny, and God will bless you." -- Fawale Babajide Josiah, Ilorin, Nigeria
After his VOA visit, George Weah traveled to London, where world football's governing body, FIFA, released the list of its 100 greatest living players. Weah was one of five African players on "The FIFA 100" list.