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George Weah - A Man Africa is Proud Of

Pictures of Weah as he accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Weah selected for Arthur Ashe Courage Award

ESPN release
Liberian-born UNICEF Ambassador George Weah, Africa's all-time greatest soccer star who has, at great risk, worked tirelessly to help his war-torn country, will receive the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award -- given to individuals whose contributions transcend sports -- at the 12th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday, July 14 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. The event will be televised on ESPN four days later Sunday, July 18 at 9 p.m. ET.

While the honor will celebrate Weah's soccer career, it will primarily focus on his life off the field, highlighting his commitment to humanitarian projects all over Africa as an international soccer star. One example is how Weah has used his name and fame to take guns out of the hands of children to try and help save a generation devastated by war. Full story....

Congratulations George, this is a tremendous accomplishment for Africa, by an outstanding Liberia!!!

Two Africans in a United State
Liberian Weah Is a Role Model, Hero to Ghanaian-Born Adu
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2004; Page D01

As D.C. United's practice session ended yesterday, Freddy Adu peered across the RFK Stadium training grounds and immediately recognized the spotlessly dressed figure approaching the team.

"I just saw the suit," Adu said later with teenage giddiness, "and I knew it was George Weah."

Largely unrecognized in the United States, the Liberian-born Weah, 37, is considered one of the legends of international soccer and among the most famous athletes in African history. In 1995, Weah was not only named the best player in Africa, he was honored as Europe's top performer for his scoring exploits with AC Milan and the world player of the year.

Years later, he was declared the player of the century in Africa.

Although Adu left his native Ghana when he was 8, Weah's mystique followed him to America.

"Of course, I knew who he was!" Adu, 15, said, when asked if he was too young to remember Weah in his golden years. "He was one of my heroes. He's one of the heroes for all of Africa."

But admiration for Weah goes well beyond his performances for Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Marseille and Chelsea. It's his humanitarian work in war-torn Liberia that has brought equal acclaim. He has spent millions to help the rebuilding efforts and has teamed with UNICEF and the United Nations to improve life for an impoverished nation scarred by a 14-year conflict.

In the late 1990s, amid the fighting, Weah -- pronounced WAY-ah -- single-handedly financed the national team's World Cup qualifying efforts, setting up training camp in neighboring countries, paying his teammates' travel expenses and purchasing shoes and uniforms. He was the team's benefactor, star player and coach. The Lone Star, as the team is known, fell just short of a berth in the 1998 World Cup in France -- the closest Weah would ever come to the sport's premier event.

His desire to help his country came at a price, though. When he suggested in 1996 that the United Nations should move into Liberia, his home in the capital, Monrovia, was burned to the ground, his vehicles were stolen and many of his relatives were attacked.

Nonetheless, his tireless work continued.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has called him "African Pride," and Liberians address him as "the Godfather" and "Wonderful."

Weah, who also had a home in New York before moving to Miami, will be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN next week in Los Angeles -- an honor previously bestowed upon Pat Tillman, Muhammad Ali, Jim Valvano and Billie Jean King, among others.

Yesterday, Weah came to Washington to address United's players about personal responsibility and helping the needy. After watching the last part of practice, he walked to the center of the field and spoke for about 10 minutes.

"Sports is a unifying force and we have a responsibility to help all people," he told them. "We have to show the love to everyone."

After shaking the players' hands, he spent extra time with Adu, the club's teenage prodigy. Weah has strong ties to Ghana, which, like Liberia, is located in west Africa. His parents were born there and he often visits the country. He recently committed to play for an African all-star team that is tentatively scheduled to play United in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, in December.

Weah was introduced to Adu's mother, Emilia, and the two talked about their Ghanaian roots.

Said Freddy: "He gave me a lot of advice about everything -- the way I play, how to take care of myself, to get stronger. It's George Weah, you have to listen to him."

Adu is friends with Weah's 16-year-old son, George Jr., who is in AC Milan's youth academy but has played with Adu in the U.S. under-20 training program. "I want Freddy to come play in Italy with me," George Jr. joked. "He would be a great player."

The elder Weah said Adu "is another great talent to come from our continent. We just hope he gets a chance to go to Europe to develop his game. I'm not saying he won't develop in America, but you have more challenges if you go to Europe."

When he finished with Adu, Weah turned his attention back to Liberia, which he says he visits every few weeks.

"We are grateful that we now have stability," he said. "We have started the reconciliation process and the country is coming back. It's one step forward and we are enjoying life. The people are happy again. For me, I just want to contribute to society."

United Notes: Uruguayan forward Claudio Ciccia's tryout ended without a contract being offered. The club hopes to look at other foreign players soon. . . . Midfielder Bobby Convey is with the U.S. national team, which will play Poland on Sunday in Chicago, and will miss United's match at Kansas City on Saturday. . . . Coach Peter Nowak missed practice for personal reasons; he'll be back today.

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