Africa: Pres. Weah to Bestow Liberia's Highest Honor On Former Mentors Arsene Wenger and Claude De Roy

(file photo)

Monrovia — On Friday, August 24, a day set aside by the Republic of Liberia to commemorate its flag, President George Manneh Weah will bestow on Arsène Wenger, the nation's highest honor for his role in developing his (Weah) football career.

Reuters news agency broke the news on Monday quoting an unnamed government's spokesman.

Several efforts exerted by FrontPageAfrica to verify the information with government information authorities proved futile up to press time.

Reuters reported that Claude Le Roy, who recommended the young Weah in his early football years to Coach Wenger, would also receive a similar honor from the Liberian Leader.

"They will be honored by the Government of Liberia on August 24, National Flag Day for their role in President George Weah's footballing career."

"Both coaches will be awarded the honor at an investiture ceremony in Monrovia," Reuters quoted a government's spokesman.

President Weah, a former Monaco and AC Milan striker, attributes his success in football to Wenger, who gave him his first opportunity to play in Europe.

President Weah won the African, European and world titles all in one season in 1995. He is revered as one of the football greatest players on earth.

He also played for Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Wenger Thrilled by Weah's Presidency

Liberians were in high gear expectation to see Mr. Wenger in the country for the inaugural ceremony of President Weah back in January this year, but he didn't come for the ceremony.

Wenger, who was then managing Arsenal FC, could not attend the swearing-in ceremony of Pres. Weah due to tight football schedule.

In an interview with British media, Wenger described the life of President Weah to a film script following his former player's election as President of Liberia.

Wenger told the British media: "What's important is when you look at his life, and I think the life of this guy is a real film, it's unbelievable. You can make a fantastic film.

"I remember when I saw him for the first time in Monaco, coming in a bit lost, not knowing anybody, not being rated by anybody as a player and after, in 1995, becoming the best player in the world.

"Now he's President of his country - it's an unbelievable story. But it's down to the fact that one thing that was common in George's attitude is being strong mentally, absolutely unbelievably convinced that he has a mission."

"I didn't think at that point that he would become President of his country, but today, when I look back, I must say I've seen him crying when war was on in Liberia.

"It's a happy story, and I wish that he has a happy presidency. I would like to say this guy is an example for everybody who plays football today, for all the players."

Why Honor Wenger?

The Order of the Pioneers of Liberia or more formally Grand Order of the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers of the Republic of Liberia is an order presented by the Government of Liberia. The order may be presented to Liberian or foreign citizens for outstanding and distinguished service in international affairs, government, religion, art, science or commerce, and also for singular acts of philanthropy and deeds of heroism and valor.

The news of Mr. Wenger's national recognition has sparked mixed reactions amongst Liberians, buzzing social media with diverse opinions.

Victor A. Ukatu commented on Facebook: "This is unbelievable. Wow! Things like these just continue to show how the President is disconnected from the gravity of the office he holds."

Magnus Cassell: "This is a strange reason to award national honor."

Eddie Baryon, however, wrote on social media that it was unbelievable that one would choose to question the honoring of persons "who impacted the man that Liberia is proud of today".

Kimmie Weeks, a former official of government wrote on Facebook that it would be prudent to honor the two coaches for something more general, not personal.

He commented, "Folks, the problem with this is how it's worded. It should have been something generalized and not personalized... i.e... 'for their lifetime commitment and work developing youth and sports in Liberia and around the world' which would then recognize their work broadly and would include the efforts and support to the President... by saying its about what they did for the President as an individual is what's problematic. These awards are in recognition of efforts for the country and the world... never about one individual... again... it's how it was phrased that's off."

Joel Williamson argued that whether the national honor is for personal or general reasons, President Weah has not in any way violated any law by his decision.

"Given the work that Weah himself did personally for Liberia, those individuals helped to Oppong helped Liberia indirectly. I sincerely don't see why a mountain is being made out of a molehill. Like I said earlier, one of those men will become head coach of the national team of Liberia, and I think this is just the way of endearing them to us as a country," he commented.

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