When Michael Jackson released the Liberian Girl song in 1987, not many people on the world stage knew about Liberia. This was even more so in 1983 when the song was apparently written initially and recorded.
In 1987, George Weah the country’s president was still playing for Invincible Eleven of Monrovia, the Tin Pot dictator Samuel Doe ruled Liberia, reducing the country to a figure of fun. It was a full 2 years before the demented Charles Taylor plunged the country into a civil war. A civil war that not only destabilised the country but also the West African region.
Not only did the song Liberian Girl by Michael Jackson win many awards, Liberians especially the women folk and dare I say Africans found it empowering and exhilarating long before women empowerment was an everywhere ‘thing’ on the continent. I found the following quote very informative.
“The song received a positive reception in Liberia with women from the country viewing the song as empowering. Liberian woman Margaret Carson said in an interview with the Washington Times that “When that music came out … the Liberian girls were so astonished to hear a great musician like Michael Jackson thinking about a little country in Africa. It gave us hope, especially when things went bad … . It make us to feel that we are still part of the world.” ”
Fast-forward 31 years later, not much has changed except the trauma of a civil war, worsening global economic indictors and its impact on Liberia. Liberia remains a small country, trying to make its way in a challenging world. This African Development Bank Outlook on the Liberian Economy makes for a depressingly sad reading.
It is not all doom and gloom though. Liberia is lucky to have citizens like George Weah. A man who is well known on the international stage in the world for something he achieved in a remarkable career that ended about 15 years ago. A man who brought Africa to the global stage by winning the World Footballer of the Year award at a time when real men and not the ever preening ‘touch me and I will die’ social media brand building actors masquerading as footballers of nowadays. George Weah did it. It wasn’t a one off. He was runner up the following year to an out of the world footballer.
Guess how he brought Africa to the world stage? He added grit and determination to his God given talent. That talent, grit and determination plus some luck propelled him to the presence of another African legend in Claude Le Roy who recommended him to the Most Honourable Man on Planet Earth – Arsene Wenger.
I dare say it was written in the stars that Arsene and President Weah’s paths were going to cross at some point in life. In 1987, young George was playing for Monrovia’s Invincible Eleven, 17 years later; Arsene Wenger acquainted the British Public and the World with the concept of an invincible football team.
George told everybody who cared to listen in 1995 how influential Arsene Wenger was to his career and how but for Arsene and God he won’t be where he was at that time. The videos are all over social media but thin eared and hardheaded bitter people didn’t listen then and 23 years later are saying it doesn’t matter.
Now George is President of his country. Whilst I don’t like his political alignment with Charles Taylor, I understand he is now a politician and needs to do what he needs to do to serve his people. Mr. Weah recognizes the enormity of the challenges in front of him as a President. He does not have the time and effort to moan and indulge in the ‘whataboutery’ that is very prevalent nowadays.
Do not forget that George Weah invited Arsene Wenger to his inauguration as President. Arsene passed as the same people who are so upset with the honour Arsene has been bestowed now by the Liberian people and their president would have e – lynched him if he had taken 24 hours off his Arsenal duties to attend George Weah’s inauguration. The critics cannot just understand why people of global stature and real power are recognizing a man they detest so much. It is depressingly annoying for these hating lot.
Unlike the critics, George Weah recongises the importance of bringing global attention to Liberia for positive things. Dignitaries coming to your country do that even if it is for the presidential inauguration or for positive events. The positive publicity Liberia received for the three days preceding the honour bestowed on Arsene Wenger and the three days after cannot be purchased with money.
If Liberia’s PR handlers designed a campaign to get media attention for their country, they will never achieve the saturated coverage, the news coverage, the social media engagements and global chatter the visit of Arsene Wenger brought to Liberia.
Global superstars, globally recognized names collect millions of dollars to visit countries to attend events with no discernible return other than the publicity. This was not the case here. This was one honourable man who recognized that his life and that of many other Africans’ life was changed by other honourable men in Claude Le Roy and Arsene Wenger and on behalf of the African continent and the Liberian people decided to honour these men.
But guess what, the Wenger haters won’t let go. The honour to a deserving man even got the BBC upset. That is how deep seated the Wenger hate is. Is it anything to do with the fact that in his Arsenal and England career, he effectively subtracted Liverpool from the not very complex Premier League equation? Is it because he showed the English media up for what they really are? Dishonourable hacks? Or is it because he is a thoroughly decent gentleman, human and honourably deserving of all accolades that have been showered on him? Or is it just that his critics and haters do not understand honour?
In his managerial career, Arsene has signed 10 African players that I have been able to count. He has changed these players’ lives in many ways. Please read Kolo Toure’s history and realize only a thoroughly decent man like Arsene will take Kolo into Arsenal based on what we now know about Toure’s trials at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger turned a sometime bumbling utility player into one of the best central defenders of all time. Arsene took a punt on our own Kanu Nwankwo at a time nobody wanted the great Nigerian man. Today, Kanu is perhaps more of an Arsenal legend than that of any other football club he played for.
Step away from the football players he signed and proceed to the Abidjan academy that birthed many like Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue etc. and you will see the impact of Arsene Wenger on many people of African descent.
If you don’t think Arsene Wenger is deserving of an honour for helping many individuals of African descent, you are a totally bitter person.
Talk of misusing the Liberian honours system to reward a man who helped the President of that country is misguided. Are you a spokesman of the Liberian people? Did they complain to you? Can you buy the free publicity for Liberia that Arsene gave them by accepting the award?
I am amazed at the number of bitter critics who do not know that honours system are subjective everywhere including in England. The fact that the Queen has honoured Arsene Wenger with the highest honour a foreigner can attain and the fact that France has also honoured him with the grandest possible title is enough evidence that Arsene is deserving of any and all honours.
Sometimes it helps to tuck in your hate and concentrate on changing your lives and that of others. Maybe, just maybe someone will find you deserving of an honour.
Baba Grumpy works in financial services in the United Kingdom. He blogs mostly about football at http://babagrumpy.blogspot.co.uk. His Twitter handle is @BabaGrumpy