In life we all meet people that do extraordinary things.
Growing up I saw the great AC Milan excel a lot on TV because they had the Dutch legends Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard playing there.
One day a truly great Milan player caught my eye. It was Arsene Wenger that brought George Weah to Europe when he was the manager of Monaco. Weah won the French Cup at Monaco before moving to PSG and winning the French League, and then onto AC Milan in 1995. That year he was the best player in the world, winning the Ballon d’Or and Serie A title.
The next thing I knew I was making my professional debut and was playing against the legendary George Weah. Sometimes we don’t realise what a small world we live in, but not too long after that, King George (as we liked to call him) moved to Chelsea. It was when he was sat next to me in the dressing room that I had that ‘oh my god’ moment.
Not long after that George asked me to come over to his home. I got to his house and found him relaxing, but I was so in-awe that I could not stop talking about how great I thought he was and how much I enjoyed watching him on TV. He asked me what I wanted to drink (maybe because I was taking so much) and I asked for a Coca-Cola. He pointed to the fridge, so I grabbed one, cracked it open and sipped away like one of their famous commercials.
The next visit to his home was similar. He asked me what I wanted to drink and the story repeated itself. I grabbed a coke and continued to talk so much because I was still not over the idea of hanging out with King George. Next it was visit three, and again he asked the same question, and again my answer was Coca-Cola. But this time I got a different response.
He pointed at the cabinet and said grab a glass and get some water from the water dispenser.
At that time I was 21 years old and thought water was boring. He told me water was one of the best fuels for your body, so learn to love it if you want to have a long career. I took his advice and to this day water is one of my go-to drinks, and I learned to dislike fizzy, sugary drinks.
But that was just the start and some of the biggest advice he gave me was that I needed to visit and learn about more countries. So we scheduled my first trip to Paris. I felt like a little kid going to the candy store with his big brother as he showed me around. Going to places like L’Avenue and Hotel Costes for the first time.
Then I was introduced to African dance and culture. Man, we danced for hours and King George kept telling me “I don’t want to see you sit in a chair, you dance and dance just like on the field. When you stand still you’re easy to play against.”
My mouth stopped talking but my feet kept going.
The next trip was Miami and after that New York, both for my first time. In Miami we just hung out at his home with his family, and when we moved on to New York we did the Staten Island where my brother almost got robbed. He turned up at a liquor store but then the crooks got told he was with the great George Weah and they left him alone. Later we had a huge barbecue in the middle of the street, played basketball and chatted with some locals of Liberian-descent. That is where he told me about wanting to be President of his country, because his people loved him all over the world.
When I thought I was done with traveling, he told me he had to pick up an award from ESPN and asked me if I wanted to go with him to Washington DC. At the awards night they showed interviews of people talking about George. The clip of this 16-year-old kid is still present in my mind. He stood with a machine gun and his own army of grown men behind him. He said, “I love George Weah and he is the only man in the world that my army and I will put our guns down for.”
My eyes were big and wide, just like the first day I met George. And just like when I saw the news reports this week that he is now the president of Liberia.
My big bro, the legend, King George – I wish you the very best in your life’s new beautiful chapter, and thank you for giving so many beautiful memories. Long live my glasses of water!