CAPE TOWN – Former football star George Weah promised to ignite economic recovery in poverty-stricken Liberia by fighting widespread corruption.
Weah, who will be inaugurated as president on Monday, will be held to that promise.
The 51-year-old senator - who lost against outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2005 polls and again in 2011 when he vied for the vice presidency - is often described as an idol by Liberians and highly regarded for his down-to-earth attitude.
Weah was born in a slum in the capital, Monrovia, and worked as a switchboard technician at the national telecommunications company before gaining football fame.
Sought after for his exceptional dribbling and shooting skills, Weah had an impressive sporting career, playing for high-profile European clubs, including AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Manchester City.
He won several African Player of the Year awards since 1989 and was named African, European and World Player of the Year in 1995 - an unprecedented achievement.
Weah, who retired from football in 2002, returned to Liberia following the ouster of autocratic president Charles Taylor - who has meanwhile been sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for war crimes - in 2003.
Dubbed "King George," Weah worked since then as a Liberian goodwill ambassador to the United Nations.
He also produced a popular song about Ebola in 2014, to raise awareness of the virus that killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa, of which 4,810 people died in Liberia alone.
That same year, the father of three was elected senator of the western province of Montserrado, which includes the capital.
Because Weah converted from Christianity to Islam and later back to Christianity, he is seen as someone who can help overcome religious and social divides.