Arsene Wenger meets namesake in Liberia

Arsene Wenger holds his baby namesake on arrival in Liberia
Arsene Wenger holds his baby namesake on arrival in Liberia

Arsene Wenger received a hero's welcome on Thursday after arriving in Liberia to receive the country's highest award.

The former Arsenal manager is being honoured by the country's president, George Weah, who Wenger signed in 1988 during his time as Monaco manager.

Useful links Ghana Politics | Ghana Celebrity News | News in Ghana

Weah, who was elected president of his country last year, will honour the former Arsenal manager and another French soccer coach, Claude Le Roy, at a ceremony on Friday after they both played crucial roles in his career.

Wenger signed Weah in the late 1980s, kickstarting a career in which the Liberian would go on to play for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, and became the first and still only African to win the FIFA world player of the year award in 1995.

The 68-year-old was greeted at the country's international airport in Harbel by hundreds of fans in Arsenal shirts, as well as the Liberian minister of youth and sports, Zoegar Wilson.

Useful links Ghana news | Ghana Business News | News in Ghana

The plan to honour Wenger with the West African country's highest award has criticised by opposition politicians on Wednesday.

Liberian sports minister D. Zeogar Wilson said Wenger will be given the Humane Order of African Redemption with the rank of Knight Grand Commander.

But Darius Dillon, an opposition politician, criticised Weah for using the nation's highest honour and the office of the president to recognize people who only played a role in his "personal life."

for current Ghana news | Ghana Business News | News in Ghana

"The nation's highest honour cannot be given to somebody who has not done something directly for the country," Dillion said.

Other political opponents of Weah have also questioned the decision. Emmanuel Gonquoi of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia called it "a complete waste of time."

Weah is Liberia's best sportsman ever and the golden years of his career coincided with civil war in Liberia.

Weah dedicated his award to Wenger when he was named world player of the year and has said the former Arsenal coach was the most important influence on his career. He invited Wenger to his inauguration as president in January, although Wenger couldn't attend.

Wenger has also previously praised Weah: "The life of this guy is a real film," Wenger said early this year. "It's unbelievable. It can make a fantastic film."

The 51-year-old Weah retired from soccer in 2003 and turned almost immediately to politics, failing in his first attempt to become president of Liberia in 2005.