Arsene Wenger, former Arsenal manager, will fly to Liberia to receive the highest national award on 24 August for his role in the development of the football career of president George Weah.
The Liberian President, the only African to have been named Fifa World Player of the Year, was signed by Wenger in 1988 when he was a coach for Monaco.
Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe confirmed Wenger’s visit, claiming it will be an appreciation for the Frenchman’s contribution to African football.
Claude Le Roy, who recommended Weah to Wenger during the player’s formative years, is also to be awarded the country’s highest honor.
"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," a government spokesperson said.
"Both coaches will be awarded the honor at an investiture ceremony in Monrovia."
The two tacticians will be inducted into the country’s Order of Distinction and be given the title of Knight Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption.
President George Weah will decorate Arsène Wenger and Claude LeRoy, the two French coaches who gave his football career an early boost.— Arsènic™ (@MrArsenicTM) 20 August 2018
“Arsène and I will be decorated with the highest distinction of the country on August 24 in Monrovia”, Le Roy told AFP. https://t.co/RRyLsNYSbR pic.twitter.com/AT8Lropyex
Wenger’s role in developing African football
According to Nagbe, Wenger’s recognition is not only about the personal connection between the president and the Frenchman, as it distinguishes his contribution to sports in Africa and the opportunities he gave to many African footballers.
During the 22 years Wenger spent as Arsenal’s tactician, he coached 16 African players, including Ivory Coast’s Kolo Toure and Nigeria’s Nwankwo Kanu.
Despite this, the news of Wenger’s recognition has sparked mixed reviews amongst Liberians, with several claiming that president Weah is disconnected from the seriousness of the position he holds and others arguing that it would be prudent to honor the coaches for something more general, not personal.
Weah: ‘Wenger took care of me like a son’
President Weah has said that the Frenchman took care of him "like a son" when he went to Monaco, adding that "besides God, without Arsene" there was no way he would have made it in Europe.
After four seasons at Monaco, Weah went to Paris Saint-Germain where he remained three years and then to Milan, where he played for six years.
He retired from football in 2003 and went into politics.
In 2014 he was elected senator and in December 2017, after winning the run-off with former vice president Joseph Bokai, Weah became president of Liberia.