Liberia’s President Gives National Honor to His Old Coach, Arsene Wenger

(Bloomberg) -- Liberian President George Weah bestowed the country’s highest honor on his ex-soccer coach, Arsene Wenger, even as the opposition said the former AS Monaco FC and Arsenal Football Club manager did little to deserve a national award.

Wenger, 68, was bequeathed the title of Knight Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption for “his revolutionary role in the recruitment of the finest footballers,” according to the program of the ceremony that was held at a sports complex on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia. He made an “enormous contribution to humanity, especially for the development of the youth of Africa.”

Weah, who succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president in January, was signed by Wenger for Monaco in 1988 and named world soccer player of the year in 1995. He entered politics after his retirement from professional soccer in 2003. Wenger went on to coach Arsenal in London for 22 years until he stepped down in May.

Wenger’s contribution was to Weah’s personal career and not to Liberia, said Mohammed Ali, a spokesman for the opposition Unity Party.

“The award is normally for people who have performed well and benefited the Liberian people,” Ali said by email. More deserving people include “doctors who fought Ebola and our security who are standing in the rain to protect us,” he said.

Other recipients of awards at the same event included Ghana’s ex-President John Kufuor and Claude Le Roy, a former coach of the Togolese soccer team.

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