(Reuters) – Liberia president and former World Footballer of the Year George Weah made a surprise return to international competition in Monrovia on Tuesday, playing in a 2-1 loss to Nigeria a few weeks short of his 52nd birthday.
Liberia had arranged the friendly to retire the number 14 jersey made famous by Weah but fans were in for a shock when, 16 years after his last international appearance, the striker led the national team onto the pitch wearing it instead.
Media reports said Weah, who led the attack and showed glimpses of the class that made him a household name around the world, received a standing ovation from fans when he was substituted on 79 minutes.
Goals from Henry Onyekuru and Simeon Nwankwo helped Nigeria to a 2-0 lead before the hosts pulled one back through a Kpah Sherman penalty late in the game.
Weah enjoyed a career in Europe spanning nearly a decade and a half that saw him play for Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille in France, AC Milan in Italy and English sides Manchester City and Chelsea.
As well as being named the 1995 World Footballer of the Year, he also won the Ballon d’Or in the same year and remains the only African to win either award.
Weah’s popularity from his playing career saw him secure a landslide run-off win last December in Liberia’s presidential elections.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)