Capping this

FOOTBALLING superstar George Weah has scored again. As the only African footballer to have been awarded both FIFA’s World Player of the Year and France’s Ballon d’Or, Mr Weah, a Liberian, is used to winning. However, one prize had evaded him—until this year.

On December 26th the former Chelsea, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain player triumphed in the second round of Liberia’s presidential election. Mr Weah defeated the current vice-president, Joseph Boakai, with 62% of the vote. He won all but one of Liberia’s 15 counties.

Mr Weah’s victory is a big milestone for the nascent democracy. Liberia suffered two brutal civil wars between 1989 and 2003. An estimated 250,000 people died and perhaps 90% of the economy was wiped out. In 1997, during a period of peace, Charles Taylor, a warlord, became president, having made it clear that he would go back to war if not elected. Supporters chanted, “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I’ll vote for him.”

When Mr Weah’s term kicks off in January, by contrast, it will be Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another since 1944. The run-off vote was delayed by a legal challenge to the first round of the election (in which Mr Weah came first with 38% of the vote to Mr Boakai’s 29%). The second round eventually proceeded with no violence, though turnout was only 56%, compared with 75% in the first round in October.

Mr Weah is idolised, particularly among the young—and more than half the electorate is under 33. He lost to the current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2005. A former World Banker, she generated a surge of enthusiasm for having neither blood on her hands nor loot in her pockets. However, she failed to curb corruption adequately or fix Liberia’s woeful schools and clinics. Voters cried foul.

The incoming vice-president, Jewel Howard-Taylor, is a popular senator who once tried to make homosexuality punishable by death. She is also Mr Taylor’s ex-wife, which helped attract voters who still support the former tyrant (who is now in prison in Britain for war crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone).

For Mr Boakai, incumbency was a disadvantage. The 73-year-old tried to shrug off his association with Ms Johnson Sirleaf. He compared himself to a “race car in the garage”, the potential of which was yet to be realised. However, his reputation for falling asleep in public earned him the nickname “Sleepy Joe”. Mr Weah darted past. Tellingly, Ms Johnson Sirleaf, a winner of the Nobel peace prize, did not campaign with her deputy and even inaugurated a road along with Mr Weah just days before the election.

Yet there are doubts about the kind of leader Mr Weah will be. Since his election as a senator in 2014, he has rarely attended parliament. Nor has he introduced or co-sponsored any legislation. Mr Weah’s relative lack of education, though, only seems to make him more popular. His supporters see the former slum-dweller as one of them—a champion from their streets.

Much will depend on the ministers and advisers with whom he surrounds himself. Liberia needs better roads and schools, more jobs and electricity, and a thousand other things. Presidents, unlike footballers, must aim at multiple goals.