Retired professional footballer turned politician, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, the 1995 World Footballer of the Year, is already a senator in his home country and now, the 51-year-old is aiming to be Liberia’s next president.

He is favourite among the 20 candidates to succeed current leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Liberians turned out in force on Tuesday to choose a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in a contest set to complete the country’s first democratic transition of power in more than 70 years.

Liberia, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years.

Ms Sirleaf urged people to vote peacefully in a nation still recovering from a 14-year civil war.

“Your vote is about you and your family – not party, ethnicity,” she said in an address to to the nation.

A total of 20 presidential candidates are running to succeed Ms Sirleaf.

George Weah

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the presidential vote, a run-off between the top two contenders will be held on November 7, an outcome analysts say is a near certainty.

Weah remains the only African footballer to have won the Ballon d’Or, in 1995, and enjoyed an illustrious playing career across Europe after being discovered by then Monaco manager Arsene Wenger in 1988.

It was his spell in Italy for which Weah is most famous for in sporting circles, scoring 58 goals in 147 games.

In 2000, he joined Chelsea on loan before signing for Manchester City the following season.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 50% of people living in poverty.

It was one of three West African states badly hit by the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak which left more than 11,300 people dead.