By Michael Lewis
Like it or not, Tim Weah has a lot to live up to, thanks to a giant shadow cast by his father.
And the 18-year-old not only likes it, he loves it.
He embraces being the son of Liberian soccer legend George Weah, who was hailed at the 1995 FIFA World Player of the year among his many other honors.
“It’s just one of those things that I can’t get away from, the fact that my dad is who he is,” Weah said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “That’s going to be here, regardless. But it’s up to me just to work hard and show the world that I can also be a world-top player, that I can be a high class footballer. That’s how I’m going to gain respect.
“Getting the chances that I’m getting now gives me the opportunity to show that and show the world that Ican really do. So, they can say, his dad was a world great, but he also has the potential to ba a world great and he’s also a world class player.”
Weah recently made his first start for the Paris Saint-Germain team in French Ligue 1.
“I’m just taking it day to day,” he said. “It’s never going to get away from me that my dad was the greatest in the world. And I love that. I use that as an advantage. It pushes me even harder to reach my goals. So, when people say, ‘One day you’ll be like your dad,’ I love that. One day I really hope that I accomplish most of the stuff that he’s accomplsihed. One day I want to be the world’s best and I’m just working towards it so people can say, ‘His dad was great and he was great, too.’ And I can pass that down to my son later on.”
Weah is in Chester, Pa. for the United States’ Monday’s international friendly against Bolivia.
A member of Paris Saint-Germain, Weah has one cap with the full team under his belt. He played the final four minutes of regulation and stoppage time in the 1-0 win over Paraguay March 27.
It was a special moment for Weah, who participated in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup last year.
“I was a little nervous, but it was a great feeling because it’s what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” he said. “For something like that to come true at such a young age at 18 was amazing. Coming in with a week of preparation and also being with the guys I’ve been with, they accepted me. It was a great feeling coming into a game that literally starts off a new era for us with all of the changes of not qualifying for the World Cup. I just want to be here more and play more games with them.”
Weah’s appearance in the game was another marker in what is expected to be the changing of the guard in wake of the failure to reach the World Cup in Russia. Asked what stood out the most at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. against Paraguay, Weah replied, “Just the standing ovation when I was coming onto the field and hearing my name was a super, super cool and super great experience. Even on the sidelines when I got the ball the first time, people were screaming my name from behind, ‘Go Tim, go go.’ That was great. There were so many things that I remember. Also, almost getting my first assist.”
The former Rosedale, N.Y. resident and B.W. Gottschee standout is in the midst of a memorable year in which he started his first game for PSG, wound up being a part of the club’s Ligue 1 championship side, aside from getting capped. And there have been some perks, such as an endorsement deal with Nike.
Life is exploding for Weah in a good way.
“Working with so much celebrities and getting my name out there is really insane,” he said. “So all that is happening at once. It’s kind of a shock. It’s a relief because I have been working for this literally my whole life. To get 90 minutes the other day is awesome. Everything is just moving so really fast. I’m getting used to it, I’m getting the hang of it. It’s a great feeling that everything that I’ve worked for is coming back and I’m repaid for the hard work.”
And another perk is being around some of the best players in the world, including Brazilian Neymar.
We all know how talented and lethal Neymar can be on the soccer pitch. Weah gave a bit of an inside look as to how the 26-year-old attacker is off the field.
“It’s one of those things you don’t hear about when you’re not on the team, when you’re just watching him,” he said. “Me getting a chance to play with him is kind of the coolest thing in the world. At the same time, he’s such a cool guy to be around. Sometimes when we’re off the field, we’re just chilling, going to restaurants together with the other guys. It’s a chill vibe. We play around. I like to bother him. He’s always bothering me, kicking my stuff around. It’s just like a super cool vibe around this guy. Honestly, it’s building a bond with people you once called idols who are now you’re friends. It’s really cool to have that, to experience that.”
Weah forged his reputation playing with B.W. Gottschee (Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League) for which he played three years. Under the leadership of Ben Boehm, Gottschee sports a simple philosophy: be one with the ball. Which is up Weah’s ally since he is highly skilled.
“Gottschee was one of the best teams in New York at the time. at our age, we were playing such good soccer, it was unbelievable. It was such a good team to be with. All those guys are going to college. At such a young age, it was a high level of soccer for just a club soccer team. … It was really cool that you also can have people you can call family and a team at such a young age and playing high level soccer.”
He doesn’t always get an opportunity to talk to his parents, George and Clar, as much as he wants. George recently was elected president of Liberia and spends a good part of his life in western African. Tim’s life has gotten complicated in recent years with club and country commitments.
“The same thing with my mom from time to time because they’re also really busy with business moves,” Tim said. “I’m also very busy because I travel a lot now. So, you know whenever I get the time I call them, I slide a little message. And you know, it’s fairly normal. He’s having a lot of business meetings. I get them from time to time. If I don’t get them, I just leave them a message. They call back.”
The sky’s the limit for Tim Weah, who is at PSG, the same club George started to make his reputation from 1992-95.
“My goals right now, [are] taking it slow, learning each day, moving forward with my game,” Tim said. “Also, getting a spot on the first team with PSG and also getting a spot on the national team. Also, being a player that both teams can count on either it’s coming off the bench or starting sometimes. … With the national team rebuilding again, bonding with the guys right now and building a foundation for the future. At PSG, just getting more games and hopefully next year getting a Champions League debut and of course, scoring more goals, scoring my first goal for PSG and the national team.”