Tim Weah: “If I’m not as good as my dad, let it be. I just want to be a player my teammates can count on, a player the fans know that will get the job done.” (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Like it or not, the comparisons will always be there.
Regardless what Tim Weah accomplishes in his soccer career, he always will be compared to his father. It would not be difficult not to, considering what George Weah accomplished in his illustrious career. Weah, whose latest challenge is as president of his native Liberia, forged a reputation second-to-none as a lethal striker for A.C. Milan, Monaco, Paris St-Germain, Manchester City and Marseille. Despite his impressive accomplishments, the 51-year-old Weah never played in a World Cup.
His son? Tim Weah is just at the cusp of his career — club and country. His club is PSG. His country is the USA, which reached seven of the eight last World Cups.
So, like it or not, the former B.W. Gottschee standout will be under scrutiny here and abroad. Weah said to bring it on.
“Yeah, with people saying that I’m never going to be as a good as my dad, blah, blah,” Tim said prior to U.S. national team training at MetLife Stadium Thursday morning. “I feel that just molds me into an even stronger person. It makes me hungry. I want to go out there and prove that I can be on the same level, if not, follow in his footsteps. That’s the most important to me, just playing my game and becoming a household name. I think that’s what everyone wants. That’s my dream and I’m just working towards that.
“If I’m not as good as my dad, let it be. I just want to be a player my teammates can count on, a player the fans know that will get the job done. So that’s the most important to me.”
U.S. head coach Dave Sarachan, who has directed the U.S. national squad while the U.S. Soccer Federation searches for a new head man, has liked what he has seen, but warned that Weah is far from the finished product as the U.S. prepares to take on Brazil at MetLife Friday at 8 p.m.
“We all know he is with a very high-profile club,” he said. “He had a lot of minutes in preseason, had some success in preseason and the first game. I always caution not to put the cart before the horse stepping him to a place to where he’s not quite there yet.
“I see a young man with confidence, part of it’s from youth, part of it is from the environment he has been in. Still a long way to go in terms of his growth as a soccer player. The burden of having a dad who is arguably one of the greatest footballers in history and who’s by the way, is the president of a country, I can’t imagine that’s an easy, but he comes off as though he tries to be his own self in his own way. That’s a pretty mature to look at things.”
No doubt that he has grown in the past year — confidence as a player and as a human being. After getting his long hair cut, Weah discovered he has grown an inch. At 18, he still is a growing young man.
“I cut my hair and I got taller,” he said.
But the 6-foot, 145-lb. forward doesn’t want to get too big.
“I’ve been in the gym a little bit, so I’m working on my abs,” he said. “That’s the most important thing for a guy like me because I don’t really want to get too big. I want to play with my speed, so abs are the most important thing to me. I’ve really built on that.”
It has been a whirlwind year for the 18-year-old from Rosedale, N.Y. He has scored his first goals for club and country. But he wants much more in French Ligue 1.
“I’ve grown tremendously from the Under-17 World Cup where everything started because now I can play with high-level players, Neymar, [Edinson] Cavani,” Weah said. “So, every day I’m getting maturity and I’m playing in some of the biggest stadiums in the world in Ligue 1, so I’m gaining experience, gaining maturity. You got to grow fast. I’m the youngest player. I have to grow up fast and adapt to my circumstances. It has gone really well. I have gone a few games in the league with the national team as well and I’m loving it. The growth has been great. I just can’t wait to see what’s happening in a few years.”
For Friday night, Weah will be focused on doing the best job to beat Brazil and impress Sarachan. He has a few PSG teammates on Brazil, including Neymar, defenders Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Dani Alves.
Weah and his club teammates have teased each other.
“We joke about it,” he said. “We’re in the group chat together so we talk about it. Knowing what friends do: ‘We’re going to beat you.’ ‘No, I’m going to beat you,’ blah, blah, blah. They’re really good guys. They told me good luck and may the best man win and I told them the same thing. That’s really the vibe I’m getting off of them and the vibe they’re getting off of me.”
Perhaps that was one of the reasons Weah did not want to leave the French powerhouse. Because he possibly might not get much playing time with veterans on the squad, Weah was given an opportunity by PSG to be loaned out to a team, but turned it down.
“It was a hard choice because we had a couple of good teams, Champions League teams that wanted me on loan,” he said. “But I just felt it was not the time for me because if i know that if I went to a smaller club they’re going to have super, super high expectations on potentially winning the league or having a great spot in the league. I don’t [know if] I’m ready to take that on yet. I feel that staying at PSG is the best thing for me because I’m training with the best. It will give me time to get better. I still do have time with club football and I’m just taking it step by step and waiting to see where that would take me. Maybe in January we’ll see if a loan deal can be [worked out].”
He entered the latest camp with loads of confidence at the international level, having gotten his feet wet with three U.S. matches and his first goal. Weah said he was “super comfortable” with the team.
“I love the guys. They’re my brothers,” he said. “We have good chemistry. Coming into this camp, playing Ligue 1 games with some of the biggest players in the world, and getting some of the best games in our league, I feel completely confident that I can come into the national camp and definitely help the team to a win and provide something off the bench or whether I’m starting. I’m coming in with a little bit of swagger that I didn’t have before.”
Coming back to the metropolitan area with the national team certainly has stirred so memories for Weah, who has gotten an opportunity to see friends and family in Manhattan earlier this week.
“It’s been great coming back,” he said. “I’ve seen people, my cousin and other family members, uncles, they’re coming to the game. I feel good coming back. It’s going to boost me to play even better in this game because its in my hometown. I love it. I can’t wait.”
Asked what some of his best memories during his playing days with Gottschee, Weah replied, “When we were young, we had this rivalry with the Red Bulls. The first time we beat them was amazing. That was a great feeling. After that we just kept beating them and beating them, so those were one of the best memories playing with Gottschee. Also playing in the Surf Cup at such a young age was amazing.”
Weah played with Gottschee from 2010-13 before jumping to the Red Bulls for 2013-14.
“They gave me heat, but you have to make a decision with your career and I felt it was the best decision,” he said. “I am here now. That was the best decision I made.”