Photos courtesy of US Soccer Federation
The last 12 months has been one incredible whirlwind for Timothy Weah.
He became the first U.S. male player to record a hat-trick in a World Cup knockout round at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last June. He has earned his place on the Paris Saint-Germain first team and made his debut for the French Ligue 1 champions March 3rd. He played his first international match for the U.S. national team March 27.
And now, he's scored in his first start for the red, white and blue last Monday.
His latest milestone came on May 28, finding the back of the net in a 3-0 friendly win over Bolivia at the Talon Energy Stadium near Philadelphia.
The 18-year-old winger scored in the 59th minute, slotting home a left-wing cross from left back Antonee Robinson for the final goal.
"It's something that I can't explain," Tim said. "I'm speechless right now. Getting the goal probably was the best thing that happened to me so far in my life. I am so appreciative that God gave me the opportunity to score a beautiful goal in front of amazing fans in such an amazing country on such an amazing day, Memorial Day. I'm so proud of myself. I'm so proud of the team."
Weah, who once participated EDP competitions with B.W. Gottschee, received a nice ovation from the crowd when he was replaced by Julian Green a few minutes later.
He injured his knee in the first half at Talen Energy Stadium but refused to come out.
"Almost coming out in the first half got to me," he said. "My knee was hurting throughout the whole game, but I pulled myself together. I was thinking, 'Tonight, you have the opportunity to potentially score a goal and potentially get a win for the team.' That was on my mind. I pulled through the knee injury that I had. I just fought through it. I saw the opportunity with Antonee Robinson coming down the flank. It was such a great feeling. You can see the emotion in my celebration. I just love it."
Seven minutes earlier, Weah's close friend and fellow USMNT newcomer Josh Sargent scored his first goal, becoming the third-youngest player to score for the USMNT. Weah, two days older than Sargent, is the fourth youngest player.
Photos courtesy of US Soccer Federation and Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
Weah has enjoyed his rapid ascent. Part of the spoils has been an shooting commericals with Nike Football.
“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. 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.”
As the son of a soccer legend, one might think that Weah might be intimidated following in his father’s footsteps. His father was an international striker who starred at PSG, A.C. Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City and Marseille. George, who was elected Liberia president in December, was named the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year.
Tim has embraced the challenge.
“It’s just one of those things that I can’t get away from, the fact that my dad is who he is,” he said. “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.
“It’s never going to get away from me that my dad was one of the greatest to ever play. 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 accomplished. 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.”
Though he wasn't seeing action at PSG, Weah was called in for that March 27 friendly, a 1-0 victory over Paraguay in Cary, N.C. He came on in the 86th minute.
“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. … 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.”He'll get that opportunity in U.S. matches in Ireland June 2 and in France June 9.
Weah has had some high-profile mentors, including Brazilian superstar Neymar at PSG.
“Me getting a chance to play with him is the coolest thing in the world," he said. "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. It’s building a bond with people you once called idols who are now your friends. It’s really cool to experience that.”
While growing up in Queens, N.Y. Weah played three years with Gottschee. The club’s philosophy: be one with the ball.
“Gottschee was one of the best teams in New York," he said. "At our age, we were playing such good soccer, it was unbelievable. 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 spends a good part of his time in Liberia. Tim’s life has gotten complicated 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.”
Weah is just at the cusp of his career. The learning curve is great.
“My goals right now, [are] taking it slow, learning each day, moving forward with my game,” he 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.”
That latter goal was taken care of on Memorial Day.
Don't be surprised if there is much more to come.
above - George Weah holding up his FIFA World Player of the Year trophy
left - Tim Weah pictured with fellow EDP Alumni and US International Chris Gloster