Like father, like son: Tim Weah hopes for soccer success
Of course, Tim Weah credits a parent for his fast rise in soccer.
Mom, not his famous dad.
"She's had a huge impact on where I'm at now," the 18-year-old American midfielder said. "She taught me the basics. She pushed me. She was my first coach, intramural coach when I was in Florida. That's where I really started playing."
Clar Weah was more interested in running as a personal activity but guided Tim's soccer education. Her husband, George Weah, was the 1995 FIFA Player of the Year and was sworn in as Liberia's president in January.
"He would just give me little pointers," Tim Weah said. "He was more of the chill parent, just sitting back, relaxing, enjoying his time. He gave me some key pointers, some really important pointers that I use ... like an easy way to score would be to shoot across the goal. He taught me that, and now I use that a lot. Just simple cutting moves, just changing the point of direction where you're going — stuff that he did when I was playing."
Tim Weah made his senior team debut in March with Paris Saint-Germain, dad's club from 1992-95, and after the Ligue 1 title was clinched got his first start last month on the final day of the season.
He scored a hat trick against Paraguay last fall in the round of 16 at the Under-17 World Cup, made his U.S. national team debut in March against Paraguay, then scored against Bolivia on Memorial Day. He's part of the American team playing Saturday against World Cup-bound France in Lyon, facing a Les Bleus roster that includes PSG colleagues Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe and Alphonse Areola.
"I have some teammates on France, so that would be great scoring against them," Weah said.
Tim was born in Brooklyn at a time his dad commuted from Europe to New York between games. The family moved in 2004 to the Pembroke Pines, Florida — a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, then in 2006 to the Rosedale section of Queens, New York, near the Nassau County border. Tim stayed for eight years, then relocated to Paris to join PSG's academy.
He doesn't have a recollection of watching dad play.
"But as I got older I started to go on the internet and explore and figure out who he was," he said.
Weah is part of a young American roster brought in following the end of the Americans' streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. With interim coach Dave Sarachan looking toward 2022, the group includes 18-year-old Josh Sargent, 19-year-old Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, 20-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers and 22-year-old Matt Miazga.
Sarachan sees Weah as unusually mature given his family background.
"When you're around it like that, it's like osmosis. You absorb so much, even subconsciously," he said. "I think for any player that's in an environment like that for your formative years, it's just going to sort of manifest."
At the same time, Weah has the frothy, infectious excitement of a newcomer, a quick, wide smile and an anything-is-possible personality. After scoring against Bolivia, he praised a teammate whose pass helped lead to his goal, saying "I love him." He termed the crowd of 11,000-plus "insane for a young guy. I wanted to play my heart out for them."
He predicted mom was screaming while watching on television and said dad probably was viewing in the middle of the night from Liberia. Tim remembered his reaction when told he'd be getting his first U.S. start.
"Those are the first two people I called, my parents," he said. 'They were really happy. They told me to keep my head and just go out there and play: We love you and just do your thing. We know you got it."
Weah moved to France not knowing the language — he took Spanish in school — but now is fluent. He was invited to his initial training session with the first team in November 2016 and is convinced playing alongside stars such Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva throttled up his soccer education.
"The guys at PSG, they don't really look at what your parents have done. They kind of just look at you for you, and they want to see you succeed and they want to see you play, so I feel like being with such a great group of guys who accept me for me and how I play, I feel it's awesome, and that's why I click so well with them," Weah said. "I just came in, didn't have a big head, I stood in my little corner and just learned, and now I feel like I'm one of them. So next year is going to be really fun."
PSG has a new coach in Thomas Tuchel, who two years ago promoted a 17-year-old American midfielder, Christian Pulisic, to Borussia Dortmund's first team. At some point this year, Weah also could get a new U.S. coach. The new-look Americans want to put last October's loss at Trinidad and Tobago far behind.
"It was time to rebuild. It was time to get all the younger guys in, and it was time to start over again," Weah said. "I think the future's really bright. And I can't wait. I can't wait."