Liberia has ‘loads of Tim Weahs’ after USMNT striker becomes cap-tied

When Tim Weah ran on to replace Sergino Dest for the U.S. Men’s National Team against Mexico on Sunday, any slim hopes of the youngster representing his father’s country of Liberia disappeared for good.

Tim, the son of legendary African footballer George Weah, who is now Liberia’s president, was born and raised in the United States, and came up in their youth structures. He was still technically available to Liberia until this weekend, though, until he made his official competition debut after he turned 21 in February, and thus became cap-tied.

The USMNT twitter handle was quick to note that realisation, as the U.S went on to with the CONCACAF Nations League. It was Weah’s 13th appearance in a USMNT shirt, with the previous 12 not counting towards official caps.

Liberia coach Peter Butler, who had been holding out a very faint hope of having the Weah follow in his legendary father’s footsteps and turn out for the African country, had been keeping tabs on the Lille forward.

“Timothy Weah is a very, very good footballer. He’s playing for Lille, he’s had a good grounding and he’s had a wonderful education,” Butler told ESPN.

“I had a wonderful conversation with the First Lady, his mom, recently and I was asking how he was doing.

“He’s played for the USA and I respect that. I think most people [in Liberia] may question why he did that but I’m not one to question. Would I have liked him in my team? Of course, well yeah, he is a good footballer and he’s got a great upbringing. But that’s it.”

Weah, 21, was eligible to represent Liberia, Jamaica, and France, but made the decision at an early age to represent the USA. He has said that choosing the States ‘wasn’t hard at all’.

He got his early football education within the US Soccer Development Academy and was already playing with the U-14s in 2012 before joining the Red Bull Academy in 2013. It was from there that he joined French giants Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, and then current team Lille in 2019.

The Brit was pragmatic, and focused on the players he does have at his disposal, either currently or in the future, saying that Weah was hardly the only good footballer from Liberia.

“We’ve got loads of Timothy Weahs here, but they’re not ready for international football yet,” he said.

“It’s amazing how many young kids you see and you look at them and go yeah, he’s got super talent. But they need a competitive environment, they need a good coach, they need a good diet, and education outside the game.”

There is no doubt that Tim Weah’s access to coaching and resources played a massive role in his development, making his senior debut at age 18 in a friendly against Paraguay. Getting the same access to resources in Liberia is one of Butler’s major goals.

He was coach of Botswana from 2014 to 2017 and helped to build their youth program, even as coach of the senior men’s national team. He says rather than focus on what is lost, Liberia should be looking to the future by developing the talent already in the country.

He said: “I put together a ‘futures’ program for these kids for real life skills, diets, simple pragmatic processes, which they do very well. And we’ve got to do them better. You’ve got to get the fundamentals right. Africa has all the talent in the world.

“Now we are getting lads like Noah Kenna who’s going to be a very good player and will probably play pro, God willing, if he stays clear of injury. The same with Christian Saydee.

“I love working with young, talented players. I think that’s my strength, I like developing players, identifying and recruiting and building teams.

“Because there’s no better feeling than actually seeing a youngster realize his potential. I’ve just found some young lads recently and they’re a breath of fresh air and it’s very heart-warming.”

Butler is confident his Liberia team will provide a few shocks once the World Cup qualifiers roll around in September.