Since last week, social media has gone berserk at the news that Tim Weah, the son of Liberian president George Weah, will be representing the US as a striker at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Before he entered into politics, George Weah had a brilliant 18-year professional football career which ended in 2003. Weah Snr., who was also a striker, is widely regarded as one of the best footballers to have never played at the World Cup, having won the Ballon d’Or in 1995.
Born and raised in New York in February 2000, Tim Weah knows the US to be home. He left the US to play for Europe as a teenager and currently plays for French football club LOSC Lille in Ligue 1.
He started playing nationally for the US at the U14 level and entered the public’s radar at the U17 World Cup in 2017 when he became the first US male to score a hattrick in the knockout round of the tournament. He has represented the US 25 times since his debut as a senior player in March 2018.
In an interview with Daily Mail, Weah explained how the dream to represent his country at the World Cup was sparked when he was 10 years old, and his father took him to the World Cup final in South Africa.
However, 12 years later, Tim is set to realise this dream for another country he calls home.
Speaking on his father’s reaction to the development, Tim shared, “I know he is excited deep down because he didn't get the chance to play in a World Cup with his country. I feel he is living that moment through me.”
Tim’s parents and relatives will make their way down to Qatar to watch him play live.
“I know my mum will cry; she will get emotional. We have been through everything together, from me not playing in America, being on the bench with club teams, when I was younger to where I am today. I hope I make them proud,” shared Tim.
Tim became cap-tied to the US when he made his debut at an official competition in June last year.
Prior to that, he was also eligible to play for Liberia (which has never qualified for the World Cup), France or Jamaica, but chose the US especially because of the unwavering support shown by US team’s Coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff through injuries that have plagued his career.
"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,” said Liberia coach Peter Butler at the time.
Speaking fondly of the US team, Tim said, “Gregg and the coaches with the national team, the doctors and physios, have always been supportive. Coach Gregg is always texting me, making sure I'm good, the doctors are texting me. You feel comfortable. They have supported me since day one. It's crazy to think that before our previous qualifying round, I was injured before that but he still called me up and gave me a lot of playtime. That goes to show how much faith he has in me, so I just want to fight for him and help the team.”
Weah Jr. and team kick off their World Cup in a match against Wales on November 21.
Perhaps a Pointer to an Underlying Problem…
Tim will not be the only player of Liberian descent representing the US at the upcoming World Cup. 24-year old Haji Wright will also be playing as a striker for the US national team in the coming weeks.
However, the other player’s involvement is understandably of far less consequence to many, compared to that of the sitting president’s son’s.
Many have lambasted the young Weah’s decision to represent the US, dubbing it “a slap on the people of Liberia and Africans as a whole” and a shame.
They have also labelled Tim’s decision as unpatriotic and even linked it to his father, claiming that for him to “have let this happen”, he must not have faith in the country he is ruling.
“How will President Weah preach patriotism to Liberians?” Twitter user Nwaokoli asked.
On the contrary, some have supported the young player’s decision to play on the team which has shown his career the most support, or simply dubbed it the inevitable result of globalisation.
One of his supporters even cited the move as a possible diplomatic one, which could improve relations between both countries.
Whatever the case, Tim Weah is only one of many Africans who have gone on to represent foreign countries in important capacities. This may be indicative of a larger issue that needs to be tackled.
Just at the start of the month, a woman of Nigerian descent, Amanda Azubuike was promoted to Brigadier General of the United States Army. Nigerian media outlets who went on to claim this win were bashed, as people explained that in the event that Nigeria and the USA were to war against each other, Azubuike would clearly have to take a stance against Nigeria.
Africans have shone as some of the most successful immigrant groups in different countries across the globe and this will only be on the rise as more and more Africans emigrate from the continent.
The children of African immigrants who left the continent decades ago are now making their mark. Likewise, in the years to come, the children of the proponents of the current brain drain will also be fully integrated into foreign societies and taking important stages.
Africans are mostly moving in search of “greener pastures”: access to better resources and economic opportunities, working systems, the absence of political unrest, etc.
These foreign countries tend to be a better breeding ground for the seemingly innate excellence many Africans possess.
Nonetheless, this poses the age-long “chicken and egg” conundrum: do Africans need to stay back on the continent to fix things by all means; or do the countries need to fix things themselves and create conducive environments for those in the diaspora to consider coming back?