The American striker has re-emerged for club and country, but has more than football on his mind.

By Christian Johnson

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You probably first heard of Tim Weah sometime in 2017. He’d just signed a three-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain—a glamorous destination for an American at the time. Only a few of his countrymen had reached such heights, mostly with German teams.

He had burst onto the international scene that same year with a hat trick against Paraguay in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the second goal a glancing missile into the top corner that turned into Twitter fodder for a day and a half. One hashtag: #WeahSeeYou.

“Hmm,” you might have said, if the name sounded familiar, and with few keystrokes you could have confirmed that he was, indeed, the son of George Weah, the 1995 Ballon d’Or winner who went on to become president of Liberia. “I’ll keep an eye on him,” you might have promised yourself.

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But you didn’t, did you? Now, after a variety of challenges including a testing six-month loan spell at Celtic in 2019 and a gut-wrenching inaugural season at LOSC Lille in which he endured a trio of hamstring injuries—two of them back-to-back—Weah, 21, has become a driving force for “Les Dogues.” And what’s more, he’s a perfect example of the coming vanguard of young players who aspire to be more than just athletes and are opening doors to make an impact beyond the game.

We caught up with Weah in late August during our photo shoot at a residential loft in Lille. Fresh from a training session, he reflected on his sometimes turbulent past even as he showed the breadth of his current interests by actively working with the stylist to curate his outfits.

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From a young age, Weah was conditioned for irregularity and challenges. He split his childhood between Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Brooklyn, N.Y. Despite his father’s accolades, he was trained primarily by his Jamaican mother, before finding New York Red Bulls Academy in 2013 and relocating to France a year later to join the Paris Saint-Germain Academy.

“The PSG academy experience was one of a kind,” he said, reflecting on the opportunity. “It was pretty amazing—getting the chance to watch the first team play, week in and week out.”

Since he achieved the dream of taking the field with some of his idols at PSG, Weah’s ambitions have only grown.

“There are a couple players who’ve had a major impact on my development. One of those is Neymar. Playing alongside him was a dream come true,” Weah said. “And then, Kylian Mbappé. It was amazing to see what he was doing at such a young age.”

But just being part of a new brigade of American stars who are redefining the identity of football in the U.S. isn’t enough for Weah.

He has a variety of expressive interests off the field as well. “I love fashion,” he said. “I’m super inspired by people like Kanye West and Jerry Lorenzo.” (Lorenzo is the streetwear designer behind the brand Fear of God.)

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But Weah is a far cry from a typical Off-White- and Dsquared2-obsessed fanboy. His fashion sense reflects a well-developed sensibility that was most likely forged on the sidewalks of New York City and sharpened on the Champs-Élysées.

Music has also been a lifelong passion. “I got interested in producing music when I was young,” he said. “Being in the house on Sundays, my mom would blast gospel or reggae.” After training, some days he heads directly to record, brimming with ideas as if one form of active creation informs another. His Instagram, PRINCE OF LAURELTON, offers a mix of game shots, streetwear styles, and studio sessions.

“I think a lot of footballers, now, of this generation are really tapping into other things. That’s what makes us different,” he explained. “Guys are much more open to trying stuff alongside football. I think it’s good. Why not enjoy yourself, and let your mind free?”

And Weah is finding some of that freedom. After that frustrating spell of injuries came a period of recovery and realignment, which brought about more confidence and focus, and a better form. Last season, he won a league title with Lille, beating out his old idol Neymar and a lineup of other PSG stars he used to ogle. He’s a regular starter, and a solid contributor, who scored five goals in 37 appearances.

“I have a lot of ambitions in football, present day and future,” he said. “With Lille, the goal is to continue the streak that we’re on, which is winning another championship, making my debut in the Champions League, scoring goals, and getting assists.”

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He also sets aside time for personal reflection, and amid the demands of the photo shoot, he seemed calm and self-aware. “I have a lot of future plans for myself in life,” he said. “Becoming a better person, understanding myself a bit more, and being a success in the field I’m in. Whether that’s football, fashion, music, or business.”

Weah has just signed for New Balance, which supports not only his abilities on the field, but vitally, his interests and passions off it as well. He calls it a “young relationship” but has high hopes for the future. “I love them like family,” he said.

If you weren’t keeping an eye on Weah these last four years, you might be surprised to see what he’s become: a world-class player re-emerging, expanding beyond that viral goal of 2017, and even beyond the game itself. Ahead lies a tough road toward the 2022 World Cup for a young and talented American squad.

Weah’s father may be a world leader, and he may have won the Ballon d’Or, but he never had the chance to play in a World Cup. What does the younger Weah think of the prospect of competing on soccer’s biggest stage? “That would be cool,” Weah said. “It would be the first time someone in my family has done that.”


Photographs by Danny Kasirye.

 

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