New Thinking—with Joe Bartuah : Tim Weah’s Success and the Plight of Liberian Youth

Tim Weah in an exuberant mood following his goal against Wales in the Qatar 2022 World Cup

Monday, November 21, 2022 was a day of pride, elation and exhilaration for all Liberians at home and abroad. Yes, we all had sufficient reasons to be excited, to be enthusiastic and to hilariously jubilate, as our young fellow compatriot, 22-year-old Tim Weah, the son of President George Manneh Weah and his wife—Mrs. Clar Marie Duncan-Weah—scored for the United States during this great country’s first game against Wales in the Qatar-2022 World Cup.

As I watched the younger Weah spectacularly displaying his soccer skills on the global stage in the quadrennial football festival, I began deeply thinking, reflecting on and wondering about how many precocious Liberian talents are being stymied or wasted all over the country, simply because those hundreds of thousands of gifted Liberian children utterly lack the basic facilities to improve themselves, or have no opportunities to showcase their natural talents.

According to available public records, Timothy Tarpeh Weah was born on February 22, 2000 in Brooklyn, New York. By virtue of his birth in the United States, the Liberian-American athlete has multiple opportunities at his disposal that most, if not all of his contemporary compatriots, especially those born in Liberia, don’t have. To begin with, Tim Weah has three known nationalities. He’s an American citizen, because he was born in the U.S. He’s obviously a Liberian, because his dad is a Liberian citizen and he’s equally a Jamaican, because his mom is a Jamaican. In other words, the privileges and opportunities at Mr. Tim Weah’s disposal are almost unlimited, and of course, it’s such opportunities that the young athlete has been effectively utilizing, which culminated into his brilliant World Cup performance on November 21, 2022 against Wales.

But as we all cheer for Tim Weah, let us also think about how, over the years, our young people in Liberia, especially those who absolutely have no other nationality or citizenship like Tim Weah, are being persistently deprived of needed opportunities to optimize their potential, because we have had governments whose officials are inordinately self-centered, grossly shortsighted and irredeemably corrupt. Even though nearly all past governments had failed Liberian youth, but the most disgraceful failure has been inflicted by the Weah regime. It’s disgraceful for this particular regime to callously deprive our youth of necessary recreational facilities, because unlike other past presidents, President Weah became well-known as a result of his skills in playing football.

In his inaugural address on January 22, 2018, President Weah credited the young people and their mothers, their aunts for his electoral victory.  “This victory”, he emphatically declared at the time, “could not have been possible without the support of the youth of this country, the women of this country, especially those who make their living by selling in the markets.” But just praising the youth on one occasion is not enough; our young people should not be used as mere materials for political victory; they ought to be empowered, so as to enable them reap some socio-economic dividends from their loyalty and tremendous efforts. In that same speech, he promised to be “the agent of positive change”, but he has turned out be an instrument of stagnation and deprivation, most especially for our young people, clogging almost every path for them to advance themselves.

In the past five years, President Weah and his cohorts have basically betrayed the trust that Liberian youth reposed in him by massively voting for him in the 2017 election. As a result, instead of the former soccer icon providing more sporting facilities for our youth, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) exposed the appalling ineptitude of the Weah regime in August 2021, by declaring the nation’s only international sport stadium unfit for international games. Weah needs to be reminded that his success in football, which eventually catapulted him into a celebrity, did not come on a silver platter, or as a result of any magical gesture on his part. In other words, he, too, stood on the shoulders of past leaders—notably Presidents William Richard Tolbert, Jr. and Samuel Kanyon Doe.

It was during President Tolbert’s historic visit to China in 1978 that he and the Chinese government signed an agreement for the People’s Republic of China to construct a 30-thousand capacity sports stadium in Monrovia. Prior to the 1980 coup, Chinese engineers and soil scientists were already in Liberia, testing the soil on the proposed site of the stadium and laying the groundwork for the project. Upon seizing power in a putsch, the People’s Redemption Council regime, which was headed by President Doe, an ardent sport enthusiast, continued with the project until it was completed in 1986. In preparation for the opening, President Doe and then Sports Minister John Beh brought in two coaches and three players from Brazil, just to help improve the standards of Liberian football.

If past presidents who were not professional football players were able to exert such tremendous efforts in their attempts to respond to the ardent desires of Liberian youth, is it not mindboggling that President  George Manneh Weah, a man who at a certain point in his life, made his living by playing football, has now abandoned Liberian youth, or has chosen to selfishly neglect them? If you can, please count your fingers and tell me the number of young Liberians footballers and other athletes the Weah regime has helped in becoming professionals in the past five years.

I know that Tim Weah and his older brother, George Weah, Jr. are playing professional football in Europe, but should everything in Liberia now be myopically centered around George Weah and his family and nobody else? Is that not a textbook definition of leader or ruler being inordinately selfish? Even though he presides over an irredeemably corrupt, patently unfocused, a shamelessly Buga-dancing administration, which is absolutely doing nothing for Liberian youth and their parents, yet he goes to the 2022 World Cup games in Qatar and renders himself a virtual nuisance, by overstaying his hospitality, just to profusely enjoy the prudence, efforts and sweat of other serious-minded leaders.

While it’s true that many world leaders attended the festive, glamorous opening of the World Cup in Qatar, not even the presidents of the 31 countries that have their national teams joining the host country stayed in that country for two days; it’s only His Excellency, Dr. Dr. Dr. George Manneh Weah who singularly chose to spend nine consecutive days in the people’s country, as if he’s an ordinary ex-footballer, rather than president of a nation that he is. It’s needless to say that he chose to overstay his hospitality because he’s embarrassingly addicted to luxury. Whatever the case might be, it’s the Liberian nation that is being persistently shackled in abject decadence and deprivation, because it’s the Liberian people’s tax money that is being recklessly squandered.

I have no doubt that Liberia has an abundance of untapped talents in all spheres of human endeavor—sports or otherwise–whether it has to do with football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, lacrosse, cricket, rugby, music, marathon, boxing, acting, painting, etc. What Liberian youth, like the youth of other societies around the world, yearn for is a fair chance, so that they, too, can seize the moment to showcase talents like their fellow Liberian, Tim Weah did on November 21st in his World Cup debut.

But instead of providing, or facilitating the availability and accessibility of such opportunities for Liberian youth, the Weah regime has all been about President Weah and his inner circles. For example, instead of setting up a first class recording studio for our compatriots who have musical aptitudes to finesse their talents, he selfishly built one exclusively for himself, so that he and his inner circles will produce music and milk out more money from the Liberian people, as if their tax money which is being wasted on a daily basis is not enough.

Because the young people of Liberia long for, because they yearn for and actually deserve a fair chance to prove their athletic as well as other artistic acumens, that is why it is imperative for Liberian youth to join their older compatriots in voting out President George Manneh Weah and his cohorts in the Legislature in the 2023 general and presidential elections, because this regime has miserably failed to respond to the basic needs of Liberians in general and particularly the aspiration and anticipation of our young people. The youth of Liberia and their parents, grand-parents deserve a forward-looking, inspirational and character-driven Government in Monrovia that will prioritize and effectively facilitate the provision of opportunities FOR ALL OF OUR YOUNG COMPATRIOTS, who represent the future of our country.

It has now become starkly indisputable and verifiably evident that the president job is too big and complex for Mr. George Manneh Weah. Just as no normal person would expect a 10-year-old child to tote a 100-pound bag of rice, so too, is the case with Mr. Weah and the Liberian presidency; the burden is too heavy and unbearable for him, for which he’s constantly looking for excuses in order to evade his constitutional responsibilities, even though he’s enormously benefitting from the job and grossly abusing the office of the president. Moreover, he utterly lacks the intellectual acumen, characteristic traits, administrative discipline and foresight to get the job done.

Against the backdrop of such irrefutable evidence, fellow Liberians, we can’t sit supinely and allow our commonwealth to continue going down this vile valley of infamy and at the same expect our dear Liberia to be a better place for us all. Since President Weah has become a sort of “double-trouble”, even for those who enthusiastically voted for him in 2017, together, let us do away with this embarrassing blight on Liberian politics via the ballot box in the 2023 election, because anything short of that will be tantamount to pushing the nation off a disastrous cliff.

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