Featured image credit: Antalyaspor, Sven Mandel, Hossein Zohrevand.(Haji Wright, Timothy Weah, and Alphonso Davies.)
Liberia recently ranked top 20 at the Amputee Football World Cup. However, you won’t see the Liberia National Men’s Team at the FIFA World Cup.Ru
The 22nd FIFA Men’s World Cup runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18 and is taking place in Qatar. This is the first time the World Cup has been held in the Middle East, since it began in 1930. Liberia has never made a FIFA World Cup appearance and is not among the five African teams — Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia — represented at this year’s tournament, but that doesn’t mean Liberians aren’t celebrating.
This year, three players of Liberian heritage each appeared and scored in the Men’s World Cup. Alphonso Davies, representing Canada; Haji Wright from the US Men’s National Team (USMNT); and Timothy Weah also from Team USA.
Every Liberian and most football fans would recognize Timothy Weah. His famous football father George Weah is the current president of Liberia and the 1995 FIFA African, European, and World Player of the Year (an accomplishment no other footballer holds). Wright and Davis have Liberian parents as well.
These three athletes made many Liberians excited, during the World Cup, but they also highlighted the growth opportunities that exist within the country. Their success shows that one of the main barriers separating young footballers living within Liberia from those in the diaspora is opportunity and development. Maybe with this encouraging World Cup appearance more resources can be put towards sports development in Liberia.
Meet the three athletes who helped put a spotlight on Liberia during the 22nd FIFA Men’s World Cup.
Alphonso Davies (Canada)
Recognized by FIFA as one of Canada’s five players to watch, 21-year-old Alphonso Davies was born to Liberian parents in Ghana during the second Liberian civil war before emigrating to Canada. Davies’ journey to the World Cup placed him among the greats in Canada and best in the world, according to FIFA.com.
Canada’s first and last World Cup appearance was in 1986. The 1986 squad failed to score any goals in the group stage against Hungary, France, and the Soviet Union. Thirty-six years later, Davies’ made history in his debut — the first ever to score for Canada at a World Cup.
Haji Wright (USA)
Team USA recruited Wright from Antalyaspor Football Club in Turkey. The 24-year-old striker, who was born in Los Angeles, California, USA was also eligible to represent either Liberia or Ghana — his parents’ birth countries. Though US recruited Wright in June, he did not receive any playing time during the World Cup qualifiers. However, he scored his first goal for the US men’s team, months before the World Cup, at an international-friendly against Morocco. Scoring a goal, during his first appearance with the team, made him the 56th US player to have that accomplishment.
In Wright’s World Cup debut, he played during the second half group B match against Wales. He later scored the only point for Team USA during the knockout round against the Netherlands.
Timothy Weah (USA)
Timothy’s father might be a president and the only African footballer to win the Ballon d’Or and FIFA world player of the year, but he’s never gone to a World Cup. While 22-year-old Timothy Weah had the choice to play for Liberia, Jamaica, France, or the USA, he ultimately decided on Team USA.
The US men’s team has competed in 11 World Cups, but for the last eight years they haven’t made a single goal. Timothy changed that. In his first World Cup appearance, he scored the USA’s first World Cup goal in eight years.
“Mixed emotions … a dream come true to score in my first world cup match […] This was for USA. This was for Liberia. This was for Jamaica. This was for my family.” Weah wrote in his Instagram caption.
Weah carried out his father’s legacy and his own dream of making it to the World Cup. Team USA made it to the top 16, however, did not advance to the quarter finals.
Even though Liberia did not compete in the World Cup, these three athletes shined a light on the country. Congratulations to them on their World Cup debuts.