Tug of war for rising star Toure as Liberia bid to trump Australia


Teenage starlet Al Hassan Toure has a big decision to make after being approached by both Australia and Liberia to play in friendly matches next month.

Having announced his potential with a man of the match display for Adelaide United in last week’s FFA Cup final, the 19-year-old is being courted by the birthplace of his parents and the country he’s called home since the age of four.

The west African nation’s English coach Peter Butler placed a call to Toure several days ago, inviting him into camp for the November road trip to either Iran or Egypt. FFA have also confirmed he’s wanted by the Olyroos for games in China, with a seat on the plane to Thailand for January’s last round of Olympic Games qualifiers up for grabs.

“I’ve spoken to the lad,” said Butler, who in August took charge of the country which produced former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, now Liberia’s president.

“I’ve expressed my interest and have told the boy I’d love him to come and represent Liberia.

“I’ve told him I’ll call him up straightaway - but I don’t want to push him on it. It’s a decision he has to make with his mum and dad.

“I think he was probably surprised I called him but it’s a great opportunity for him because there are a lot of fixtures coming up, and I doubt he’ll get a game for Australia’s new senior team (at this point).

“He’d get a lot of exposure playing for us. I’m trying to rebuild the team with hungry young players, and he fits that category perfectly.”

An emotional Toure, who was born in Guinea, draped himself in the Liberian flag and spoke of his desire to play for them, while not ruling out Australia, after scoring an audacious opener, providing a second assist and having a hand in the third, during the 4-0 win over Melbourne City.

Butler, a veteran of over 450 games in the Football League and Premier League, is seeking to steer Liberia to a maiden FIFA World Cup at Qatar 2022.

Graham Arnold, who coaches both the Socceroos and Olyroos, is fully aware of Toure’s talent, with an FFA spokesmen telling News Corp: “Al Hassan Toure is on the Australian national team radar after his great performances early this season.

“Al Hassan will be selected in an Australia U-23 squad to travel to China next month for friendly matches.

“Australia’s matches in China will form part of the process for the coaching staff to finalise Australia’s squad for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship to be held in Thailand in January.”

Butler, 53, has an Australian connection, having coached Sorrento FC to the West Australian title in 2001.

He has managed extensively across south east Asia and was in charge of Botswana between 2014-2017. As a player, the Yorkshireman’s club credits include West Ham and West Bromwich Albion.

“I’d be delighted to help Al Hassan in any way shape or form by passing on my experience,” he added.

“The wheels are in motion to bring him in but he will need time to mull it over.

“I understand the draw to play for Australia but he has Liberian club running through his veins. And his parents are proud Liberians.

“I’ve opened the door to him - if he wants to walk through it he’ll be welcome with open arms. 

“He’s a player who one day might play for a big European club. He has all the attributes: size, pace and power.”

“Liberians are wonderful people: they’re very proud of their national team and I just want to get the right people and kids involved.

“There’s been a self of entitlement from certain players in the past and I’ve got to change that.

“That’s what has held is back. There’s been favoritism and too much talent that has not been selected. I’m looking at players far and side to refresh the team.

“Whatever decision he makes I wish him all the luck in the world - I just hope it’s Liberia.”