From refugee camp to World Cup: Davies relishing Canada mission

4. Alphonso Davies
(Photo: Twitter)

OTTAWA — When Alphonso Davies runs out onto the turf of the Al-Rayyan Stadium to face a star-studded Belgium on November 23 it will mark the latest step of a remarkable journey that has taken him from a refugee camp to the World Cup.اضافة اعلان

The fleet-footed Canada and Bayern Munich winger has crammed so much into his record-breaking career that it is easy to forget he is still only 22.

At an age when many professionals are still feeling their way into the upper echelons of the sport, Davies is already a seasoned veteran.

Four Bundesliga titles, a Champions League winners’ medal and a FIFA Club World Cup crown are just some of the honors Davies has gathered in a professional career that began as a 15-year-old in Major League Soccer.

It’s all a far cry from how the buccaneering wing-back started life.

Davies was born at the turn of the century in a refugee camp in Ghana, where he spent the first four years of his life after his parents fled civil war in Liberia.

“When we went to get our food, we had to step over corpses,” according to Davies’ mother, Victoria, in a grim reference to life in the camp.

To escape the squalor, his parents migrated to Canada, first to Windsor, Ontario, then to Edmonton, Alberta.

In the country where ice hockey is king, Davies started to show huge potential with a football in after-school games at primary school and his talent was quickly spotted.

“The child was a gift to the game,” remembered Tim Adams, founder of the after-school league ‘Free Footie’ where Davies first stood out.

He joined a football academy in Edmonton and as a 14-year-old he impressed on trial in Vancouver, where he joined the Whitecaps youth system.

Then the records started tumbling.

Aged 15 years and eight months, he became the youngest Canadian to play in the MLS.

‘Anything’s possible’

Aged 16, seven months, he became the youngest Canadian international, named in the squad days after becoming a citizen.

In July 2017, Davies ended up as the joint top-scorer with three goals at the CONCACAF Gold Cup as Canada lost in the quarterfinals to Jamaica, who in turn went down 2–1 to the US in the final.

Craig Dalrymple, his former coach in Vancouver, compares Davies to France’s teen star Kylian Mbappe “for his power and speed”, but the youngster admits Lionel Messi is his idol.

In 2018, Davies was signed by Bayern Munich in a then-record deal for an MLS player worth up to $22 million.

After a handful of appearances in the 2018-2019 season, Davies’ career took off in the 2019-2020 campaign, notably with a typically electrifying performance in a 3–0 Champions League away victory over Chelsea.

That pandemic-interrupted season ended with Davies winning the Champions League in a 1–0 Bayern victory over Paris Saint-Germain, making him the first Canadian international to win the title.

Although an integral part of the Canada squad that qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, Davies was sidelined for several months this year after developing the inflammatory heart condition myocarditis following a Covid-19 infection.

Having battled back to fitness, he limped off with a thigh injury in Bayern’s 3-2 win against Hertha Berlin on November 5, but the club quickly said his World Cup participation was not in danger.

Davies is relishing being one of Canada’s team leaders in Qatar even though he admits to nerves about finally playing in a World Cup.

“I’m gonna be a little bit nervous (at the World Cup),” Davies said in a recent interview.

“But for me it’s just: We made it to this point for a reason and each and every one of us have to be confident in ourselves and go out there and show what we have.”

Canada coach John Herdman jokes however that Davies is probably secretly thinking of winning the World Cup.

“He embodies what this team is about, what this country is about – the confidence, the swagger, the anything’s possible,” Herdman said.

“This kid is a refugee from west Africa, who’s got Champions League trophies, all these Bundesliga titles, and he’s 22 years old. So, I’m sure he’s thinking he’s winning this World Cup. “And that’s the new Canadian mindset.”

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