From a refugee camp in Ghana, due to Liberian crisis, to Canada, and UEFA Champions League glory: The journey of Alphonso Davies
Alphonso Davies’ first season at Bayern Munich has brought a league and cup double and now a Champions League trophy. But his determination to succeed was forged in an upbringing shaped by war and poverty.
In the year 2000, there was little fanfare for a new millennium in Buduburam. This Ghanaian refugee camp, often compared to prison by its residents, is a haven for immigrants from neighboring Liberia, fleeing a second civil war in a decade.
He was born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana. His Father Debeah and mother Victoria had previously fled the Liberian capital of Monrovia to escape the civil conflict.
“To survive, you had to get hold of a gun, and we weren’t willing to do that,” Debeah said.”The landscape was scary; you had to step over corpses to go to eat,” Victoria added.
Debeah and Victoria ended up in a refugee camp in Buduburam, west of Ghanaian capital Accra.
“Life there is like being put in a container and then throwing away the key,” Victoria said.”There’s no way out.“Fortunately for the Davies family, there was a way out – to Canada.”I didn’t know anything about it or know anyone from there, but I said okay,” Debeah said on the move to Edmonton.
The family’s route out of Ghana and poverty came via a place on a re-settlement program to Canada, where a school-aged Alphonso soon found a love of football. Escape to Canada; It took five years to finally see life outside of Buduburam.
Davies started school in Edmonton in 2006 and soon got used to having a ball at his feet. He became part of Free Footie, and an organization set up to allow 4,000 vulnerable children in Edmonton to play football for free.
Adams(free footie’s CEO) recommended Davies to Marco Bossio, a teacher at the St. Nicholas Catholic School and director of the football academy. Bossio went on to alert Vancouver Whitecaps about the youngster’s talent.
Having played for several teams around Edmonton, Alberta, he joined the Edmonton Strikers, coached by IT professional Nick Huoseh, who had only taken the reins to help his son’s team out when they needed a manager.
His parents would not let him forget the mantra they had drummed into him as a boy.
“I was always talking to him,” said Debeah.
“Son, don’t follow bad friends. Don’t be a bad guy. If he joins a bad crew, it’s over to him, but I know he’s not going to do that.”
His game developed and he was already one of Alberta’s best track sprinters of his age, his footballing technique started to turn heads too.
“He was like a sponge,” said Huoseh. “With his maturity, he would absorb information a lot quicker, and capitalize on it too, a lot better than most of the boys.”
It would not be long before professional clubs, at home and abroad, began to take note.
When the Vancouver Whitecaps offered a 14-year-old Davies a place on their residential academy scheme, his parents were not convinced – but he had earned their trust.
“I was afraid,” Victoria told the club’s YouTube channel. ” I had seen some kids on the street, what they’re doing. I didn’t want him to become a bad boy. But he promised me – I will not go to Vancouver and change. I will make you proud.”By this point, an in-demand Alphonso needed an agent.
Hopeful suitors were already sending boots, shirts, and other gifts – enough to turn any teenager’s head. But when Huoseh, still helping the family look after their son from a distance, laid the first contract in front of his parents, he was shocked.
Davies made his MLS debut for the Whitecaps at the age of 15 years and eight months, becoming the first player born in the 21st century to play in the USA’s top tier.
One more welcome admirer of Alphonso’s talent was Manchester United’s newly appointed North America scout, Jorge Avial. Here was a man who had watched James Rodriguez and Freddy Adu come through the ranks. Far from an easy man to impress.
But what started as a vague interest in another talented teenager on YouTube soon intensified when, less than a year after signing for the Whitecaps, Davies became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the USL, the North American second tier, barely 15 years and three months old.”The first time I saw him, it was a quick review, he was very athletic, had tremendous speed,” Avial remembered fondly to Sky Sports.
“I knew right away he would be big, a big superstar. I got the same feeling when I discovered Christian Pulisic. I told them he was just as good, if not better.”
In 2017, Davies acquired his Canadian citizenship and became available for the national team’s selection, making his debut a week later. At the 2017 Gold Cup, the then-winger became the youngest goalscorer in Canadian history when he netted against French Guyana.
As Davies began to make his way in the MLS, Manchester United’s interest soon firmed up but would prove more problematic than hoped. A three-week invitation to train at their Carrington base, organized through Huoseh, was vetoed by the Whitecaps, who felt Davies was not ready. But with the teenager shining on the domestic scene, further interest was inevitable.
When Jose Mourinho was [at Man Utd], he wanted him, but it never happened.
Bayern Munich came calling in the summer of 2018, and Davies made a move to Germany once he turned 18.
One or two other clubs came but, Bayern guys seemed to have plans for him. His Agent thought it was the best place for Alphonso.
One of the English clubs asked about their plan for Alphonso, and they said they might put him with the second team, or send him on loan because they weren’t sure if he would get a work permit.
But with Bayern, it wasn’t just a phone call. It was a PowerPoint presentation, put together by [chief scout] Marco Neppe and [sporting director] Hasan Salihamidzic. They showed his position on the field, where he was going to play, showed how they had 19 players in their squad, play 50 something games a year, play a lot of matches a year, and the average player plays 80 percent of the matches. That proved enough to convince player, club, and Agent that the Allianz Arena was the best place to continue his development.
Perhaps it left Manchester United wondering what might have been. They waited and waited, and in the end, I don’t think they had the same vision and belief as Munich.
Davies, originally a winger, the 19-year-old has transformed into one of the best left-backs in the world and stands out because of his pace and dribbling.
He didn’t get featured on Bayern’s team when he arrived, during the first half-season following his January 2019 move yielded only 74 minutes in the Bundesliga, against Schalke in February 2019.
Injuries to defenders Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez in the early weeks of 2019/20 saw left-back David Alaba shifted into the middle of the Bayern defense. A gap opened up in his position. Could Davies’ pace and physicality fit the bill? Davies has become a Bayern regular and signed a new five-year deal this year.
Davies now has won the UEFA champions league and ended up as the most decorated left-backs in the world of football currently.