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Sports News of Sunday, 23 August 2020


Alphonso Davies: From a refugee camp in Ghana to the Champions League final

Alphonso Davies is preparing to play the most important game of his life this evening Alphonso Davies is preparing to play the most important game of his life this evening

Alphonso Davies is preparing to play the most important game of his life.
The 19-year-old is set to feature for Bayern Munich in their Champions League final with Paris Saint-Germain later this Sunday night.

It hasn't been an easy road to the top for the left-back, who was born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana.Father Debeah and mother Victoria had previously fled the Liberian capital of Monrovia in order to escape the civil conflict going on there.

"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, to the 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.

Davies started school in Edmonton in 2006 and would soon get used to having a ball at his feet.He became part of Free Footie, an organisation set up to allow 4,000 vulnerable children in Edmonton to play football for free.

"Alphonso is an example of what can happen when everything goes right, but that kid had something special," revealed Free Footie's CEO, Tim Adams.

Adams 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.

"Davies had a strong enough mentality to go higher," Bossio said."I called [the Whitecaps] by phone, they invited him for a trial and they saw what I'd seen."At the age of 14, Davies faced a move of more than 1,000 kilometres to Vancouver and his mother wasn't so sure.

"I was scared," Victoria said."I know what some young people do and I didn't want that to happen to him. I tried to delay it until he was 16 or 17, but he promised me that he wasn't going to change and that he'd make us proud.

"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.

In 2017, Davies acquired his Canadian citizenship and became available for selection for the national team, 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.

Bayern Munich came calling in the summer of 2018 and Davies made the move to Germany once he turned 18.

"We signed him because we saw him as one of the best players of his generation," said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. Davies made his first-team debut for Bayern in January 2019, but he's really made a name for himself in Europe this season.

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.

"His development has been phenomenal," remarked Hansi Flick."He was signed as a winger, but he's doing an incredible job at full-back."

"We've never had a player like him," admitted Thomas Muller."You don't often see just young players with his talent," said Jerome Boateng.

"We can expect a lot from him because he can improve."Davies has also impressed the people at Bayern with his character off the pitch, as much as his football on it.

"He doesn't just fascinate our fans with his way of playing, but also because of the way he is off the pitch," said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"You can be the best, but if you don't respect others, nobody's going to like you," says Victoria.