A child born in a Ghanaian refugee camp. Raised in Canada with a soccer ball. Now an international star headed to Qatar.
When the FIFA World Cup kicks off on Nov. 20 in Qatar, the Canadian men’s national team will be there for the first time in 36 years—and only the second time in history—largely on the talent of Alphonso Davies, a child refugee who grew up in Edmonton.
As Canadian soccer moms and dads tune in to watch Canada compete for soccer’s top prize, it’s worth knowing Davies’ story. His journey in soccer is one of the greatest testaments to the power of play—both in building resiliency and in developing physical literacy.
From refugee to professional soccer player
Davies was born in the year 2000 in the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled civil war in Liberia. After immigrating to Canada with his family in 2005, he received a soccer ball through a sports-equipment donation program and eventually started playing after-school soccer in the Free Footie program in Edmonton.
These early experiences in soccer were his first steps towards becoming an international soccer star.
Following from Free Footie, he turned heads as a high school player in Edmonton, and he caught the attention of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer. They invited him to their residency program for developing young players in 2015, and in 2016 they signed him to their MLS professional roster at 15 years old.
From Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern Munich
Davies quickly became a fan favourite in Vancouver, scoring spectacular goals and playing with attacking flare in North America’s top professional soccer league. Within two years, negotiations were underway to take Davies to Bayern Munich, one of the most famous professional soccer teams on the planet, for a record MLS transfer fee.
He joined the star-studded German club in January 2019, and he quickly went on to win Rookie of the Season in 2019–20, the German league title, and the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
Davies has become one of the most talked-about players in international soccer. And he’s still only 20 years old.
Canada’s great hope at the World Cup
Now Davies is headed to the World Cup in Qatar with the Canadian men’s national team. He was arguably the team’s x-factor in qualifying for the tournament.
National soccer teams have an extremely difficult time even qualifying for the World Cup, never mind actually winning it. Qualifying matches are played around the world for more than two years prior to the actual World Cup event, with 209 national soccer teams competing for only 32 places in the final tournament.
Fans who watched Canada’s World Cup qualifying matches over the past two years know the impact that Davies made. He regularly tipped the balance against opponents with his attacking dribbles, defensive saves, and game-changing goals.
Human rights ambassador
Davies is also making an impact for refugees. In March 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees made him a Global Goodwill Ambassador.
“I am proud to join the UN Refugee Agency as a Goodwill Ambassador,” said Davies on his appointment. “My own experiences make me want to speak up for refugees, to share their stories and to help make a difference.”
“I want people to know about the importance of helping refugees, wherever they are, in camps or cities, in neighboring countries or countries of resettlement such as Canada. Refugees need our support to survive, but also access to education and sports, so they can fulfil their potential and truly thrive.”
Watch Alphonso Davies at the World Cup
The FIFA World Cup runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, and every soccer fan in Canada is hoping Davies will shine as brightly in Qatar as he has in Canada and Europe.
The tournament starts with eight groups of four teams. To survive to the next round, teams must finish either first or second in their group after playing three group matches.
The challenge for Davies and his teammates is the strength of their group opponents. Canada, ranked #41 in the world, will play world #2 Belgium on Nov. 23, then #16 Croatia on Nov. 27, and #24 Morocco on Dec. 1.
Belgium is one of the favourites to win the whole tournament, and Croatia came second at the last World Cup in 2018.
Canada definitely faces a David-and-Goliath challenge in Qatar. But they say soccer—or more commonly “football” in the rest of the world—is a funny old game. Anything can happen if the soccer gods shine favour on your match-day team.
Canada match schedule at the Qatar World Cup
You can tune in as a family to watch Canada’s three group stage matches on CTV and TSN:
Canada vs. Belgium – Nov. 23 at 2pm ET/11am PT
Canada vs. Croatia – Nov. 27 at 11am ET/8am PT
Canada vs. Morocco – Dec. 1 at 10am ET/7am PT
Photo: Canada Soccer