Alphonso Davies: Refugee baby turned football star

Katrin Separator June 10, 2023

When Alphonso Davies signed a 5-year contract with FC Bayern in 2018 as a 17-year-old teenager, there were more than a few who had either never heard of him, or who thought the sum of 13 million euros was a very risky investment. But the coach at the time, Niko Kovac, stated in an interview that for an exceptional talent like Davies, the club naturally must spend a lot of money. 

In Canada, Davies was already considered a prodigy at the time. As the youngest player on the Canadian national team and undisputable star for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Davies had captivated the MLS. But the road there was anything but easy. In the book “Alphonso Davies. A New Hope,” Farhan Devji impressively traces Davies’ story. 

On the run

Now, one might wonder: is there really a need for a biography about a football player who is only 22 years old, still actively playing and not even at the peak of his career yet? These are valid questions, but Davies’ journey is unique and deserves to be told – now, later, at any given time. It begins in a refugee camp in Ghana.

Davies’ parents lived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, before they fled to Ghana because of the civil war. They ended up in Buduburam, a refugee camp located around 45 kilometers away from Accra and established in 1990. In the year 2000, when Davies was born, Buduburam was home to roughly 18,500 refugees. When Davies was five years old, the family was able to emigrate to Canada through a resettlement program. Davies helped care for his younger siblings from a very early age while his parents were at work. And still, whenever he could, he’d follow his greatest passion: football.

Author Devji, who worked as a club reporter for the Whitecaps when Davies first arrived on the scene, is the perfect candidate to write this book. After all, he had the chance to follow Davies’ career from the very beginning. Devji has spoken to numerous people in Davies’ life, from his parents to his coaches, to teachers, teammates and friends, who share humorous and lovely anecdotes about the football player from all stages of his life, painting a vivid picture of the football player and his different facets. Yes, he’s that goofy, happy-go-lucky kid that enchanted everyone with his talent and skills on the pitch, but there’s also a more serious and vulnerable side to him. 

The hope of Canadian football

Davies’ path from refugee baby to football star is such an unlikely one that you can’t help but feel moved and inspired reading about it. Of course, he received a lot of support along the way, and that’s surely one of the reasons why he has remained a down-to-earth and humble person. And mind you, this wasn’t a given: in addition to talent, you have to be extremely determined. But more than that, Davies was still a teenager when he was rising through the ranks, when he left home to join the Whitecaps Academy (and later on, Bayern Munich, which is as far away from home as it gets) and eventually became the new face and hope of Canadian football. That’s a lot of pressure to bear on ones shoulders so young, but Davies wears it so lightly and with a big smile on his face. 

At the end of the book, there’s a quote by Davies, which perfectly sums up his attitude, his love for his parents and his gratitude. 

“I want to make my parents proud not because I am a good athlete, but because I am a good person. That’s always my goal every day.”

And while this statement may come across as clichéd, as something that a football player might say in any given interview – coming from Alphonso Davies and knowing his story, it’s easy to believe he lives by those words.

“Alphonso Davies. A New Hope” was published in May 2023 by ECW Press. A portion of each sale will be donated UNHCR Canada to support refugees around the world.

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— Oliver Kahn

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