Alphonso Davies’ journey from Ghanaian refugee camp to Champions League winner

Alphonso Davies’ road to Champions League glory was more treacherous than most.

The 19-year-old’s story began in a Ghanaian refugee camp, where he was born to Liberian parents who were fleeing their country’s civil war.

On Sunday, Davies became the first Canadian to win the European Cup as his Bayern Munich side beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 to lift club football’s most coveted prize.

“Coming to Europe and winning the Champions League with a great club like Bayern is everything I can ask for,” Davies told BT Sport after the final.

“My story, it just goes to show if you set your mind to it you can do anything. I’m happy to have the medal around my neck and the trophy by my side.”

When he was five years old, Davies and his family left the Buduburam refugee camp and moved to start a new life in Edmonton, Canada.

“I can’t really remember too much about those years,” Davies told former England international Gary Lineker in an interview for the Guardian about those early years as a refugee.

“I wish I could. I can’t even really remember kicking a football around, although I know I did. It’s not a memory they want to share with their kids too often, but they talked about it a little bit because it’s part of our story.”

By all accounts, it was clear as early as high school that Davies was no ordinary footballer.

His prodigious talents prompted Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps to try and recruit him when he was just 14 years old — and Davies very nearly didn’t go. His mother, Victoria, turned down Vancouver’s offer, believing her son wasn’t older enough to leave home.

READ: Bayern Munich beats Paris Saint-Germain to win the Champions League

It took some convincing from the young Alphonso before she eventually changed her mind.

From the moment he joined Vancouver’s academy, to say Davies’ rise was meteoric would be something of an understatement. He signed his first professional contract with the club on July 15, 2016 and made his MLS debut a day later at just 15, becoming the second youngest player in league history.

The following year, Davies became a Canadian citizen and on the same day earned his first international call up. He made his national team debut in a friendly against Curaçao at 16, becoming the youngest player in Canada men’s history, and scored his first goals for his country in the opening match of the 2017 Gold Cup against French Guiana.

He went on to win the golden boot for being the tournament’s top goalscorer, won the Young Player of the Tournament award and was named in the tournament’s best XI. In his first full year in the senior international set up, Davies was named Canadian Men’s Player of the Year.

“We came to a great country like Canada that took us in, which is amazing looking back at it,” Davies told CNN back in 2018. “At that time, I didn’t know if I wanted to play soccer or not.

“I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life, but once I came to Canada and started watching it on TV, my dad and brother played and watching them play, I wanted to do that too.

“When I started playing, I think it was when I signed my USL contract and I was like: ‘I think I can really go far with my career if I keep working and striving to become [better].”

‘No hesitation’

By this time, his consistently brilliant performances meant Davies had a list of suitors as long as his arm and it was evident he wouldn’t be staying in Vancouver much longer.

Despite reported interest from clubs such as PSG and Manchester United, the rising star opted to sign for Bayern Munich, lured by the German club’s track record of nurturing young talent.

“I know there were rumours about England,” he told reporters after signing a contract extension back in April. “I know different teams had approached my agents. My full focus at the time was Vancouver and trying to get into the playoffs.

“Behind the scenes, my people were dealing with it so I didn’t need to think about it a whole lot. Teams approached my people and they relayed the messages to me. We sat down with Bayern Munich and as soon as I heard them, there was no hesitation that I wanted to join this team.

“I love playing for this club. Being so young and coming here so early is even more of a motivation.”

Bayern paid an MLS record fee of $13 million for the 17-year-old, an amount that could rise to $22 million based on add-ons.

“This is a landmark transfer for our club, country, and league,” Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett said following Davies’ transfer.

“Alphonso is an inspirational example of what is possible, and we are excited about how this transfer showcases our commitment to homegrown players for our club and country.”

After joining Bayern in the 2018 January transfer window, Davies played sparingly in the second half of the campaign but enjoyed his major breakthrough the following season.

Lightning quick and with a keen eye for goal, Davies was initially signed with the intention of eventually replacing outgoing wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

However, according to the Bundesliga, Davies has start 37 of his 38 competitive matches for Bayern in a defensive role. It’s a testament to his character and football IQ that he has effortlessly transformed his game and become one of the most highly regarded left backs in the world.

Bayern head coach Hansi Flick recently called Davies “one of our best players.”

“Alphonso is doing an outstanding job,” he said. “He’s setting up goals in attack and has scored some himself, and is very adept defensively. He’s on a very good path. He’s young — he can and wants to learn.”

Davies’ list of individual and team accolades at the age of just 19 is enough to draw envious glances from even the most seasoned professionals; two Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, Bundesliga Rookie of the Season, MLS All-Star, Vancouver Whitecaps Player of the Year.

Now he can also add Champions League winner to that list, perhaps the sweetest title of them all.

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