Canadian Soccer is on Alphonso Davies’ Shoulders
By Drew Farmer
Have you ever heard the story about the 18-year-old Canadian soccer star who turned professional at the age of 15-years old and now plays for Germany’s biggest team? No? Well, you will.
Canadian soccer has been laying dominant for decades. Outside of those who follow the sport religiously in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and a few other areas, most sports fans may have forgotten the country has a men’s team. It has been over 30-years and eight World Cups since Canada last qualified for that elite tournament that occurs every four years. But that could be all be about to change and it isn’t just because Canada will co-host the 2026 World Cup alongside the United States and Mexico.
Meet Alphonso Davies
Alphonso Davies is Canada’s long-awaited soccer prodigy. The country has been waiting desperately for a player of his ilk since the days of Julian De Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario. He is a once in a generation star.
Davies’ story is one that shows the great melting pot of Canada and the opportunities that the country offers to people whether born within its borders or outside of it.
The soccer star was born at the turn of the millennium in a refugee camp in Ghana. Davies’ parents had just fled Liberia as the country’s second civil war through the country into chaos. Luckily, the family was resettled in Canada and taken nearly 10,000 kilometers away from the struggle taking place in Africa. As simple as it sounds, the Davies family weren’t resettled until 2005 when the young Alphonso was five. The Davies called Edmonton home and it wasn’t long before Alphonso was showcasing his athletic ability at school.
Davies worked his way through various soccer programs and clubs as a youth, and at the age of 14, joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program. On June 1, 2016, at the age of just 15, Davies made his professional debut for the Major League Soccer team.
There were plenty of naysayers to Vancouver’s willingness to play a 15-year-old boy in a man’s professional soccer league. MLS teams had previous signed teens with potential hoping they would become stars.
Real Salt Lake signed Nikolas Besagno at the age of 16. The highly touted player was unable to adapt to the professional ranks and was released by RSL after play just eight games over four seasons.
The most famous MLS teen star, Freddy Adu, was signed at the age of 14. It was claimed he would lead the United State national team to the next level. But over expectations and poor career choices before the age of 20 caught up with Adu. It didn’t help that other players caught up with him in terms of skills and Adu never developed further.
Vancouver worked Davies in slowly as they increased his playing time from 2016 to 2018. By the time he left the club in November 2018, Davies had appeared in 81 games for the Whitecaps scoring 12 goals and tallying 13 assists. He had also become a fully-fledged Canadian national team player appearing in nine games and scoring three goals.
A chance of a lifetime
While the Whitecaps and their fans would love to have kept Davies, Europe has always been soccer’s mecca. It isn’t often that one of the world’s biggest teams comes calling and that is exactly what happened in the summer of 2018. Germany’s Bayern Munich, the most successful German soccer club, paid Vancouver $22 million for Davies. It is the second highest fee paid for an MLS player behind Paraguayan Miguel Almiron, who left the league for England’s Newcastle in January.
The German giants may still be one of the world’s top clubs, but many of their established stars are nearing the end of their prime – if not past it. Davies is part of Bayern’s future, not just Canada’s national team, and he could one day be the player that leads them to European Cup glory. Bayern will work Davies in slowly, especially as he joined the club in the middle of the term. Next season looks likely to be his time to really shine and fight for a regular position in the team.
Davies could be to Canadian soccer what Wayne Gretzky was to ice hockey. He is the young, talented player Canadian soccer enthusiasts and coaches have been waiting for, but the rest of the country is only just learning about him.