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From a Refugee Camp in Ghana to Bayern Munchen: The Story of Alphonso Davies

It is always an inspiration to the rest of the world when players share their stories of rising from grass to grace. Football fans all over the world have a special fondness for players who have come from humble beginnings. It only gets easier as these players achieve success on the field of play and in terms of trophies. Alphonso Davies, Bayern Muchen's left back, has a new story to tell. This is because, like other players with a grass to grace story, Alphonso seems to have progressed not only from grass to grace, but also from the survival process to become a world star. He epitomizes the phrase "once there is life, there is hope." His difficult start gave him no excuse to give up; he fought hard and is now reaping the benefits of his efforts. Although he was born to Liberian refugee parents, Alphonso Boyle Davies is a Canadian professional soccer player who plays as a left-back or winger for Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and the Canada national team.

Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich is not the ordinary freak of football design. He is the youngest player to have played for the Canadian national team just one year after acquiring Canadian citizenship. To begin with, he is from Canada, a country that has produced many creative giants such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Jim Carrey, but none of them are footballers. To put things in perspective, the best Canadian football players to date are Owen Hargreaves (who played for England) and Asmir Begovic (who played for Bosnia and Herzegovina). Davies' rarity extends well beyond his Canadian heritage and superb football control. He came from Ghana, Liberia, and nowhere else until settling in Canada. Buduburam, a sprawling refugee camp about thirty miles outside of Ghana's capital, Accra, was where he started his life's journey.

Victoria and Debeah, his parents, were from Liberia, and after surviving their country's first civil war, which lasted eight years (1989-1997) and claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, they weren't so fortunate when the brief respite ended and the brutality and savagery resumed. They were forced to leave their home in Monrovia, like so many others, and seek shelter wherever they could. They had their first child, Alphonso, in Ghana in 2000, but they were still in limbo, unaware of what the future held and unable to do anything but watch as their homeland was brought to its knees. They spent years in the Buduburam refugee camp, and Victoria later compared refugee life to being "placed in a container and locked up." It was a rough time in my life. The quest for clean water, food, and simply staying alive became a triumph of survival with each passing hour. "It was difficult to live and the only way you survive often is to carry weapons," his parents claim. We weren't interested in shooting weapons. As a result, we made the decision to simply flee.

They have a resettlement program, and they said, "Well, you have to fill out a form for Canada, and we went through the interview and all, and we made it, and we came over here." Buduburam is now a thriving area, but it was still a chaotic and impoverished slum when Davies spent his first five years there. His parents and he shared a small chipboard shack with chicken wire windows. The family applied for resettlement in Canada, and in 2016, they were assigned to a temporary residence in Windsor, just across the Detroit River. Davies continued to play football in Canada at the age of 5, just as he had done in the refugee camp. After seeing him dominate in playground knockabout, a teacher at his Catholic junior high school in Edmonton enrolled him in a free inner-city league.

At the age of 15, he joined the Vancouver Whitecaps youth system and broke into the senior side of Whitecaps FC 2, which competes in the USL Championship league's second tier. He blossomed under the tutelage of Marco Bossio. Even though he was still an adolescent, his natural athleticism—speed and power—proved to be a lethal combination when combined with his deception and more unusual skill set. Bossio quickly realized Davies was a rare find and started calling the Vancouver Whitecaps on a regular basis in an attempt to pique their interest. Finally, he was asked to try out for a residency, and the rest is history. He was the youngest player signed to a USL contract at the time of his signing in April 2016, at the age of 15 years and 5 months.

At 15 years and 6 months, he became the youngest goal scorer in USL history when he scored his first professional goal in May of 2016. During the 2016 season, he scored two goals in 11 games. Davies was signed to a short-term contract with the Whitecaps for the 2016 Canadian Championship. Davies signed a first-team contract with the Whitecaps on July 15, 2016, that runs through 2018, with options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Davies made his Major League Soccer debut on July 16, 2016, making him the second-youngest player in the league behind Freddy Adu. Davies appeared in eight MLS games during the 2016 season. Davies drew interest and was scouted by European clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool after making impressive early MLS appearances. He was also named one of the 60 best young soccer talents in the world in 2017. In October 2018, Davies was named the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Player of the Year, as well as the Whitecaps Goal of the Year.

Mark Dailey, a writer for the Vancouver Sun, recalls being astounded by his abilities. "I remember seeing him play against LA Galaxy 2 in May or June of 2016, and he'd already played a couple of senior games. Athletically and mentally, he was clearly something special, and he scored his first senior goal. That summer, he joined the MLS side, and they played a friendly against Crystal Palace, who were on an off-season tour, and Davies played. We in the press scrum saw the Palace coach yelling at the players. Vancouver announced on July 25, 2018, that Davies had agreed to a multi-million dollar transfer to Bundesliga club Bayern Munich.

We've all noticed him now that he's played on the big stage with FC Bayern Munich. He has a lot of potential, and we are looking forward to seeing what he can do. Extreme speed, fine close control, brutal work rate, bulletproof defensive technique, and mature decision-making in the final third all seem to be among Davies' terrifying qualities. According to Dailey, his biggest flaw is that he lacks marketable egotism. This boy, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana, has managed to hold his head up and now plays for one of Europe's best and biggest teams, alongside the best group of football players as teammates, and against some of the best football players the game has ever seen (such as against Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the Champions League Quarterfinals).

He is now a cult hero in his hometown of Vancouver, as well as, I assume, to the majority of the children in Ghana's Buduburam refugee camp. I hope Davies' tale of survival inspires you if you face hardship, or if you are currently dealing with one.

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Alphonso Alphonso Davies Bayern Munchen Ghana


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