After eventful year, Canada’s Alphonso Davies set to shine on soccer’s biggest stage

Paul Stalteri first met Alphonso Davies when he was 14, at a Canadian Under-15 camp in Toronto.

“You could tell right away there was something different about him,” said Statley, a former Canada captain who was then coach of Canada Soccer’s youth team. “Obviously at 14 he’s not the same body as he is now, but when you compare him to the players around him, he’s fast, dynamic and still has power.”

The question then is where will he play?

“At that age, almost like he is now, you could play him in any different position. He was able to do something special,” said Stalteri, now an assistant coach at Toronto FC. “We had him up front, we had him out wide. Obviously at that point you don’t have one of your best players, if not your best player, as a defender, but we had him with Jonathan (David David) ) at the top of the (several) races, it’s a very strong tandem”

“He has all the makings of a really great player,” he added.

A move to Bayern Munich in early 2019 helped unlock those tools, with then-manager Niko Kovac installing him at left-back after injuries forced Bayern to make changes to their backline.

“Before that, people always saw him as a striker or a winger,” said Staltree, who blazed a trail for the Canadiens in Germany, where he won the Bundesliga title with Werder Bremen. . “Look where he is now? In his position, he’s arguably the best guy in the world. He’s running well, he’s at a great club. Picking that place to go makes sense for his development. It was a very good decision for him.”

Now Davis is starting to shine on football’s biggest stage.

Davis’ story is well known. Davis was born in a refugee camp in Ghana to parents who fled Liberia’s civil war and came to Canada at the age of five.

In July 2016, at the age of 15, Davis signed a local player contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps, becoming the third youngest player in history to sign an MLS contract. Two years later, the Whitecaps agreed to sell Davis to Bayern Munich in a then-record MLS deal, possibly worth more than $22 million.

Davies, then 17, finished the season in Vancouver before officially joining Bayern in January 2019.

He made his debut for Canada’s senior team against Curacao in June 2017 at the age of 16, making him the youngest male player in Canadian team history. He had been granted Canadian citizenship a week earlier.

Davies scored twice in his next international cap, a 4-2 win over French Guiana in the 2017 Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Boot and Best Young Player awards as top scorer and won the 2017 Gold Cup. The best eleven selected for the tournament.

Davis has since become the face of Canadian men’s soccer on and off the field. In June 2018, he gave the opening presentation to the FIFA Council in Moscow as part of North America’s joint bid with the United States and Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup.

“The people of North America have always welcomed me. Given the opportunity, I know they would welcome you,” he told the delegates.

Today, Davis played 34 times for the Canadian team, scoring 12 goals and assisting 16 times. His dream of playing the World Cup at home is coming true.

In March 2021, Davies became the first footballer and first Canadian to be named a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). He has pledged to donate World Cup proceeds to charity.

Davis played 143 games for Bayern in all competitions, contributing 8 goals and 21 assists. And his trophy cabinet is filled with three Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, UEFA Super Cup, Bundesliga Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, not to mention a Champions League winner’s medal.

He was the Canadian Soccer Player of the Year in 2018, ’20 and ’21, and the CONCACAF Player of the Year in 2021.

Davies has had a roller-coaster year, developing symptoms of myocarditis, a mild heart condition, after contracting COVID-19 during the Bundesliga’s winter break.

He missed seven of Canada’s 14 games in CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifiers before returning in mid-April.

Most recently, he suffered a bruised skull after being kicked in the face by Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham in early October. He was limping over his hamstring against Hertha Berlin on November 5.

Both Bayern and Davies said he was happy to go to Qatar. Canadian coach John Herdman prays.

Davis is also beloved by many off the court.

His social media accounts are followed by a legion of fans. He has 6.6 million followers on TikTok, 5.1 million on Instagram and 472,800 on Twitter.

While absent from action earlier in the year, Davies keenly watched the Canadian man’s march to World Cup qualifying – and was full of energy as he reacted live-streamed.

Most recently, he enthusiastically showed off his Halloween costume — riding a dinosaur — on TikTok.

Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio says success hasn’t spoiled Davies.

“He hasn’t changed with everything he’s achieved,” the Toronto FC star said. “It’s really admirable. I think that’s a great achievement in itself.

“In order not to be deluded by everything that’s happened to him, all the attention, the achievements and the accolades he’s achieved, he’s still able to be a normal kid and enjoy his life and live today as himself and no one else. In real life, everything he does on social media is real.”

Osorio is still amazed by his human highlights Canada teammate.

“It’s unbelievable what he can do athletically. I’ve had the privilege of watching it most of the time in training.”

Canada captain Christine Sinclair is a big fan of the 22-year-old from Edmonton.

“As soon as he gets the ball, you feel like anything is possible,” she said.

Even if he doesn’t have the ball.

Davies famously knocked then-Dortmund forward Erling Haaland from behind in May 2020, ending a threat in the box. He was chasing Haaland, who is now playing for Manchester City, at a speed of 35.3 kilometers per hour.

That day, Bayern veteran Thomas Müller referred to Davies as the Bayern Runner, referring to the fast cartoon character.

“He’s a player with a big heart and a lot of power,” Müller said after the game. “He might not be in the best position on the pitch at times, but when you think ‘oh, I have time, I have time’, he It would grab the opponent and ‘beep beep beep’, the Bayern runners took the lead and tackled the ball.”

He tackled the ball with rocket-like acceleration – headed towards a Panamanian defender to keep it out – and sprinted towards the goal, stripping a defender of his shirt before beating the keeper in October 2021’s World Cup qualifiers , which only adds to the legend.

Davis’ speed is nothing new to Edmonton’s Nick Horse, who coached Davis in his youth and now represents him.

“He’s like a gazelle,” Huoseh told The Canadian Press in 2020. “He’ll just take off and you won’t be able to catch him.”

—Neil Davidson, Canadian Press

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