Alphonso Davies will never play for his country of birth, but former Ghana international goalkeeper Abukari Damba says the African nation should be proud of what the teenager has achieved since relocating to Canada as a child and moving to Europe with Bayern Munich at 18.
Davies was born in Buduburam, a Ghanaian refugee camp, after his parents had fled the civil war in Liberia. The Davies family were able to immigrate to Canada when Alphonso was five, eventually settling in Edmonton, Alberta.
By the age of 14, he was enrolled in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program. He made history as the first player born in the 2000s to play in Major League Soccer – at just 15 years, eight months and 15 days old – and went on to make 65 first-team appearances before agreeing to join Bayern for an MLS record fee in July 2018.
The teenager would have been eligible to represent his country of birth at international level, but chose to play for Canada. After featuring for the U17 and U20 teams, he made history as the youngest player to turn out for the seniors, debuting against Curaçao on 14 June 2017. He had only obtained his Canadian citizenship a week earlier.
“Davies could not have known all that his parents went through in Ghana because he was very young,” Damba, who was part of the Black Stars’ 1992 African Cup of Nations squad, told Goal of Davies’ journey.
“He may be a lost talent [to Ghana], but let us remember that he had to go through processes and the opportunities were opened to him in Canada.
“Honestly, it’s in Canada that he really identified who he is or who had to identify him and nurture him to become who he is. We are still talking about him being born in Ghana but let’s not forget that his formative years were in Canada where his talent was brought to the fore, they had to take his through the various stages, and give him all the opportunities.
“I don’t think we should feel left out because he does not play for us. He will definitely trace his roots to Ghana. But he would definitely have been a good addition to the Black Stars.”
A boon for club and country, Davies has made unprecedented progress since officially making the switch to Bayern in January 2019. ‘Phonzie’ played six times for the senior team during the second half of the 2018/19 season, becoming the club’s first goalscorer born in the 2000s and youngest in 20 years, courtesy of a late strike in a 6-1 drubbing of Mainz on 17 March 2019, before ending the campaign with Bundesliga and DFB Cup winner’s medals.
Although an attacking winger by trade, Davies became Bayern’s first-choice left-back in 2019/20, starting 37 of Bayern’s 51 competitive matches on their way to completing a Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League treble in a defensive role. He is the first Canada international to play in – and win – a Champions League final.
Davies also made another piece on history on the international scene on 15 October 2019 as the first player to score for Canada against the USA since 2007, in the northern American neighbours’ CONCACAF Nations League Group A qualifier. The milestone strike was his fifth for Canada on only his 16th senior international appearance.
The winner of the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season award for 2019/20, Davies could yet cap an unforgettable year by claiming the 2020 Golden Boy prize as the best footballer under the age of 21 in Europe.
“This young man born here [in Ghana], and nobody ever anticipated he will rise to this level – but it did not come easy,” explained Damba.
“He’s a shining example; the up-and-coming ones can take inspiration from the fact that this is one of us who was born in such a community [like the refugee camp], but has grown up to become who he is today. They will encourage themselves to do things right, remain steadfast and could even become better than this young lad we are seeing today taking the whole world by storm.
“We [Ghanaians] are very proud of him.”