Alphonso Davies’ inspiring journey from refugee to Champions League winner should be a lesson to us all

A tale carved out at a Ghanaian refugee camp for those fleeing a second civil war in Liberia has culminated in Lisbon where a 19-year-old who has been through everything is now a European champion

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Monday 24 August 2020 11:37
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Alphonso Davies' incredible pace

Where to focus at the Estadio da Luz?

On an inconsolable Neymar, his €222 million purpose for Paris Saint-Germain still unfulfilled, not being able to lift his head or stem a sea of tears?

On the supreme, scientific machine that is Robert Lewandowski – the first player in football history to win a continental treble while being the top scorer in each competition – sat smothered in confetti on the pitch having finally secured the trophy he has craved and deserved?

On Kingsley Coman, the match winner and snapshot of PSG’s waste? The French giants, through their form as Qatar’s state project, spent over €1bn to win the Champions League only to reach its final and be undone by their academy product, who departed for free.

On Thiago Alcantara, who contoured the game with his art of the pass like he has done on countless occasions, but probably for the last time in Bayern Munich colours?

In a goldmine of storylines, there was one that stuck, that shone, that should be front and centre especially in the current climate.

There in Lisbon, a 19-year-old mesh of stunning talent, technique, speed and tenacity had a winners’ medal around his neck. Alphonso Davies’ triumph – a tale carved at a Ghanaian refugee camp in Buduburam for those fleeing a second civil war in Liberia, that continued in Canada after finally being placed on a re-settlement programme five years later, which took shape in Edmonton and with the Vancouver Whitecaps – is not only touching and inspiring, it is needed.

We reside in a world where the plight of desperate people that are left with no other choice, but to put their life on their line in search of a crumb of peace has become entertainment.

The clips this month of Sky News and BBC broadcast teams approaching and filming small, overloaded boats carrying migrants trying to cross the Channel was despicable and dehumanising.

“We should ensure people don’t drown, not film them as if it were some grotesque reality TV show,” the Labour MP Zarah Sultana said.

Stephen Farry, deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance party believed the coverage fell foul of ethical journalism. “It is voyeurism and capitalising on misery,” he said. “Media should be seeking to hold [the Home Office] to account, and the dark forces fuelling this anti-people agenda.”

Too often, refugees are seen as just one mass; less than us, a strain on society. Their individuality and their stories are lost and – this should jar, but it’s so sickeningly par – their lives are ceded on account of border policies that promote unnecessary death.

Meanwhile, anti-asylum myths survive, the rhetoric stronger than ever. Politicians are always shocked and saddened when another body washes up, but never enough to find solutions – like safe and legal routes – to limit human cost.

On Sunday night, the world got what it needs infinitely more of: the truth and power of an individual’s journey after fleeing a situation we can’t imagine, a situation we’d never want to be made to handle.

Davies has dealt with everything that has been thrown at him

As Davies was showered with champagne by his team-mates during a post-match interview, the medal gleaming around his neck but still no match for the glow on his face, he was a shining example of what can happen when you help rather than administratively hurt a refugee.

“I want my story to inspire people,” he said. It has and it will. It should also educate.

Born on 2 November 2000 to Debeah and Victoria, who escaped having to wade through dead bodies in Liberia while searching for food, Davies’ formative years were a fight against the odds.

Starvation was standard in the camp, with the only basic necessity its residents having was that they were alive and not experiencing the ultimate hell of a bloody civil war.

Being allowed to settle in Canada entirely changed his family’s existence: they had opportunity, they had possibilities, they had security – they had proper shelter, regular food and a real crack of not just living, but making a decent life.

“I’m so thankful and grateful for what my parents have done,” Davies has said. “Throughout the years, they carried the family to a safe environment, a safe country and I’m so happy they did that for us.”

Alphonso’s parents took on extra jobs and shifts in North America to give their three children the best shot of success. With them on a continuous grind, the pre-teen would take care of his younger brother and sister after school, dealing with the kind of responsibility that still trips up adults. Davies took it in his stride, with football serving as his outlet, his haven, his home.

At 14, the Whitecaps offered him a place on their residential academy scheme. Less than a year later, he became the youngest goalscorer in North American second tier – USL – history.

By 15, Davies was held the status of being the youngest player in the MLS and Europe’s powerhouses started circling.

Manchester United’s former international scout Jorge Alvial submitted around 40 scouting reports on the player, impressing to the Old Trafford decision-makers that the left-back had all the tools to develop into a phenom.

Davies is now a European champion

Reports indicate the legendary Hristo Stoichkov had told Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu about Alphonso, but he was not interested in signing a Canadian.

By the time PSG had put together an incredibly lucrative package for the starlet, Bayern had secured his services after providing a long-term vision for his future.

The club’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and chief scout Marco Neppe conducted a presentation showing where Davies would play, how he’d fit into their stylistic model and why he’d be guaranteed the game time to grow as a player. A deal for an initial £10m was struck in the summer of 2018, with Alphonso switching to the Allianz Arena at the turn of the following year.

His advancement has been as rapid as his feet; his stellar breakthrough campaign rewarded with a new contract signed 18 weeks ago until 2025.

Alphonso’s introduction to the starting XI may have been helped by injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez, which prompted David Alaba to be shifted from left-back to the heart of Bayern’s defence, but he turned a shot into surety.

Staying in the 11, making the position your own all while muddling markers to provide eight assists and three goals is something else, something almighty.

On club football’s biggest stage, with a flood of narratives and an overflow of talent, Davies still stood out. “My story, it just goes to show if you set your mind to it you can do anything,” he said.

Davies maximised his chance, just as his parents had done. He operates on a simple maxim: “You came from nothing and you’re coming to something. You’ve got to keep that mindset going.”

His victory on Sunday night, his ability to live out his dreams, his very existence is an exception. We should adore and celebrate him, but we should also push for greater humanity being the norm.

Choose Love has raised millions for the charity Help Refugees, to support displaced and vulnerable communities, and created a movement of people putting love into action around the world

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