Doha, Qatar | AFP | Born in an African refugee camp, a Canadian international at 16 and now a Bayern Munich player aged just 18, Alphonso Davies’ life already reads like a movie script.
“It’s like something out of a film,” admits Bob Lenarduzzi, president of the Vancouver Whitecaps, referring to the talented teenager for whom Bayern reportedly paid $13 million (11.4m euros) — the highest transfer fee ever for a Major League Soccer player.
The Canadian officially became a Bayern player on January 1, and is still pinching himself to be training alongside his heroes at the club’s winter training camp in Doha.
“When I was younger, I would watch these guys on TV and play with them on FIFA (the football video game) – now I’m meeting them in real life, playing alongside and against them,” he says.
“When I walked into the dressing room for the first time, the first person I saw was (Arjen) Robben and I couldn’t believe it was him — I was like ‘wow’.”
– Fledgling talent –
It’s all a far cry from how the fleet-footed forward first came into the world.
Davies was born at the turn of the century in a refugee camp in Ghana, where he spent the first four years of his life, after his parents fled civil war in Liberia.
“When we went to get our food, we had to step over corpses,” according to Davies’ mother, Victoria, in a grim reference to life in the camp.
To escape the squalor, his parents migrated to Canada, first to Windsor, Ontario, then to Edmonton, Alberta.
In the country where ice hockey is king, Davies started to show huge potential with a football in after-school games at primary school and his talent was quickly spotted.
“The child was a gift to the game,” remembered Tim Adams, founder of the after-school league ‘Free Footie’ where Davies first stood out.
He joined a football academy in Edmonton and as a 14-year-old he impressed on trial in Vancouver, where he joined the Whitecaps youth system.
Then the records started tumbling.
Aged 15 years and eight months, he became the youngest Canadian to play in the MLS.
Aged 16, seven months, he became the youngest Canadian international, named in the squad days after becoming a citizen.
In July 2017, Davies ended up as the joint top-scorer with three goals at the CONCACAF Gold Cup as Canada lost in the quarter-finals to Jamaica, who in turn went down 2-1 to the USA in the final.