He won’t celebrate his 18th birthday until next week, but the story of Alphonso Davies is already a remarkable one.
Born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents that fled the civil war, his family moved to Edmonton when he was just five years old. He made his pro soccer debut with the Vancouver Whitecaps at age 15, played with the Canadian senior men’s national team at 16, and played in the MLS All-Star Game at 17.
But Alphonso’s story has just begun.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) October 26, 2018
Named the Whitecaps’ Player of the Year on Wednesday, Davies will play his final Major League Soccer match at BC Place on Sunday.
The Whitecaps and Bayern Munich agreed to an MLS-record transfer for Davies, which could total up to US$22 million. The deal was agreed to in July, but Davies was allowed to finish the season in Vancouver.
In January, he’ll begin playing in the German Bundesliga, a place he hopes to shine.
It’s not often a player gets a farewell match in front of his own fans, but with the Whitecaps out of playoff contention for Sunday’s finale against Portland, that’s exactly what it will be.
The Southsiders and other supporters plan to give Davies a standing ovation in the 67th minute (beginning when the clock hits 66:00), in what should be a memorable moment for the best player the Whitecaps have ever produced.
“I expect the same love that they gave me from the first time I stepped on the field,” Davies told Daily Hive in a one-on-one interview this week. “They’ve always supported me every time I’ve played at BC Place”.
Davies played eight games for the Whitecaps in 2016, 26 in 2017, and is preparing for match No. 31 on Sunday. Despite his talent, the Whitecaps were smart to bring him along slowly.
He started just nine MLS matches last season, and was sheltered from the media spotlight.
“They made it so I should focus on playing my game, and not too much on the media and interviews. That helped me a lot,” Davies said.
Davies has taken his game to another level this season, scoring six goals and adding 11 assists.
Here’s everything the Whitecaps have planned for the event:
- Fans can sign a giant postcard wishing Davies well pre-game at Terry Fox Plaza. The postcard will be presented to Davies following the match.
- The first 1,000 fans into the building will receive a Davies poster. A commemorative Davies matchday program will also be distributed on the concourse.
- Following warmup, a short on-field presentation will be held for Davies at approximately 1:20 pm. A special video message from Davies will then be shown on the videoboard shortly before kickoff, at approximately 1:30 pm.
- Alphonso Davies documentary shows his journey from Ghana to Canada (VIDEO)
- Whitecaps' Alphonso Davies scores his first-ever goal in MLS (VIDEO)
- Youngest EVER: Alphonso Davies scores 2 goals for Canadian Men's National Team (VIDEO)
- Whitecaps' Davies featured in controversial new Nike ad campaign (VIDEO)
Don’t forget, he’s still a kid
Given his speed and strength on the pitch, it’s easy to forget that Davies is very much still a kid.
Balancing the demands of a full-time job as a professional soccer player with having to do complete high school can’t be easy.
“It’s hard, but it’s the price of being a student-athlete, you have to do student side as well.”
He said he gets “Bs and Cs,” before adding “I’m passing classes, so that’s all that matters.”
Ok, so he’s not on the honour roll, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders.
Davies says a trio of Canadian internationals have helped him the most in his time in Vancouver: Whitecaps teammates Marcel de Jong, Russell Teibert, and Doneil Henry.
“When I first came to camp, Marcel told me: just play your game, just show yourself… just go out there and play.”
This season, Davies has seemingly developed on-field chemistry with Kei Kamara – a player nearly twice his age.
“Kei’s young at heart,” Davies says with a laugh. “He’s always trying to do young people things.
“He’s a good role model, he’s a fun guy, always smiling, always wants to be involved, always keeping the mood light. He doesn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Welcome to Germany
Davies knows how to say two words in German: “gut” and “danke.”
He’s got some learning to do.
While he’s not sure where he’ll live during the offseason, it doesn’t sound like it’ll be his hometown of Edmonton, where his family still lives.
“It’s kind of cold, there’s a lot of snow,” he said.
“Vancouver is a beautiful city,” Davies said when asked what he’ll miss most. “Not being able to see a sunset when I drive to training. Knowing where to go. Just the area that I live, I made so many friends in Vancouver, and now I’m just packing up and leaving.
“It’s going to be hard.”
Big contract, endorsement deal with Nike
Although the details are not yet public knowledge, Davies has signed a new contract with Bayern, and you can bet it’s worth a whole lot more than the $72,500 he made annually with the Whitecaps.
He says he hasn’t made any extravagant purchases yet though.
Davies doesn’t need to buy shoes anymore, after signing an endorsement deal with Nike. He was approached by the footwear giant a couple of months after he won the Golden Boot at the Gold Cup last year.
He appeared in the brand’s 30th-anniversary video that drew headlines because of Colin Kaepernick’s involvement.
The Davies clip came between Serena Williams and LeBron James, with “little Alphonso in the middle,” he says.
“Being in between those two sports icons, it’s exciting.”
Can’t wait for Champions League
Despite his success, Davies is still remarkably humble.
He wants to prove himself and he knows it’s not going to be easy. He says his immediate goal in Bayern is to just earn minutes.
But the thing that excites him the most is the opportunity to play in the Champions League.
“At a very young age, every time you hear that song come on, you know something special is about to happen.
“Whoever made the Champions League is a brilliant guy… Having the top teams from Spain, England, Germany – all over Europe – to play against each other, it’s exciting to watch.”
Not gone forever
While Davies is done with the Whitecaps, he’s not done with Vancouver – or Canada. The midfielder is a huge part of the Canadian men’s national team, and will be for a long time.
Asked about the importance of taking his country to the next level, Davies was his usual humble self.
“Not just me, I think with the players [national team head coach John Herdman] is bringing in… I think he’s trying to build for the future so us young players can uplift Canada.”
When Canada hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2026, Davies will be 25, in the prime of his career. But if the national team doesn’t improve before then, there won’t be much to cheer about, assuming they automatically qualify as one of three host nations.
But imagine for a second that Davies fulfills his potential and becomes the greatest player this country has ever seen. Imagine that he props up the national team in the short term, and inspires others to choose Canada long term.
Imagine that Canada qualifies for a World Cup in his career, not just because they’re hosting, but because they’re actually good enough.
That’s why while he’s gone, he’s not gone forever.
Davies isn’t just a young talent, he’s the most important soccer player our country has ever seen.
That comes with big pressure, but he’s well suited to handle it all.
Good luck Alphonso. Make us proud.