Alphonso Davies, international soccer star, is back in Edmonton ‘having fun with some friends’
EDMONTON—The crowd lived and died with his every touch of the ball.
The volume at Commonwealth Stadium during Canada’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica jumped a notch, or a few, every time its golden boy took control.
Alphonso Davies was back — the international soccer star, the leader of a Canadian men’s national team with a legitimate shot of reaching the next World Cup, the local boy who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled civil war in Liberia.
And the anticipation from the hometown crowd, those in the city and the soccer community that played such a role in making Edmonton feel like home for Davies, was palpable. Fans here know as well as anyone the special moments Davies can create.
“He’s become a legend,” said Adrian Newman, CEO of the Edmonton Soccer Association.
Anything for Alphonso, said Sheldon Oleksyn, executive director of Sport Central, an Alberta-based charitable organization that has provided young people, including Davies, with free sports equipment since 1991.
“He’s such and upstanding young man and we’re all so proud of him that it’s almost beyond belief, the circumstances and how things have rolled out.”
Davies left Edmonton when he was 14, moving to Burnaby, B.C., to join the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program.
Now, at 21, he has returned as a three-time Bundesliga winner, a two-time German Cup winner, and a winner of both the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, all following his record $22-million transfer to Bayern Munich from Vancouver in 2018. He was the Bundesliga’s rookie of the year in 2019-20 and was a co-winner of the Lou Marsh award, given to Canada’s top athlete, last December.
Davies is putting men’s soccer back on the map in this country, drawing addition after addition to the Canadian bandwagon with huge performances, like an incredible individual effort last month against Panama that helped ensure his national team remained unbeaten through its first six games in the ongoing last round of World Cup qualifiers in the CONCACAF region.
Still he remains an Edmonton boy at his core, one who was delighted to hug his parents — who haven’t seen him play live since his days in Vancouver — when he arrived in town earlier this week and who “really enjoys” going to the West Edmonton Mall.
“The city’s where I grew up, where I started to play my football,” he said this week. “The city will always have a part of my heart, wherever I go in the world. Being on the pitch, at Bayern Munich, with Canada, I’m just a kid playing football, enjoying something I love and doing it at the top level.”
For all that has changed for Davies since he last played in Edmonton, the fact that so much hasn’t changed about him might be the key to his success. His time at Bayern Munich has given Davies a level of authority when it comes to shaping a winning mentality within the Canadian camp, his words breeding confidence that anything is possible for the team. Outside of that, coach John Herdman wouldn’t want to see a massive change in Davies.
“He’s obviously matured and he’s had some wonderful experiences that I’m sure have shaped him but I really feel he’s just kept his identity,” Herdman said. “He’s that kid at heart. When he’s in the environment, he’s playful, he’s fun.”
That was clear this week, as Canada prepared to face Costa Rica on Friday and Mexico on Tuesday night. Davies was smiling, laughing, joking, teasing his teammates. His excitement about being back was obvious.
“I mean, who wouldn’t be?” Herdman said. “It’s a kids dream, isn’t it? Commonwealth Stadium, 50,000 people here, his family, all his friends. What a moment for a kid. And well deserved, because he shined the spotlight on our sport … so he gets his moment.”
When Davies was growing up, he didn’t have an idol on the men’s national team.
“They didn’t really make it interesting for people to watch,” he put it frankly last week.