Refugee camp to European champion — Africa

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When Alphonso Davies joined German soccer giants Bayern Munich as a 17-year old, his first priority would likely have been convincing the fans that he was worth the $13 million transfer fee.

But two years later, Davies is already on the fast-track to becoming a global soccer star, playing a key role as Bayern Munich won a famous “treble” of trophies including the Bundesliga league title in Germany, the main domestic cup competition and the prestigious UEFA Champions League—Europe’s top competition and the most prestigious title in world club soccer. He was also voted as Bayern’s Rookie of the Year.

By almost any standards it’s a stunning rise to stardom for a player many mainstream soccer fans had never even heard of two years ago.

In the process, Davies has set records, including becoming the first Canadian international to win the Champions League. But Davies isn’t new to rewriting the record books. His $13 million transfer fee made him the most expensive MLS player ever. And, after featuring at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup at 16, he became the youngest player ever for Canada’s men’s national team. He also became Canada’s youngest ever goalscorer as well as the youngest player to score at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

By most standards for young soccer players, Davies is living the dream. But that dream was very nearly crushed even before it started as he was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp to Liberian parents fleeing a brutal civil war which left more than 150,000 dead and nearly half a million people displaced. At the age of five, he arrived in Canada with his parents as refugees and soon began turning heads at local soccer training pitches and became the first player born in the 2000s to play in an MLS match after making his debut at 16 for Vancouver Whitecaps.

At a time when several Western countries in Europe, UK and the US are having heated political debates about keeping out refugees, Davies’ journey serves as the rare case which shows the other side of some of the unsavory discourse.

While his stock continues to rise in Europe, Davies is already a huge star in Canada. He was one of the faces of the country’s successful bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup and will likely be its biggest star when the tournament kicks off in six years.

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Making the pitch.

His rapid rise is also translating into a boon for the local Canadian soccer economy, driving interest in Canadian soccer among the world’s biggest clubs looking for the next star. It has also earned Vancouver Whitecaps, his former club, an additional windfall as they will reportedly receive $590,000 as a bonus for Davies helping Bayern Munich to victory in the Champions League.

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