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Football is my happy place

Born in a refugee camp to parents fleeing civil war, Alphonso Davies has come a long way in a short space of time – and the Bayern full-back is only just hitting his stride

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Ian Holyman | PORTRAITS Simon Hofmann

Interview
Try to dream up the inspirational story of a footballer and you’d have a hard time beating Alphonso Davies’ actual life. For once, truth does indeed surpass fiction. The game has few more uplifting tales to tell than his, the saga of a child born in a Ghanaian refugee camp who has gone on to be hailed as one of the world’s most exciting left-backs, with a sprinkle of history-making feats for Bayern München and Canada added to the mix. Were this not someone’s genuine, lived experience, it’s the sort of feel-good plot that might be ripe for bingeing over a cold, winter weekend with a bottle of wine and a box set.

“What’s a boxset?”

And there it is: a sudden reminder that Davies is also just 22 years old.

He zeroes in on that freshly antiquated term towards the end of our interview, a wake-up call to how much he has crammed into a brief amount of time – and how much of his tale is still to unfold. Davies has already won 12 different trophies with Bayern, including the Champions League in 2019/20, but he is at the opposite end of the career arc to team-mates such as Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer.

The interview takes place in a concrete TV studio under one of the pitches at the training ground. Davies arrives with pile of clothes in hand and, bizarrely, a steaming iron on top. Soon all becomes clear: post-chat he proceeds to change out of his training kit and into street clothes for the photoshoot – and out comes the iron to press a white T-shirt.

As we joke that his mum would be proud, he breaks into a smile. Even in this high-pressure environment he is relaxed – though  it’s a bit bemusing when he then pulls a black top over the tee. Perhaps it’s a reflection of his playing style: methodical and driven in his preparations, fun and spontaneous out on the pitch.

Off it too: Davies is a fully fledged citizen of the online world. Aside from Europe’s playing fields, he appears most comfortably at home in the realms of Twitch and TikTok, the latter a platform where his nearly 7 million followers enjoy regular doses of his infectious personality. Sample video: can Alphonso Davies crack an egg pressed end to end between his palms? Spoiler alert: he cannot, but he delights in presenting the challenge to his social media fanbase.

Davies is similarly open when he runs us through the remarkable events that have led him to the apex of European football. A story that properly began before he was born: in Liberia, where a civil war forced his parents Victoria and Debeah to escape. “For them, it was a tough road,” he says. “When the war started, they didn’t have time to pack up their stuff – it was everyone for themselves. They had to flee. They had to leave or else they were going to get killed. But I’m happy, I’m fortunate they managed to get out to Ghana.”

His parents eventually found their way to Buduburam, a United Nations refugee camp where Davies was born in 2000. Their ordeal during that tumultuous period is difficult to imagine. And, as Davies learned only recently, not all his siblings were so fortunate. “I found out, I want to say five or six years ago, that I had a sister,” he explains. “They lost her during the civil war in Liberia. Everyone fled and she got lost. Someone recognised that she was my mom’s daughter and they brought her. They called my mom – they found a way to reach her and brought her to us.

“I mean, it’s an inspiring story. Obviously, even when I look back to it, I give the credit to my parents. Everything they do, all the sacrifices they made for the family. It’s truly an amazing story and I’m very proud of them.”

“We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help fund me playing. after that i was stuck on the game”
Fired up with his Bayern München teammates

This is where casual talk of goals, titles and the Champions League anthem begins to feel irrelevant. The glittering lights, the media glare… does any of it matter? Then you remember that it matters hugely to the players who have overcome the most to reach the top.

Especially as Davies’ next destination, his safe harbour, was even further from future midweek tussles with Real Madrid. it was Canada next – the second biggest country on the map but among the backest of football’s backwaters when Davies moved there aged five. “I experienced snow for the first time, which was a cool experience. And riding a bicycle. You know, all the fun stuff as a kid that I really didn’t get to do when I was in Ghana. The language was a bit of a challenge, but everything new to you is a challenge in life.

“It was just about trying to learn the language and finding some friends – but once I started playing football, it made everything easier. Once they saw me play they were very impressed, and I started making more and more friends. I think football helped me because it built up my confidence to be able to have a conversation with people I didn’t know and to hang out with friends. To be a leader on the field as well.”

Those friends have attested to Davies’ broken English at the time, but his natural talent obviously spoke louder and he was invited to join a local club in Edmonton. However, funding his newfound passion presented yet another dilemma. “The fee was a problem for my parents, but the team really helped fundraise my registration. I’m really grateful for that. We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help pay for my funding. After that I was stuck on the game.”

Word soon spread of Davies’ ability and he joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ youth programme at the age of 14, making his debut for the MLS side just a year later, in 2016. Not bad for a kid just trying to make pals and conjugate verbs. And he was only getting started, ripping through the league in 2018 with goals and assists galore, typically from a more advanced role on the wing. Then the juggernauts of European football began swirling and by the time he was named the club’s player of the year, Davies was already on the move.

“I woke up one morning to go to training and my phone started blowing up. Everyone was texting me: ‘Is this true, is this true?’ So I’m, like, ‘What’s going on?’ I went on social media and I saw my name was linked to several different clubs, and Bayern was one of them. I was in shock. In my head I was excited, but until somebody says, ‘OK, here’s a pen and a paper, you’re on the team…’ You know, it was good news, but at the end of the day it was all rumours.

“I went to training and everyone was talking about it. I had no idea – nobody told me anything. I was in the dark until my agent called me and was like, ‘Yeah, these teams really want you. I’ve been having conversations and they really want you. We have to sit down and think about your future.’

“The next day I was told not to come into training because the paperwork was being finalised and I was like, ‘OK, with what team?’ They said Bayern Munich. It put a smile on my face. It gave me a little bit of energy. I wanted to run on the pitch and play. I wanted to play football because that’s my happy place. But I wasn’t able to. They told me to sit at home, relax and take it easy until everything was finalised.”

Out came the big guns, with sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić and technical director Marco Neppe jetting across the Atlantic with a top-drawer sales pitch. “They could have gone anywhere in the world to find players but they came to Canada to look for me,” says Davies. “And they took their time to put up a presentation, which was really inspiring. I sat there watching, seeing all these names. At the time there was Lewy [Robert Lewandowski], James Rodríguez, Thiago [Alcántara], Rafinha. You know, big, big names… Renato Sanches. Big, big players… [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribéry.”

Davies quickly progressed from being a new face in the squad to a fixture in the team. He made his Bayern debut in January 2019, and thoughts of a far-flung loan spell were swiftly banished when David Alaba was laid low by injury at the start of the 2019/20 season.

“They were looking for a left-back,” says Davies. “I guess they knew I played there at Vancouver, and with Canada as well. I was really, really nervous because I’d not played the position too many times and here I am, replacing one of the best left-backs in the world. It was truly incredible. I told him I’d just keep his spot warm and, whenever he was ready to come back, he could take it.”

There was one small wrinkle in the plan: Davies’ exceptional performances. That’s why Alaba was shifted to central defence when Davies staggered the watching world against Barcelona in August 2020, the teenage dynamo hugging the left touchline as he embarked on one of the greatest assists in Champions League history. First came the nonchalant dance past Lionel Messi in midfield, then a deft touch to eliminate Arturo Vidal, followed by a brutal toying with Nélson Semedo and a cutback from the byline for Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2 in a devastating 8-2 win.

Nine days later, Davies was part of the Bayern side that edged Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 to lift the trophy, becoming the first Canadian international to clinch Europe’s grandest prize. This winter he was busy laying down markers again, cementing his long-term impact by notching Canada’s historic first goal at a World Cup. Less than two minutes into their tussle with Croatia, the wide man headed in the opener like Lewandowski himself, before the eventual semi-finalists battled back to win 4-1.

Despite the result, it was a powerful personal moment. Davies had been sidelined for more than three months at the start of 2022 with the heart condition myocarditis – one more major obstacle in his path – and he missed the crucial qualifier against Jamaica that sealed Canada’s finals spot. Well, ‘missed’ is probably not the best term: Davies watched every minute, streaming his reaction to the 4-0 victory live on Twitch as if he were an ordinary fan. He happily let his followers view his tearful response as his adopted nation secured their return after a 36-year absence.

There were more tears to come. “The last time I cried was in the World Cup, when we lost to Morocco to get kicked out,” says Davies, a testament to his winning mentality. By then, however, the Canucks had done enough to spread the game’s roots back home. And with Canada set to co-host the 2026 edition, there could be no more perfect poster boy than the jet-heeled full-back capable of cutting through the planet’s tightest defences.

“Some people see me as the face of Canada football, but I’m just part of the team,” he counters. “I was home for Christmas and definitely, there are more and more football fans. I think us being at the World Cup, it really turned some people’s heads. And now, not just in Canada but all around the world, we’re getting more and more recognition as a footballing nation.”

In the more immediate future, he and Bayern have multiple trophies to fight for this season, including their bid to secure a seventh European title. The youngster has climbed that daunting mountain before, but nothing in his life to date has left him with a sense of entitlement. “I’m still learning,” he says of his ongoing education at left-back. “I watch a lot of video with the coaches.

“Playing with these guys each and every day, you learn that the gap for mistakes is really, really small. Your first touch has to be the one to set you up to dribble or pass the ball. If the first touch is clean, you can distribute the ball or dribble past players. They give me the advice to just play my game. Focus on my defensive responsibilities, obviously, but going forward they want me to express myself in the attacking third. Put crosses in, shoot, all that stuff.”

All the good stuff that has already shot Davies to the forefront of world football, a gifted young man who remembers where he came from – while the rest of us wonder where he could go from here.

Insight
Musical youth

Among the most heart-warming moments in the wake of Bayern’s 2020 Champions League final win was Alphonso Davies’ utter shock when he found out that Canadian rap star Drake had followed him on social media. “Whoaaaaaaaaaa!” screamed the then teenager, capturing the moment on his phone. “Hold on, hold on, hold on… Drake, you follow me? Oh my God, I can’t believe!”

For the avid music fan, this was the perfect end to a night when his team had added the European title to their Bundesliga and German Cup crowns. But was it even better than Bayern’s showpiece triumph in Lisbon? “No!” protests Davies. “I was happy that we won the treble, obviously. I was over the moon. When Drake followed me, it was just out of the blue. He’s a Canadian idol. Growing up in Canada, he’s one of the top guys.”

Since then Davies has begun to pursue his own path in rap, teaming up with fellow young footballers Stephan Mensah and Alexis Fambo in the collective Stugang. “We’re just three friends having fun,” he says. “It’s not really serious. We just say what we want to say on the mic and put it out.” Perhaps, but their video Nur Weil has already racked up a quarter of a million views on YouTube. Can a collaboration with Drake be far off?

“What’s a boxset?”

And there it is: a sudden reminder that Davies is also just 22 years old.

He zeroes in on that freshly antiquated term towards the end of our interview, a wake-up call to how much he has crammed into a brief amount of time – and how much of his tale is still to unfold. Davies has already won 12 different trophies with Bayern, including the Champions League in 2019/20, but he is at the opposite end of the career arc to team-mates such as Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer.

The interview takes place in a concrete TV studio under one of the pitches at the training ground. Davies arrives with pile of clothes in hand and, bizarrely, a steaming iron on top. Soon all becomes clear: post-chat he proceeds to change out of his training kit and into street clothes for the photoshoot – and out comes the iron to press a white T-shirt.

As we joke that his mum would be proud, he breaks into a smile. Even in this high-pressure environment he is relaxed – though  it’s a bit bemusing when he then pulls a black top over the tee. Perhaps it’s a reflection of his playing style: methodical and driven in his preparations, fun and spontaneous out on the pitch.

Off it too: Davies is a fully fledged citizen of the online world. Aside from Europe’s playing fields, he appears most comfortably at home in the realms of Twitch and TikTok, the latter a platform where his nearly 7 million followers enjoy regular doses of his infectious personality. Sample video: can Alphonso Davies crack an egg pressed end to end between his palms? Spoiler alert: he cannot, but he delights in presenting the challenge to his social media fanbase.

Davies is similarly open when he runs us through the remarkable events that have led him to the apex of European football. A story that properly began before he was born: in Liberia, where a civil war forced his parents Victoria and Debeah to escape. “For them, it was a tough road,” he says. “When the war started, they didn’t have time to pack up their stuff – it was everyone for themselves. They had to flee. They had to leave or else they were going to get killed. But I’m happy, I’m fortunate they managed to get out to Ghana.”

His parents eventually found their way to Buduburam, a United Nations refugee camp where Davies was born in 2000. Their ordeal during that tumultuous period is difficult to imagine. And, as Davies learned only recently, not all his siblings were so fortunate. “I found out, I want to say five or six years ago, that I had a sister,” he explains. “They lost her during the civil war in Liberia. Everyone fled and she got lost. Someone recognised that she was my mom’s daughter and they brought her. They called my mom – they found a way to reach her and brought her to us.

“I mean, it’s an inspiring story. Obviously, even when I look back to it, I give the credit to my parents. Everything they do, all the sacrifices they made for the family. It’s truly an amazing story and I’m very proud of them.”

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“We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help fund me playing. after that i was stuck on the game”
Fired up with his Bayern München teammates

This is where casual talk of goals, titles and the Champions League anthem begins to feel irrelevant. The glittering lights, the media glare… does any of it matter? Then you remember that it matters hugely to the players who have overcome the most to reach the top.

Especially as Davies’ next destination, his safe harbour, was even further from future midweek tussles with Real Madrid. it was Canada next – the second biggest country on the map but among the backest of football’s backwaters when Davies moved there aged five. “I experienced snow for the first time, which was a cool experience. And riding a bicycle. You know, all the fun stuff as a kid that I really didn’t get to do when I was in Ghana. The language was a bit of a challenge, but everything new to you is a challenge in life.

“It was just about trying to learn the language and finding some friends – but once I started playing football, it made everything easier. Once they saw me play they were very impressed, and I started making more and more friends. I think football helped me because it built up my confidence to be able to have a conversation with people I didn’t know and to hang out with friends. To be a leader on the field as well.”

Those friends have attested to Davies’ broken English at the time, but his natural talent obviously spoke louder and he was invited to join a local club in Edmonton. However, funding his newfound passion presented yet another dilemma. “The fee was a problem for my parents, but the team really helped fundraise my registration. I’m really grateful for that. We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help pay for my funding. After that I was stuck on the game.”

Word soon spread of Davies’ ability and he joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ youth programme at the age of 14, making his debut for the MLS side just a year later, in 2016. Not bad for a kid just trying to make pals and conjugate verbs. And he was only getting started, ripping through the league in 2018 with goals and assists galore, typically from a more advanced role on the wing. Then the juggernauts of European football began swirling and by the time he was named the club’s player of the year, Davies was already on the move.

“I woke up one morning to go to training and my phone started blowing up. Everyone was texting me: ‘Is this true, is this true?’ So I’m, like, ‘What’s going on?’ I went on social media and I saw my name was linked to several different clubs, and Bayern was one of them. I was in shock. In my head I was excited, but until somebody says, ‘OK, here’s a pen and a paper, you’re on the team…’ You know, it was good news, but at the end of the day it was all rumours.

“I went to training and everyone was talking about it. I had no idea – nobody told me anything. I was in the dark until my agent called me and was like, ‘Yeah, these teams really want you. I’ve been having conversations and they really want you. We have to sit down and think about your future.’

“The next day I was told not to come into training because the paperwork was being finalised and I was like, ‘OK, with what team?’ They said Bayern Munich. It put a smile on my face. It gave me a little bit of energy. I wanted to run on the pitch and play. I wanted to play football because that’s my happy place. But I wasn’t able to. They told me to sit at home, relax and take it easy until everything was finalised.”

Out came the big guns, with sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić and technical director Marco Neppe jetting across the Atlantic with a top-drawer sales pitch. “They could have gone anywhere in the world to find players but they came to Canada to look for me,” says Davies. “And they took their time to put up a presentation, which was really inspiring. I sat there watching, seeing all these names. At the time there was Lewy [Robert Lewandowski], James Rodríguez, Thiago [Alcántara], Rafinha. You know, big, big names… Renato Sanches. Big, big players… [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribéry.”

Davies quickly progressed from being a new face in the squad to a fixture in the team. He made his Bayern debut in January 2019, and thoughts of a far-flung loan spell were swiftly banished when David Alaba was laid low by injury at the start of the 2019/20 season.

“They were looking for a left-back,” says Davies. “I guess they knew I played there at Vancouver, and with Canada as well. I was really, really nervous because I’d not played the position too many times and here I am, replacing one of the best left-backs in the world. It was truly incredible. I told him I’d just keep his spot warm and, whenever he was ready to come back, he could take it.”

There was one small wrinkle in the plan: Davies’ exceptional performances. That’s why Alaba was shifted to central defence when Davies staggered the watching world against Barcelona in August 2020, the teenage dynamo hugging the left touchline as he embarked on one of the greatest assists in Champions League history. First came the nonchalant dance past Lionel Messi in midfield, then a deft touch to eliminate Arturo Vidal, followed by a brutal toying with Nélson Semedo and a cutback from the byline for Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2 in a devastating 8-2 win.

Nine days later, Davies was part of the Bayern side that edged Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 to lift the trophy, becoming the first Canadian international to clinch Europe’s grandest prize. This winter he was busy laying down markers again, cementing his long-term impact by notching Canada’s historic first goal at a World Cup. Less than two minutes into their tussle with Croatia, the wide man headed in the opener like Lewandowski himself, before the eventual semi-finalists battled back to win 4-1.

Despite the result, it was a powerful personal moment. Davies had been sidelined for more than three months at the start of 2022 with the heart condition myocarditis – one more major obstacle in his path – and he missed the crucial qualifier against Jamaica that sealed Canada’s finals spot. Well, ‘missed’ is probably not the best term: Davies watched every minute, streaming his reaction to the 4-0 victory live on Twitch as if he were an ordinary fan. He happily let his followers view his tearful response as his adopted nation secured their return after a 36-year absence.

There were more tears to come. “The last time I cried was in the World Cup, when we lost to Morocco to get kicked out,” says Davies, a testament to his winning mentality. By then, however, the Canucks had done enough to spread the game’s roots back home. And with Canada set to co-host the 2026 edition, there could be no more perfect poster boy than the jet-heeled full-back capable of cutting through the planet’s tightest defences.

“Some people see me as the face of Canada football, but I’m just part of the team,” he counters. “I was home for Christmas and definitely, there are more and more football fans. I think us being at the World Cup, it really turned some people’s heads. And now, not just in Canada but all around the world, we’re getting more and more recognition as a footballing nation.”

In the more immediate future, he and Bayern have multiple trophies to fight for this season, including their bid to secure a seventh European title. The youngster has climbed that daunting mountain before, but nothing in his life to date has left him with a sense of entitlement. “I’m still learning,” he says of his ongoing education at left-back. “I watch a lot of video with the coaches.

“Playing with these guys each and every day, you learn that the gap for mistakes is really, really small. Your first touch has to be the one to set you up to dribble or pass the ball. If the first touch is clean, you can distribute the ball or dribble past players. They give me the advice to just play my game. Focus on my defensive responsibilities, obviously, but going forward they want me to express myself in the attacking third. Put crosses in, shoot, all that stuff.”

All the good stuff that has already shot Davies to the forefront of world football, a gifted young man who remembers where he came from – while the rest of us wonder where he could go from here.

Insight
Musical youth

Among the most heart-warming moments in the wake of Bayern’s 2020 Champions League final win was Alphonso Davies’ utter shock when he found out that Canadian rap star Drake had followed him on social media. “Whoaaaaaaaaaa!” screamed the then teenager, capturing the moment on his phone. “Hold on, hold on, hold on… Drake, you follow me? Oh my God, I can’t believe!”

For the avid music fan, this was the perfect end to a night when his team had added the European title to their Bundesliga and German Cup crowns. But was it even better than Bayern’s showpiece triumph in Lisbon? “No!” protests Davies. “I was happy that we won the treble, obviously. I was over the moon. When Drake followed me, it was just out of the blue. He’s a Canadian idol. Growing up in Canada, he’s one of the top guys.”

Since then Davies has begun to pursue his own path in rap, teaming up with fellow young footballers Stephan Mensah and Alexis Fambo in the collective Stugang. “We’re just three friends having fun,” he says. “It’s not really serious. We just say what we want to say on the mic and put it out.” Perhaps, but their video Nur Weil has already racked up a quarter of a million views on YouTube. Can a collaboration with Drake be far off?

“What’s a boxset?”

And there it is: a sudden reminder that Davies is also just 22 years old.

He zeroes in on that freshly antiquated term towards the end of our interview, a wake-up call to how much he has crammed into a brief amount of time – and how much of his tale is still to unfold. Davies has already won 12 different trophies with Bayern, including the Champions League in 2019/20, but he is at the opposite end of the career arc to team-mates such as Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer.

The interview takes place in a concrete TV studio under one of the pitches at the training ground. Davies arrives with pile of clothes in hand and, bizarrely, a steaming iron on top. Soon all becomes clear: post-chat he proceeds to change out of his training kit and into street clothes for the photoshoot – and out comes the iron to press a white T-shirt.

As we joke that his mum would be proud, he breaks into a smile. Even in this high-pressure environment he is relaxed – though  it’s a bit bemusing when he then pulls a black top over the tee. Perhaps it’s a reflection of his playing style: methodical and driven in his preparations, fun and spontaneous out on the pitch.

Off it too: Davies is a fully fledged citizen of the online world. Aside from Europe’s playing fields, he appears most comfortably at home in the realms of Twitch and TikTok, the latter a platform where his nearly 7 million followers enjoy regular doses of his infectious personality. Sample video: can Alphonso Davies crack an egg pressed end to end between his palms? Spoiler alert: he cannot, but he delights in presenting the challenge to his social media fanbase.

Davies is similarly open when he runs us through the remarkable events that have led him to the apex of European football. A story that properly began before he was born: in Liberia, where a civil war forced his parents Victoria and Debeah to escape. “For them, it was a tough road,” he says. “When the war started, they didn’t have time to pack up their stuff – it was everyone for themselves. They had to flee. They had to leave or else they were going to get killed. But I’m happy, I’m fortunate they managed to get out to Ghana.”

His parents eventually found their way to Buduburam, a United Nations refugee camp where Davies was born in 2000. Their ordeal during that tumultuous period is difficult to imagine. And, as Davies learned only recently, not all his siblings were so fortunate. “I found out, I want to say five or six years ago, that I had a sister,” he explains. “They lost her during the civil war in Liberia. Everyone fled and she got lost. Someone recognised that she was my mom’s daughter and they brought her. They called my mom – they found a way to reach her and brought her to us.

“I mean, it’s an inspiring story. Obviously, even when I look back to it, I give the credit to my parents. Everything they do, all the sacrifices they made for the family. It’s truly an amazing story and I’m very proud of them.”

“We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help fund me playing. after that i was stuck on the game”
Fired up with his Bayern München teammates

This is where casual talk of goals, titles and the Champions League anthem begins to feel irrelevant. The glittering lights, the media glare… does any of it matter? Then you remember that it matters hugely to the players who have overcome the most to reach the top.

Especially as Davies’ next destination, his safe harbour, was even further from future midweek tussles with Real Madrid. it was Canada next – the second biggest country on the map but among the backest of football’s backwaters when Davies moved there aged five. “I experienced snow for the first time, which was a cool experience. And riding a bicycle. You know, all the fun stuff as a kid that I really didn’t get to do when I was in Ghana. The language was a bit of a challenge, but everything new to you is a challenge in life.

“It was just about trying to learn the language and finding some friends – but once I started playing football, it made everything easier. Once they saw me play they were very impressed, and I started making more and more friends. I think football helped me because it built up my confidence to be able to have a conversation with people I didn’t know and to hang out with friends. To be a leader on the field as well.”

Those friends have attested to Davies’ broken English at the time, but his natural talent obviously spoke louder and he was invited to join a local club in Edmonton. However, funding his newfound passion presented yet another dilemma. “The fee was a problem for my parents, but the team really helped fundraise my registration. I’m really grateful for that. We sold chocolates around the neighbourhood to help pay for my funding. After that I was stuck on the game.”

Word soon spread of Davies’ ability and he joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ youth programme at the age of 14, making his debut for the MLS side just a year later, in 2016. Not bad for a kid just trying to make pals and conjugate verbs. And he was only getting started, ripping through the league in 2018 with goals and assists galore, typically from a more advanced role on the wing. Then the juggernauts of European football began swirling and by the time he was named the club’s player of the year, Davies was already on the move.

“I woke up one morning to go to training and my phone started blowing up. Everyone was texting me: ‘Is this true, is this true?’ So I’m, like, ‘What’s going on?’ I went on social media and I saw my name was linked to several different clubs, and Bayern was one of them. I was in shock. In my head I was excited, but until somebody says, ‘OK, here’s a pen and a paper, you’re on the team…’ You know, it was good news, but at the end of the day it was all rumours.

“I went to training and everyone was talking about it. I had no idea – nobody told me anything. I was in the dark until my agent called me and was like, ‘Yeah, these teams really want you. I’ve been having conversations and they really want you. We have to sit down and think about your future.’

“The next day I was told not to come into training because the paperwork was being finalised and I was like, ‘OK, with what team?’ They said Bayern Munich. It put a smile on my face. It gave me a little bit of energy. I wanted to run on the pitch and play. I wanted to play football because that’s my happy place. But I wasn’t able to. They told me to sit at home, relax and take it easy until everything was finalised.”

Out came the big guns, with sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić and technical director Marco Neppe jetting across the Atlantic with a top-drawer sales pitch. “They could have gone anywhere in the world to find players but they came to Canada to look for me,” says Davies. “And they took their time to put up a presentation, which was really inspiring. I sat there watching, seeing all these names. At the time there was Lewy [Robert Lewandowski], James Rodríguez, Thiago [Alcántara], Rafinha. You know, big, big names… Renato Sanches. Big, big players… [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribéry.”

Davies quickly progressed from being a new face in the squad to a fixture in the team. He made his Bayern debut in January 2019, and thoughts of a far-flung loan spell were swiftly banished when David Alaba was laid low by injury at the start of the 2019/20 season.

“They were looking for a left-back,” says Davies. “I guess they knew I played there at Vancouver, and with Canada as well. I was really, really nervous because I’d not played the position too many times and here I am, replacing one of the best left-backs in the world. It was truly incredible. I told him I’d just keep his spot warm and, whenever he was ready to come back, he could take it.”

There was one small wrinkle in the plan: Davies’ exceptional performances. That’s why Alaba was shifted to central defence when Davies staggered the watching world against Barcelona in August 2020, the teenage dynamo hugging the left touchline as he embarked on one of the greatest assists in Champions League history. First came the nonchalant dance past Lionel Messi in midfield, then a deft touch to eliminate Arturo Vidal, followed by a brutal toying with Nélson Semedo and a cutback from the byline for Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2 in a devastating 8-2 win.

Nine days later, Davies was part of the Bayern side that edged Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 to lift the trophy, becoming the first Canadian international to clinch Europe’s grandest prize. This winter he was busy laying down markers again, cementing his long-term impact by notching Canada’s historic first goal at a World Cup. Less than two minutes into their tussle with Croatia, the wide man headed in the opener like Lewandowski himself, before the eventual semi-finalists battled back to win 4-1.

Despite the result, it was a powerful personal moment. Davies had been sidelined for more than three months at the start of 2022 with the heart condition myocarditis – one more major obstacle in his path – and he missed the crucial qualifier against Jamaica that sealed Canada’s finals spot. Well, ‘missed’ is probably not the best term: Davies watched every minute, streaming his reaction to the 4-0 victory live on Twitch as if he were an ordinary fan. He happily let his followers view his tearful response as his adopted nation secured their return after a 36-year absence.

There were more tears to come. “The last time I cried was in the World Cup, when we lost to Morocco to get kicked out,” says Davies, a testament to his winning mentality. By then, however, the Canucks had done enough to spread the game’s roots back home. And with Canada set to co-host the 2026 edition, there could be no more perfect poster boy than the jet-heeled full-back capable of cutting through the planet’s tightest defences.

“Some people see me as the face of Canada football, but I’m just part of the team,” he counters. “I was home for Christmas and definitely, there are more and more football fans. I think us being at the World Cup, it really turned some people’s heads. And now, not just in Canada but all around the world, we’re getting more and more recognition as a footballing nation.”

In the more immediate future, he and Bayern have multiple trophies to fight for this season, including their bid to secure a seventh European title. The youngster has climbed that daunting mountain before, but nothing in his life to date has left him with a sense of entitlement. “I’m still learning,” he says of his ongoing education at left-back. “I watch a lot of video with the coaches.

“Playing with these guys each and every day, you learn that the gap for mistakes is really, really small. Your first touch has to be the one to set you up to dribble or pass the ball. If the first touch is clean, you can distribute the ball or dribble past players. They give me the advice to just play my game. Focus on my defensive responsibilities, obviously, but going forward they want me to express myself in the attacking third. Put crosses in, shoot, all that stuff.”

All the good stuff that has already shot Davies to the forefront of world football, a gifted young man who remembers where he came from – while the rest of us wonder where he could go from here.

Insight
Musical youth

Among the most heart-warming moments in the wake of Bayern’s 2020 Champions League final win was Alphonso Davies’ utter shock when he found out that Canadian rap star Drake had followed him on social media. “Whoaaaaaaaaaa!” screamed the then teenager, capturing the moment on his phone. “Hold on, hold on, hold on… Drake, you follow me? Oh my God, I can’t believe!”

For the avid music fan, this was the perfect end to a night when his team had added the European title to their Bundesliga and German Cup crowns. But was it even better than Bayern’s showpiece triumph in Lisbon? “No!” protests Davies. “I was happy that we won the treble, obviously. I was over the moon. When Drake followed me, it was just out of the blue. He’s a Canadian idol. Growing up in Canada, he’s one of the top guys.”

Since then Davies has begun to pursue his own path in rap, teaming up with fellow young footballers Stephan Mensah and Alexis Fambo in the collective Stugang. “We’re just three friends having fun,” he says. “It’s not really serious. We just say what we want to say on the mic and put it out.” Perhaps, but their video Nur Weil has already racked up a quarter of a million views on YouTube. Can a collaboration with Drake be far off?

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