RE­MEM­BER­ING HIS ROOTS

Davies cel­e­brates 18th birth­day in Ed­mon­ton

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - TERRY JONES tjones@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/ByTer­ryJones

There were about 30 houses that Phonzie and his teenage friends hit on Halloween in Ed­mon­ton.

“Only one per­son rec­og­nized me,” said the sud­denly fa­mous pro­fes­sional soc­cer player Alphonso Davies of a trick-or­treat ex­pe­di­tion on one his fi­nal days of be­ing a 17-year-old.

“I’d played soc­cer with their son grow­ing up in my ele­men­tary school days, so they knew me,” he said of the out­ing in his old neigh­bour­hood.

Af­ter the Van­cou­ver White­caps played their fi­nal MLS game of the sea­son, the kid who be­came ma­jor in­ter­na­tional soc­cer news by at­tract­ing a record US$22mil­lion trans­fer fee from Ger­man power Bay­ern Mu­nich re­turned home to the city that pro­duced him.

Davies didn’t make any pub­lic ap­pear­ances or hold any press con­fer­ences. The one thing he did was make one sur­prise ap­pear­ance at his old ju­nior high school. He wanted to spend as much time as he could with his fam­ily and friends be­ing the guy they knew be­fore he was fa­mous.

“I just wanted to be home with my fam­ily and to hang out with my friends. It was good. My friends made me feel like a 17-year-old, es­pe­cially the night I went trick-or-treat­ing with them to get candy,” he said.

“One of my friends dressed up as a sumo wrestler. The rest of us dressed up as his train­ers.

“We hit quite a few houses. We had a big bag for the candy and it filled up pretty quickly. They liked our idea, so they gave us more candy.”

They hit their neigh­bour­hood in north­east Ed­mon­ton.

“I hadn’t had much time to spend with my par­ents, so I fi­nally had a chance to do that,” he said of mom Vic­to­ria and dad De­beah.

“That was good, es­pe­cially on my birth­day,” added the young phe­nom who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana, where his par­ents had fled from the Liberian civil war.

On Nov. 2, Davies cel­e­brated his 18th birth­day at home.

“We just had some peo­ple over to the house. My mom made some food. It was nice.”

His en­tire fam­ily was able to at­tend the emo­tional farewell game in Van­cou­ver. They were part of a spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion in his hon­our.

Fans were in­vited to sign a gi­ant post­card and stood for the 67th minute of the game to hon­our the player who wore No. 67 for the team. Davies scored two goals in the game.

“It started out as a reg­u­lar day for me. I woke up, show­ered, ironed my clothes and went to the sta­dium. I didn’t know what was go­ing to hap­pen. When I came on the field, I shud­dered.”

He said it was a night to re­mem­ber like the one af­ter he first be­came a name in the game — the one that to this point stands as his great­est game.

Af­ter re­turn­ing from Moscow, where he was the im­pres­sive lead­off speaker for the suc­cess­ful Canada-U.S.-Mex­ico 2026 World Cup bid, he spent sev­eral more days away from the White­caps to fly to Philadel­phia to sign with Bay­ern Mu­nich. Af­ter a twoweek absence, he fi­nally suited up again with the White­caps, of­fi­cially on loan to the team un­til he turned 18. He scored two goals and had two as­sists in a 4-2 win.

“I wasn’t able to be on the field or even to train and I was miss­ing soc­cer a lot. When I got back on the field, my pas­sion for the game re­ally took over. I wanted to get out there and re­ally per­form,” he said.

Davies said he thought about his Ed­mon­ton up­bring­ing and de­vel­op­ment a lot in the last few months and that’s why he de­cided to make the one school visit when he got home.

“I de­cided I wanted to visit St. Ni­cholas, my old ju­nior high school. It was good to see all the kids that are pass­ing through the St. Ni­chols Soc­cer Academy. I was once one of them. It was nice to see how it is now and see all my old teach­ers.”

This week­end he leaves for St. Kitts and Ne­vis to train and play for the na­tional team in a CONCACAF Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing game. From there he’ll fly to Ger­many to join Bay­ern Mu­nich, for whom he wasn’t el­i­gi­ble to join un­til he turned 18.

“For the first few weeks I don’t ex­pect much to hap­pen. I’m just go­ing to go over and get my feet wet,” he said. “I think three or four weeks with the team be­fore the Christ­mas break will be re­ally help­ful.”

He’ll be back in Ed­mon­ton for two weeks at Christ­mas and in­tends to find time to be out in the com­mu­nity more.

“I’m happy to do it. Those are the peo­ple who are sup­port­ing me. Kids are look­ing up to me, so I want to be inspiration for them.”

But for this last week or so, it was great to be hang­ing out with his mates in his old neigh­bour­hood.

My friends made me feel like a 17-year-old, es­pe­cially the night I went trick-or-treat­ing with them.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ed­mon­ton’s Alphonso Davies, now 18, em­braces his dad De­beah af­ter play­ing his fi­nal match last month with Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s Van­cou­ver White­caps.

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