Daily Mail

Canada’s refugee star Davies out to change attitudes

- By ROB DRAPER in Doha

Alphonso DAvies, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana, is clear about his goals at the World Cup. his mission reaches beyond recording Canada’s first World Cup point or goal. in an era in which migrations are described as invasions, Davies has an important back story.

The parents of Davies, a Champions league winner with Bayern Munich, fled the liberian Civil War for the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, where Davies was born in 2000. Five years later they settled in Canada, ending up in ice-hockey obsessed edmonton.

Davies, 22, is happy to represent refugees in an age in which migrants are demonised. it is a responsibi­lity he takes seriously. ‘Definitely,’ he agrees. ‘people say refugees are a problem but we’re all human beings. Refugees don’t choose to be refugees. something is going on in their country and they have to go to a safer environmen­t.’

The camp at which he was born was establishe­d by the United nations’ high Commission for Refugees and Davies is now a Un ambassador. ‘Joining the Un was a big moment in my life because i wanted to show not just myself on the podium but that refugees are human and, given opportunit­ies, we can be footballer­s, doctors… i feel like people are negative when they hear the word refugee. i want to change that to a positive thing.’

Davies’s journey is inspiratio­nal. he jokes about seeing snow for the first time in edmonton — ‘i remember waking up and seeing this white stuff outside’ — and that even now he doesn’t embrace Canadian winters. his dad, Debeah, who had found work in a factory packing chicken, was an amateur footballer and Alphonso played at his father’s club, having discovered that he was not a natural skater. ‘i can stay on my feet’ is the limit of his talents on the ice. he couldn’t always make training because he was also the family babysitter. his mum, victoria, worked nights as a cleaner. nonetheles­s, he did well enough to move away from home to join Mls franchise vancouver Whitecaps at 14 and make his senior debut a year later at 15. Davies, a Chelsea fan who grew up idolising Didier Drogba and Michael essien, is the signature star of this

Canada team. They also have england’s next big coaching thing in County Durham native John herdman, who twice took the Canada women’s team to olympic bronze, at london 2012 and Rio 2016. The FA twice approached him to coach the england women’s team. herdman, an academy coach at sunderland and hartlepool, had to emigrate to a regional coaching job in new Zealand to progress, feeling that english football disdained his lack of a profession­al football c.v. england’s loss has been Canada’s gain, insists Davies: ‘Definitely. he’s just a great guy, great motivator and good coach. he brings life to the team. We’re different characters, we’re all grown men, tempers flare and he keeps us together. ‘Before the World Cup started, he made us believe we could make it.’ Under herdman, Canada topped qualifying ahead of Mexico and the UsA. All the players reference his ability to bond the team, and he has drawn on the work of former oxford United Kiwi, Ceri evans, the psychiatri­st who advised the All Blacks for their 2011 and 2015 World Cup wins.

Canada, who are co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and the UsA,

have qualified for the first time since 1986 and face Belgium on Wednesday.

‘Growing up in Canada, the main sport was ice hockey and football wasn’t really the focus,’ says Davies. ‘now, with the women’s team doing well, the men’s team going to a World Cup, people are starting to take a look at Canada as a footballin­g country.

‘Being new to the World Cup, we just want to show we belong. We don’t want to go there and hide. Anything can happen if you give it your all.’

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? National hero: Davies
GETTY IMAGES National hero: Davies

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom