How a Liberian born in a refugee camp in Ghana became a soccer wunderkind in Europe

Nii Ntreh March 01, 2020
Alphonso Davies was born at a refugee camp in southern Ghana. Photo Credit:

In 1990, the UNHCR and the government of Ghana opened a small refugee camp some 30 miles west of Ghana’s capital city, Accra. The camp, now a whole town, is called Buduburam.

In the course of the first and second Liberian Civil Wars over a span of 14 years, tens of thousands of Liberians were rescued and settled at Buduburam.

Some of the people who settled in Buduburam were the parents of Alphonso Davies, currently a soccer star for one of the world’s biggest sides, FC Bayern Munich of Germany.

On Tuesday, Davies was brought to the world’s attention when FC Bayern played English side Chelsea in the first knockout phase of the European Champions League.

What the whole world saw on that night in London had been a long time coming.

Davies has been biding his time from the humble beginnings of a refugee camp in West Africa to Canada’s “gateway to the north”.

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The UEFA Champions League match against Chelsea brought Davies to the world’s attention. Photo Credit:

Davies was born in November 2000. Of their time in Buduburam and before, Davies’ father, Debeah, told

“It was hard to live because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns. We didn’t have any interest in shooting guns. So, we decided to just escape from there. They have a program called resettlement, and they said ‘OK, you have to fill in a form for Canada.’ We went through the interview and everything, and made it, and came over here (to Canada).

When he was only five, his family left Ghana to settle in Canada.

Many Liberian families did not make Ghana their home although there are about 12,000 Liberians still resident in Buduburam.

In fact, Davies’ and his family’s journey to seek better prospects away from Ghana is no different from Montana’s first black mayor, Wilmot Collins, who settled in the U.S. via Ghana.

At 14, Davies’ soccer talent was apparent. He had played for two local community teams, Edmonton Internationals and Edmonton Strikers.

Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps scouted Davies and managed to convince his family to allow their son to be admitted into the Whitecaps’ residency program for young talents.

Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi said he always believed they had “a prospect for sure”.

“I”m not sure that we would have gone overboard at that point and said he was going to make it and be something really special. For me, he’s a little bit of an anomaly. When he came in, he was part of the U16 team and within months he went from U16 to U18, WFC2 [Whitecaps Football Club] to the senior team. That’s very rare that happens, and it’s very rare that it will happen that much in the future.”

Davies had been getting praise his whole life for his soccer talents but by his own admission, he did not think he was “that good”. Ironically, the more he pushed, the wider the praise.

When he went into the senior Whitecaps team at 15, he became the youngest player playing in the MLS and the third youngest ever to sign a contract.

By the time he had played 15 professional games and was still just 16, the heavyweights in European soccer had already noticed Davies. It is hard to miss the bright spot given the merited hype Davies got from MLS enthusiasts.

He was quick with his feet and in his thinking for a teenager. He had lightning pace and surprisingly good ball control technique.

What happened in July of 2018 when the Whitecaps announced that Davies was on his way to FC Bayern was only an eventuality waiting to happen. The German giants agreed on a record-making deal for the teenager.

Everything has been looking up for Davies since that transfer. He has developed as a multi-positional player who can fit in at lateral defense or at lateral attack.

One of the ways to survive in these times when literally hundreds of young soccer players may be as good as you are is to make yourself utilizable in a myriad of ways. And that is what Davies has started to do.

The future seems bright for everyone who is loved today. But having come from the depths that he has, Davies is already living the future that he never thought was possible – which means the impossible is something he has already managed at the age of 19.

That’s a good place to predict a greater future.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: March 1, 2020


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