FROM A refugee camp to the Champions League – Alphonso Davies has one incredible story to tell.
The 17-year-old Canadian winger is to join Bayern Munich for £17million in January from Vancouver Whitecaps, the biggest fee ever paid for an MLS player.
And it has been an amazing journey, as he was born in a refugee camp in Ghana in 2000.
When the Second Liberian Civil War started, his parents Victoria and Debeah Davies fled their homeland.
‘You had to cross over bodies to go and find food,’ his mother Victoria said.
‘It was hard, it was dangerous,’ father Debeah said.
‘It was hard to live there because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns, too. ‘And we didn’t have any interest in shooting guns.’
They travelled hundreds of miles across West Africa, eventually finding sanctuary in a refugee camp at Buduburam in the Gomoa East District of Ghana.
Their eldest child Alphonso was born on November 2, 2000, and he spent the first five years of his life in the camp.
Eventually, they passed an interview for a resettlement programme and settled in Edmonton.
Alphonso enrolled in the Free Footie programme – an after-school initiative for inner-city kids who cannot afford registration fees or transportation to games.
He was spotted by the Whitecaps, and two years ago, at the age of just 15, Davies was handed his professional debut for reserve team Whitecaps FC 2.
A month later he scored his first senior goal.
Later that summer, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson took the punt and gave Davies his first taste of top-flight football, making him the second youngest MLS player after Freddy Adu.
Robinson, 41, a former Wolves, Sunderland and Norwich midfielder, said: ‘Alphonso has all the attributes you want top players to have: he’s 6ft 1in, he’s an athlete, he can run all day, he has phenomenal pace.
‘What he needs to work on is the fact he does the really hard things well and yet he sometimes messes up the simple things. But that’s down to concentration.
‘I wanted to get him in the first-team environment because I saw him as this energetic, hungry player, who could cope with men but had to be taught sooner rather than later.
‘I have always been sick of stories of players who have talent but were not given the chance.
‘He was very skinny and slight but once he beat one or two players other coaches saw the same potential I saw in him.
‘Remember, he’s still a young boy, he still likes going out for ice cream, playing on his PlayStation until 2am. Which, of course, is not ideal for being a pro footballer.
‘But I have tried to find a balance between letting him being a boy and going through and learning his own mistakes.
‘He’s a brilliant person. He likes to dance and sing.
‘He is a proper human being. His mum and dad deserve a lot of credit for bringing him up the right way.’
Last year, Davies received Canadian citizenship.
Once the formalities were agreed, Davies became, at the age of 16, the youngest player to represent the Canada men’s national team.
Several Premier League clubs showed interest in Davies, notably Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but the Bayern offer proved too lucrative to turn down.
Robinson, a former Wales international, said: ‘Alphonso has the mentality of Robbie Keane, who played with an edge, didn’t care about anybody when he came through at 15.
‘But his characteristics are like Gareth Bale.
‘I worked with Gareth at Wales, and I would say Alphonso is around the same level.
‘Alphonso is moving to a big club at 17; Gareth didn’t get his chance until later.
‘But they are very similar and I liken them to each other.
‘His incredible story is the reason why you play this game.
‘He has proved dreams do come true.’