During a triumphant year earning awards and accolades for his skills on the pitch, Alphonso Davies, Canadian soccer star and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, was ready to make his mark away from the field for a deeply personal cause: showing support for refugees. The Edmonton-raised soccer sensation was born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents who fled civil water in their home country. Alphonso honed his soccer skills in Canada and plays for both the Canada men’s national soccer team and the world-renowned FC Bayern Munich in Germany.
In 2020, he took part in a livestream tournament to raise funds for UNHCR’s COVID-19 emergency response. And in February 2021, he helped launch the Together for Learning campaign to promote access to quality education for refugees around the world. Alphonso, who turns 21 on Nov. 2, achieved a new milestone this year when he became the first Canadian and first soccer player to be appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
Why was it important for you to work with UNHCR, and how do you hope to use your platform as a Goodwill Ambassador?
I come from a refugee background myself. As a professional soccer player, I hope my story can inspire others, including those who don’t have a home, and show them that even though you may be a refugee, you can still achieve your dreams.
I am proud to be a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. They helped my own family and are doing important work for refugees around the world.
What are your earliest memories of resettling in Canada?
I always felt comfortable playing sports–I played basketball, track and field, I even tried hockey, but I loved soccer most and was good at it. Playing sports helped me make friends easily. Growing up, I watched soccer with my dad. I had lots of fun arguments with my friends about whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was the better player. Arjen Robben was also a big player I followed. I used to watch him on TV playing in the Champions League and when I moved to Bayern Munich, I suddenly shared the pitch with him.
In early 2021, you helped to launch the Canadian government campaign Together for Learning to promote access to quality education for refugees around the world. Why does this particular issue resonate with you?
The Together for Learning campaign aims to make sure refugee children and children from the communities that host them can go to schools that are safe and allow all children, boys and girls alike, a place to be their best.
“There are many refugee kids out of school, and I want to help end the negative attitude around refugees. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated equally and fairly no matter our background, skin colour, or religion.”
You had the chance to speak with Refugee Olympic Team member Alaa Maso prior to the Tokyo Games. Can you describe what you learned from that experience speaking with Alaa, and tell us why sports are so important for refugee communities?
It was great hearing more from Alaa about where he came from and how he prepared for Tokyo. Swimming is such a difficult sport and there is a lot of stamina involved, I can easily run 50 metres, but swimming that distance would be hard. We’re the same age and we also spoke about what he does in his free time; we both love playing video games!
Alaa and the Refugee Olympic Team can really motivate a lot of kids to get into sports. That’s important because sports can make refugees feel at home, like it made me feel at home in Canada.