Whitecaps phenom Davies receives Canadian citizenship, 1st senior call-up

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VANCOUVER — Ever since Alphonso Davies signed his first Major League Soccer contract as a 15-year-old last July, soccer fans across Canada have followed the gifted youngster with excitement, hopeful that the kid would one day suit up for the national team.

There was a minor wrench in the plans, though: Davies, who emigrated to Canada from Ghana as a child, didn’t have a Canadian passport. On Tuesday, the homegrown Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder earned his Canadian citizenship. Cue the collective exhale in relief.

“It’s a great honour to be able to call myself a Canadian citizen,” Davies said in a statement.

“First of all, I am thankful to Canada Soccer and Whitecaps FC for their tremendous support throughout this process,” he added. “Not many people can say they’re a Canadian citizen, knowing that it’s one of the best countries in the world. I’m very proud that I’m one of those people. I’m also extremely thankful to my parents for everything they’ve done throughout the years, carrying the family to this safe environment. This is our home. This is where I grew up. And now to have the opportunity to represent the men’s national team is a great honour.”

The now-16-year-old was also named to Canada Soccer’s 40-player preliminary roster for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Davies will join the men’s national training camp in Montreal, which includes an international friendly versus Curaçao on June 13. The 23-player squad that will dress for the group stage of the Gold Cup competition will be selected later this month.

Davies, who has represented Canada at the U-15, U-17 and U-20 levels and was named Canadian U-17 Player of the Year in 2016, first joined the Whitecaps’ residency program in the summer of 2015. He began the 2016 season with the Whitecaps’ farm team, Whitecaps FC 2, where he set a new record as the youngest player ever to score in a United Soccer League match. That summer, he joined the Whitecaps’ senior team, signing on as a homegrown player.

Davies is the third-youngest player in MLS history and regularly draws buzz from the home crowd at BC Place, with an energetic and confident presence that belies his age. Since making his first team debut on June 1, 2016 during the Voyageurs Cup semifinal, Davies has notched four goals and two assists in 14 starts and 32 matches across all competitions.

While Davies has always been listed as having been born in Liberia, the citizenship process revealed that he was in fact born in Buduburam, a refugee camp in Gomoa East District in the central region of Ghana. Davies’s parents, both of whom are Liberian, fled their home country during the civil war, taking refuge in Ghana before moving to Windsor, Ontario, when Davies was five. The family moved to Edmonton, where the Whitecaps discovered him, a year later.

“I’m proud of him,” said Alphonso’s mother, Victoria, in a statement. “If I look back, where we came from, refugee camp, no food, no clothes, and where we are today. He has everything that he needs.”

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, who is known to shy away from too much praise for Davies lest the already immense hype grow even bigger, stressed the importance of the player’s careful development.

“We need to continue developing Alphonso on a daily basis,” he said in a statement. “The football side is important, but when you find a place where you’re happy and you’re settled and you feel warmth — and the Canadian people certainly give you warmth here in the country — that’s very important too. I think Alphonso and his parents have found this and now call this home. Where else would you want to be? Canada is a perfect place.”

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