Teen's soccer journey takes him from refugee camp to Canada's national team

Alphonso Davies is one step closer to playing for Canada.

The 16-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps phenom received his citizenship on Tuesday, paving the way for a first national team call-up.

“It’s a great honour to be able to call myself a Canadian citizen,” Davies said in a statement. “Not many people can say they’re a Canadian citizen.

“I’m very proud that I’m one of those people.”

Born in refugee camp

The electrifying midfielder was born in a refugee camp to Liberian parents during that country’s civil war in 2000 before the family relocated to Canada when he was five, eventually settling in Edmonton.

“I’m also extremely thankful to my parents for everything they’ve done throughout the years, carrying the family to this safe environment,” said Davies. “This is our home. This is where I grew up.

“To have the opportunity to represent the men’s national team is a great honour.”

Davies made his debut in Major League Soccer with Vancouver last season at 15, but only had permanent resident status and was unable to play for Canada until getting his citizenship.

He told The Canadian Press in an interview before the 2017 season that it was his intention to play for Canada once he got his citizenship.

The talented teenager has already been rumoured as a target for some of Europe’s biggest professional clubs, with Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi saying last month that Manchester United has made contact.

Davies’ immediate future will see him join the national team, which is ranked 109th in the world by FIFA, for its camp ahead of a friendly against No. 70 Curacao on June 13 in Montreal.

But only participation in a full international would tie Davies to Canada, with the first opportunity coming as early as next month at the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in the U.S.

Getting Davies in the fold is a big win for Canada Soccer, which has seen players choose to suit up elsewhere when eligible — perhaps most notably Calgary’s Owen Hargreaves, who chose England.

40-man Gold Cup roster announced

Davies is also among Canada’s preliminary 40-man roster announced Tuesday by head coach Octavio Zambrano as part of preparations for the Gold Cup.

Also included are Whitecaps defender Marcel de Jong, along with midfielders Russell Teibert and Marco Bustos.

Toronto FC had a trio of midfielders named: Raheem Edwards, Jonathan Osorio and Tosaint Ricketts, who is currently out with a hamstring injury.

The Montreal Impact, meanwhile, have five players: goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, defender Wandrille Lefevre, midfielders Patrice Bernier and David Choiniere and striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel.

Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC), Will Johnson (Orlando), Tyler Pasher (Sporting Kansas City), Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas) and Kwame Awuah (New York City FC) round out the Canadian MLS-based players.

There are two new additions in defender Milovan Kapor and midfielder Nicolas Galvis.​

Zambrano will select his 23-man squad for the Gold Cup after the Curacao match before the squad links up again in Ottawa on June 28 for another camp.

Canada opens the tournament July 7 against French Guiana in Harrison, N.J., before taking on Costa Rica on July 11 in Houston, and rounding out group play against Honduras on July 14 in Frisco, Texas.

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CBC | Soccer News