It appears that Alphonso Davies’ goal against Croatia, the first for Canada at the men’s World Cup, left a mark in more than the Canada Soccer record book.
Mayhem ensued in Sunday’s goal celebration.
“When I headed it down and I ran to the corner flag, I looked to my left and I just saw all my teammates running towards me,” Davies said Tuesday. “Yeah, it was a great feeling. We’ve waited for this moment for a long time and it finally came and we were happy.”
“When they all came around me, a lot of players were grabbing my jersey, pushing me, shoving me,” he added. “I had Liam Millar head-butt me at one point, he was so excited. We both looked at each other and started laughing. The moment was truly amazing with these guys.”
Also back home. Not to mention in the stands.
Davies had his parents watching at Khalifa International Stadium, the latest stop on a well-documented journey that saw them flee the civil war in Liberia to Ghana, where Davies was born in a refugee camp, before finding safe haven in Canada.
“After the first game (against Belgium) they told me how proud they are of me and when I scored the goal, my mother teared up a bit, seeing her son coming from a refugee camp, coming to Canada and being able to score in the world’s biggest stage,” said Davies.
“My parents are people of few words, they don’t really say too much. But it really showed on their face,” he added.
The 41st-ranked Canadians turned heads in a narrow 1-0 loss to No. 2 Belgium before Davies scored 68 seconds in against No. 12 Croatia, only to see the 2018 tournament runner-up rally with four straight goals for a 4-1 win that knocked the Canadians out of contention for the knockout round.
Now they wrap up tournament play Thursday against No. 22 Morocco.
Tuesday marked the first time Davies has spoken to media at the Canadian training facility since arriving in Doha on Nov. 18. He did an interview with TSN, the Canadian rights-holder, the next day but otherwise has limited his availability to brief post-match chats with rights-holders in the post-game mixed zone.
Davies explained that he didn’t speak after the Croatia game because, while happy with his goal, he didn’t want to be front and centre after a loss.
“I wanted to talk about the team, the team play. I’m happy to be able to score but at the end of the day we lost the game. And that was really what was on my mind.”
Davies started off slowly Tuesday, choosing his words carefully. But he began to open up when he was asked if he was enjoying himself at the tournament.
“Yes, yes, I’m having fun,” he said after a brief pause, his voice rising with enthusiasm. “You dream about this ever since you’re young. And being on this stage, each and every time, I look back and I think to myself ‘I’m at the World Cup.’ It puts a smile on my face.
“And every time I play the game, it’s truly amazing. Each and every time I come to training, I’m living the dream and I’m happy about it.”
The 22-year-old from Edmonton was then asked if he felt pressure in having 6.6 million followers on TikTok, 5.1 million on Instagram and 491,900 on Twitter watching him.
“For me l always try to be myself,” he said. “Each and every day how you see me is how I am, in public or in private. I’m the same guy who just wants to have fun, laugh at my friends, be a kid … I tend not to think about how many people are watching me too much. I just try to be myself.”
A kid perhaps, but one with a manager and his assistant watching from the back of the room. And a mega-bucks future.
Still, Davies was savvy enough to consult some of his more experienced teammates at Bayern Munich on how to handle the World Cup experience.
“The advice I got was a World Cup is a different beast,” he said. “You’re playing against the best players in each country. What I was told was just go out and play the game. Change nothing. Don’t let the moment get to you. Go out and play how you know how to play. Keep your head down. Work as hard as possible. And for me, it really worked.
“Each and every time I step on the pitch, I try to give my all for this country.”
With purpose at the World Cup.
“We gained a lot of new supporters around the world,” Davies said. “A lot of people thought that Canada wasn’t really a footballing country. Hopefully after this tournament, we’ve changed a lot of minds.”
While Davies has done most of his talking on the pitch, he has been a topic of conversation here.
Croatian forward Ivan Perisic, who spent the 2019-20 season with Bayern Munich on loan from Inter Milan, was asked about Davies prior to Sunday’s game against Canada.
“It was really a pleasure playing with him,” he said through an interpreter. “He is a miracle. He’s fast … the sky’s the limit. He can only get better.”
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press