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Alphonso Davies savours his moment on top of the soccer world

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Bayern’s Alphonso Davies challenges PSG’s Thilo Kehrer during the Champions League final at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.

Miguel A. Lopes/The Canadian Press

One of the defining moments of Alphonso Davies’s young soccer career came last month when the Canadian teenager went head to head against Lionel Messi, and the outcome wasn’t even close.

It was early in Bayern Munich’s Champions League quarter-final match against Barcelona and Davies was streaking down the left side on a Bayern breakaway. He blew past Barcelona’s midfield and raced toward Messi, who could only stop the 19-year-old by tripping him. As the legendary striker reached down to help Davies up, the youngster smiled.

“It made me feel a little bit happy because here’s a kid looking up to his idol, playing against his idol who fouled him and is helping him up. It was everything you can ask for as a footballer,” Davies recalled Friday from Munich during a conference call with Canadian journalists. “Me going up against him was a dream come true.”

Bayern went on to win the game 8-2, handing Barcelona its worst defeat in 74 years. Messi had no goals, no assists and was turned inside out by Davies, who set up Bayern’s fifth goal by dancing through nearly half the Barca lineup. Messi looked so dejected afterward that Davies didn’t have the heart to pester him to swap jerseys. “Losing 8-2, it’s not nice,” Davies said.

Bayern powered on and beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the Champions League final on Aug. 23, capping an unprecedented 11-game winning streak during the tournament. By then Davies’s star had truly ascended.

He’s now become one of the most talked-about soccer players in the world, a speed demon who’s been clocked at 36.5 kilometres an hour and who makes pundits such as former England striker Gary Lineker gush: “What a fabulous talent.” Davies’s exploits have been hailed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and won shoutouts from Drake. The City of Edmonton even lit up the High Level Bridge red and white in honour of its newest hometown superstar.

As he prepares for the start of the Bundesliga season next week, Davies is still marvelling at all the attention. “I still can’t believe all this is happening,” he said Friday. “Has it sunk in? I would say not yet.”

His success is even more remarkable considering where he came from. His parents fled the civil war in Liberia in 1999 and spent years in a refugee camp in Ghana where Davies was born. The family came to Canada in 2006, arriving in Windsor, Ont., before heading to Edmonton. Davies’s father, Debeah, got a job in a poultry plant while his mother, Victoria, worked as a janitor. Davies often had to care for his younger brother and sister, but eventually soccer became an outlet.

He started out in a league for vulnerable kids called Free Footie and later enrolled in the soccer academy at St. Nicholas Catholic School. At 11 he joined the Edmonton Strikers in the city’s youth league. “You could tell he was a very talented kid,” former Strikers’s coach Nick Huoseh said. “We played 18 league matches in a summer season and he would score a goal or two a game.”

Huoseh, who runs a telecommunications business, became more than a coach for Davies. His father had come to Canada from Palestine and he understood the challenges refugee families face. He often watched out for Davies after school and offered support to his family. He also helped arrange a tryout with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

It didn’t take long for Davies to shine on the West Coast. He made his Major League Soccer debut for the Whitecaps at the age of 15. A year later he became the youngest player to join the Canadian men’s national team.

Big clubs in Europe took notice and soon Manchester United, PSG and Bayern came calling. By then, the family had hired Huoseh as Davies’s agent.

Davies signed with Bayern in July, 2018 and Vancouver pocketed a US$22-million transfer fee, an MLS record at the time. Huoseh said Bayern didn’t offer the most money but impressed Davies with a detailed plan for his gradual development.

The plan was accelerated last October when Bayern suffered a string of injuries and Davies was inserted into the staring lineup at left back. The team was floundering at the time and a coaching change put Hansi Flick in charge. He stuck with the teenager and it soon paid off.

Davies’s lightning speed gave Bayern a new attacking style on defence and he produced four assists in his first few games. The team went on a 30-game winning streak and won the Bundesliga, the German Cup as well as the Champions League. Davies was chosen rookie of the year and signed a new five-year contract that, according to German media, could pay him up to €5-million a season, or $7.8-million. The International Centre for Sports Studies has pegged his market value at €133.5-million, putting him among the 10 most expensive players in Europe.

This season could be even better for Davies. Bayern has signed star winger Leroy Sane from Manchester City, who will line up in front of Davies. There’s also World Cup qualifying in March and Davies is keen to help Canada make it to the final for the first time since 1986.

For now, he’s relishing life in Munich and a new season of soccer. “I’m just happy that I’m over here in Germany proving myself,” he said. “And being a Canadian, it’s amazing.”

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions

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By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

 

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins

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(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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