This year was the Canadian men’s soccer team’s first time qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in 36 years and their second appearance ever. So, it came with a lot of excitement and an extra load of pressure.
Despite playing pretty evenly against Belgium (one of the top ranked teams in the world) and scoring their first ever goal at a FIFA World Cup against Croatia, Canada ultimately lost their first two games and were knocked out of the competition.
The goal against Croatia was a huge celebration for the team and for the nation; it was scored by Alphonso Davies, #19 for FC Bayern Munich and star player of the Canadian men’s national soccer team. At only 22-years-old, Davies has easily become the most well-known, popular, and arguably the best men’s soccer player for Canada. He’s even regarded as one of the best full-backs in the world.
Davies' life-story is impressive to say the least. Born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents and as the fourth of six children, Davies’ family emigrated to Edmonton, Canada in 2005. Despite this adversity, by the age of 15 in 2015, Davies had been recruited to move on his own to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps FC Residency program.
Alphonso Davies' “Celebrity Problem”
Even after being knocked out of this year’s FIFA World Cup, spirits remained pretty high for the national team and soccer fans across Canada. However, there are always critics.
An analysis piece for the CBC written by Chris Jones featured sharp criticism of Davies as a soccer celebrity, claiming that his celebrity and soccer stardom have prevented him from being a real member of his team.
Titled “Is Alphonso Davies’s celebrity a potential problem for Canada’s men’s World Cup team?,” the article consisted of a lot of speculation and emotionally-fueled opinions about how infrequently Davies spoke to the press at the World Cup.
Jones was clearly still upset about the penalty shot (that could’ve tied the game) that Davies missed in the first game against Belgium. Jones claimed that this missed penalty could have been taken by another player, Jonathan David, and might be driving a wedge between David and Davies. Is there any proof of this team mate rift besides Jones' speculation? No.
However, the central root of Jones' obvious resentment towards Davies comes from the fact that Davies doesn’t attend every single press opportunity. He thinks that “biggest players on bigger teams accept those terms” (the terms being sucking up emotions or disappointment and going to speak to the press anyways), throwing around big names like Messi and Ronaldo. He also speculated that other players on the Canadian team must be upset with Davies for making them fulfill press duties instead of doing itself himself.
So which is it? Are we mad that Davies is too much of a star or that he won’t accept additional stardom by continuously hogging press time?
Jones thinks that because Davies benefitted from a nationally funded soccer program that he owes the press when he plays for the national team. That it’s his “responsibility” and that he becomes “public trust” when he plays for the country, leaving behind his privacy.
It’s a little bit odd to argue that he should have less privacy since he's a “public” entity when you’re also arguing that he’s “too much of a celebrity,” isn’t it?
Jones went on to blame Davies for other petty stardom things like showing up late to the World Cup, wearing diamond earrings, and signing a deal with Soccer Canada for jersey rights when his teammates have yet to do so, going as far to say that Davies is “wielding his celebrity like a weapon.”
Now, that’s a little extreme. Davies is point-blank the biggest player on the team and in the country, so why would he not be the first player to sign a deal? He also has worked hard to earn his salary and spot on FC Bayern Munich, and he can wear whatever earrings he wants.
Reaction and Response
Very few people agreed with this article. In fact, most of the discussion on Twitter and in the article’s comment section is fairly negative. Despite this, the author even went on one of the national radio stations to talk about the backlash, essentially doubling down on his controversial opinion.
Just because Alphonso Davies has managed to make a name for himself on the International stage and become one of the best players that Canada has ever produced doesn’t mean that he should put his private needs, like his mental health, above the supposed “needs” of soccer fans.
What we should be asking ourselves instead is why do we expect so much from athletes when in reality they are not public property, they are individuals and human beings. Their skill and their sport is why they are on the team, not their words of wisdom or quippy press appearances.