Laureus legend Marcel Desailly on Alphonso Davies and the power of sport

Laureus Academy Member Marcel Desailly has declared Alphonso Davies’ incredible journey from a refugee camp in Ghana to Champions League winner as a shining example of ‘Sport for Good’.
Alphonso, who lifted the Champions League in Lisbon with his Bayern Munich teammates, inspired the entire sporting world with the story of his rise to the top of world football. It was a journey Marcel had taken himself several decades earlier when he left his first home in Ghana and moved to France, eventually to become one of the greatest modern day footballers and a World Cup winner.
Marcel said: “Yes, it’s a long journey, but that is one of the great things about sport. It can change lives and miracles can happen.
“Alphonso was born six months after Laureus Patron Nelson Mandela made his ‘Sport has the power to change the world’ speech in 2000 and he is a living example of that. Few will ever achieve what he did in Lisbon, but it is a wonderful inspiration to all young people wherever they are to give them hope and give them a dream of better things ahead.
“My experience was not exactly the same as Alphonso, but, like him, it started as a young child in Ghana. He went to Canada, I went to France. Football changed our lives. I will never forget how important it is to help those who are not so lucky. That is why I work with Laureus and why I have supported Orphan Aid, a project near Accra, and why I do what I can to help.
“Alphonso’s performance in the Champions League for Bayern was amazing for someone just 19. The Bundesliga are lucky to have him. He is such an exciting talent, I would love to see him play in the English Premier League or La Liga.”
Alphonso was born to Liberian parents in Buduburam, a refugee camp in Ghana. His family lived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, but had to flee during the civil war there, which displaced almost 500,000. When he was five, his family moved to Canada.
It was obvious at high school that he had outstanding ability and he joined Vancouver Whitecaps as a junior when he was 14. He made his Major League Soccer debut at 15, becoming the second youngest player in the history of the league.
The following year he became a naturalized Canadian and made his debut for the national side at 16, becoming the youngest player in Canadian men’s football history.
Alphonso attracted attention from many top footballing nations and clubs began to show an interest when it became obvious he was destined for a stellar career. Bayern Munich won the race to sign him when he was 17 and were happy to pay $13 million, a record fee for an MLS club.
When he signed a contract extension last April, he recalled at the time: “I know there were rumours about England, but we sat down with Bayern and as soon as I heard them there was no hesitation.”
Marcel’s own upheaval came when he was four when his mother married a French diplomat and he moved to France. It led ultimately to a distinguished career with the France national team, where he played 116 matches and won the FIFA World Cup, the European Championship and captained France to a Confederations Cup victory. He also won the Champions League with Marseilles and AC Milan.
Despite this illustrious roll of honour, he has never forgotten his roots. In an interview with, Marcel said: “I am very pleased to be a Laureus Academy Member, using sport to help children and even adults to integrate society or to develop their skills in their life and in sport.  It’s something very special for me, particularly when I visit a project that Laureus supports.
Laureus Sport for Good is a global charity that supports children and young people by using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage. It operates under the fundamental belief that the achievement of this ambition is best delivered by ending the social issues that affect the younger generation and changing their lives for the better. Working with sport for development programmes globally, Laureus Sport for Good uses sport to address a number of social issues, including creating inclusive and peaceful communities.
“I have been lucky to go to Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and even in London or in France, and it gives me motivation to continue to help kids in special or difficult environments. Sport allows kids to be better human beings and to be better friends.
“You have some young kids who are almost gangsters in a group and you enter in contact with them. They have had a difficult life. Maybe a kid doesn’t listen, he doesn’t want to do anything, then you allow him to play basketball, for example, and suddenly he becomes a different child. 
“You give him responsibility as a captain in his team, while in his life he’s not disciplined, he doesn’t want to do anything, he’s fighting with everyone and suddenly being a captain on the basketball court brings him responsibility.  And he changes his life because suddenly he is well-structured, he's disciplined, he helps his team-mates on the field. I am so pleased to see that.
“In Ghana, my country of origin, Laureus helped an orphanage where we built some sport infrastructure and you can see that this opened up the mind of the kids.  Most of the kids have been under shock because of prostitution, violence and problems they have and suddenly sports allow them to be more open and we can understand their need.”
Over the last 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good has raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and helping change the lives of almost 6 million children and young people since 2000. Laureus Sport for Good currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries that use the power of sport to transform lives.
Marcel Desailly visits Ghana Sport for Good programmes

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