KJ: On Alphonso Davies' media obligations for Canada (+ World Cup recap)
Wednesday November 30th, 2022
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I woke this morning to Canada talking about Alphonso Davies vs The Media. Players talk regularly that Canada making a World Cup in 2022 was beyond a fantasy for them and I know how they feel when it comes to the sudden interest in this sport within Canada. I only wish for people to care this much every year.
Somewhere that does happen is Germany. Alphonso Davies is never far from the attention inside the Bayern Munich dressing room.
In arguably the most intensive high-performance, professional environment in the sport, where winning is simply a non-negotiable mandate, Davies brings infectious enthusiasm, a smile to an often stoic and fierce environment. A shining light of positivity.
It was not always like this. When he arrived in Munich, the outgoing Canadian youngster took a more reserved approach.
All around him were world class stars, many of whom he had played as, like many other Canadian kids, in a video game. Davies was in awe but quickly realised he had to observe and show he could fit in.
Davies was a Canadian teenager in a German world. A kid from Edmonton taking a path no one like him had ever done before. Days were hard and it wasn’t easy to fit in. Nights were often spent alone when he would fall asleep excited for the chance to be with his teammates in training the next morning and learn from some of the world’s best on and off the pitch. Davies would quickly observe habits off the field to see what it took to become a truly world class professional.
Davies was fortunate. He could not have been placed in a more cohesive and focused environment, but how quickly he became influenced by them is a credit to him. It is a trait often ignored when it comes to players and Davies is no different. We are all so quick to analyze how these athletes observe things and adapt so quickly on the field but in this case, it was his ability to do this off the pitch that showed his ability to mature and learn quickly. This is to Canada’s benefit.
Davies is drawn to Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich and the central midfielder showed the feeling was mutual when Davies was sidelined by myocarditis. No one checked in more often than the German. When Davies describes Kimmich the words he chooses give an idea of what is important in his life.
“He is a well-respected young man, his passion and dedication for the game is amazing. He is a class act.”
Davies remains a well-respected young man himself despite being in the centre of a small media storm here in Qatar over the last few days. The decision to not talk to the international media press after he scored Canada’s first ever goal in the history of this competition has led to him being questioned. While undoubtedly the situation was a missed opportunity for Canada Soccer it was not helped by the fact that the organization currently in charge of Davies did not make him available for 10 days before the Croatia match. This is a pity, not simply just because of access but because Davies has got so much to offer.
While heavily influenced by the likes of Kimmich, Thomas Müller and others at Bayern Munich, Davies is only too aware of how important it is to carry yourself. For this, he and those close to him deserve a lot of credit. For someone who has received a lot early in life he has stayed out of trouble and the limelight, and if missing media availabilities after a crucial World Cup game turns out to be his biggest misdemeanour, then I think we are all winning.
This is not to downplay the issue, something that falls at the feet of Canada Soccer more than Davies himself. Davies has shown in Germany the ability to connect to a professional environment and go above and beyond at what is asked of him. This may not extend to doing mixed zone media availabilities, but he is also not naïve to know that for Canada it has been different. This is what his teammates understand, and they are important, eager witnesses to what happens next. They are watching this closely to see if the recent developments will influence Davies.
This is where Davies will do what he does a lot. Win. As he matures, he too will want to be looked upon the way he looks at Kimmich, for example. Davies and his advisors are not extremely difficult people to deal with. There remains a determination to protect him, but as the player himself has shown time and time again he carries passion and spirit that can help take this sport to another level. Whether you think that’s his responsibility or not, the point is he is the face of the team, the future captain and, more importantly, someone who can handle these responsibilities. His very own teammates are looking for him to do exactly this and it will be a great day and a real blessing when he can be comfortable in his own skin, be himself and just answer questions with media members he trusts and respects.
Davies has become a terrific player, a maverick on the field, usually seeing things develop quicker than anyone else. He is still at the time in his development where he must trust his teammates more for Canada and not look to do too much. For this he needs coaching, and it is no different in his learning from incidents off the pitch.
World Cups bring the biggest stage that create these moments of learning. Davies has unsurprisingly fitted in smoothly on the field, being exactly where he needed to be at the right time to create a historic Canadian sporting moment. He may not have been where he should have been post-match, but if he is not coached and informed to do so then the accountability should at least be shared. These are important details to understand. It is a fundamental requirement in life, let alone business, to take responsibility for mistakes. Dealing with many countries here in Qatar, their media teams and players are at a level where this kind of tournament and attention does not faze them.
They do not feel it is important – for example – to rush players and coaches to their own media teams before press conferences and other availabilities. These are not times for falling out with rights-holders and international press. The attention instead, appallingly, falls on Davies, not without some blame, but it really has happened because of a fundamental lack of leadership in that department — something that would not come close to happening at his club.
Davies, still just 22, has become the unfortunate face of a battle that has been going on for decades between the federation and media regarding access.
His time at Bayern has shown us this will be another key reference point for him to observe, learn and carry himself the way he sees Kimmich and others. As a class act. Time will tell if those around him here will do the same.
Afternoon with the Aussies at Al Janoub
With five minutes remaining and with his team needing two goals, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen, tried to play the ball forward, but could only pass backwards to the only other Danish player behind him. The Euro 2020 semi-finalists looked lost and out of ideas. Australia defended brilliantly and Mathew Leckie’s run and fantastic finish was enough to take the Socceroos into the last 16 for the first time since 2006 and just the second time in history.
Denmark, so fancied by many that they went from sleepers to contenders in many previews, in the end did surprise people, just in the fact that they go home early. They are the first team from Europe to be in the same group as an African and Asian team and not beat either since Russia in 2014.
Australia and Denmark are now the 27th and 28th different teams I have seen here live in the last 11 days. Combining what was at stake, with the quality in their team, the award goes to the Danes, comfortably, for the team that are the biggest underachievers I have seen.
Enzo Fernandez inspires Argentina to the top of the group
Tonight, I am at the 974 Stadium, named after 974 shipping containers around the stadium. This is the eighth and final venue I have visited, and the prize is top spot in group C. Argentina go on to grab it comfortably, opening a brilliant path to the semi-finals with Australia and just one of Netherlands and USA in their way.
This was a night where their midfield showed up and finally Lionel Scaloni’s side showed a presence and physicality they need to win this World Cup, led by the imperious Enzo Fernandez. The Benfica man has transformed the team since he was brought in to the starting XI after their loss to Saudi Arabia. Lionel Messi missed a penalty and missed the chance to become the first player to score in each of the group stage games at a World Cup twice. It was also the sixth time I have seen him live and the first time I have not seen him score in a game.
The site of seeing Poland defending a 2-0 loss late in the game to try and hold on to second spot was uncomfortable. In the end they were fortunate to do so and reach the last 16 for the first time since 1986. France await and will be delighted to get Poland based on this evidence.
Enjoy the game tomorrow Canada, this remains a special day for our country.