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Alphonso Davies brings star power to Canada’s World Cup qualifiers in hometown Edmonton

Asked about his favorite soccer memory growing up in his hometown of Edmonton, Alphonso Davies smiled.

“Just being a kid, playing football with my friends … And now here I am playing with the national team in my hometown,” he said. “It’s just going to feel like I’m back on the soccer pitch with the Edmonton Strikers and just having fun with some friends.”

He’s about to do it again, this time with a band of brothers wearing the Maple Leaf.

The Bayern Munich star will be the main attraction when the Canadian men, presently ranked 48th in the world, host No. 45 Costa Rica on Nov. 12 and No. 9 Mexico on Nov. 16 in a pair of crucial World Cup qualifying matches in Edmonton. Davies’ star power — combined with the appeal of an exciting young Canada team under John Herdman — has already seen close to 40,000 tickets sold for each game at Commonwealth Stadium.

While Herdman can call on a talented roster with the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Milan Borjan, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan, Stephen Eustaquio and Jonathan Osorio, among others, Davies has become the face of the program.

It’s easy to see why. A former refugee whose family found a home in Canada, his backstory resonates.

In games, his blistering speed, drive and bag of tricks on the ball are compelling. But one can argue he strikes a bigger chord off the pitch, especially these days.

Davies’ enthusiasm and joie de vivre are exemplary. And while already a celebrity at the age of 21, he exudes everyman.

He raves about meeting Drake when the hip-hop star dropped into the team hotel to say hello after Canada’s Oct. 13 victory over Panama in Toronto, a game that saw him score a wonder-goal. And his delight — captured via live-stream — at hitting the jackpot by acquiring Lionel Messi — extremely rare and much-prized — when he opened a player pack in the FIFA video game was something to behold.

Asked which one ranked higher, Davies laughed. “I don’t know. I think they both go hand-in-hand.”

After some contemplation, he picked hanging out with Drake.

“I’ve listened to Drake ever since I started listening to music. Drake is one of my idols. I love all his music.”

“My achievement with Messi was me playing against him (in Champions League play),” he added in a virtual media availability. “Unfortunately I didn’t get to get his jersey. That would have been up there too, probably would have surpassed Drake a little bit more. But I’ll say it was meeting Drake, for sure.”

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