WORLDS APART: Bayern’s Davies living Daye’s dream

Alphonso Davies

“On Friday nights, my father will go to the Buduburam Refugee Camp and bring him home, where he would be housed ahead of Sunday’s second division league game,” Ishmael Plockey, son of former Madina Republicans bankroller Emmanuel Plockey, told

“Rice with kontomire stew was the only food he’d eat; just give him that and you are good to go. He would play his heart out.

“Prince Daye was a star. Forget about Emmanuel Osei Kufour, Godwin Ablordey, et al; Daye was the heartbeat, the crowd-puller, of that Madina Republicans team.”

Football, 2002 World Cup Qualifier, African Second Round, Group B, Accra, Ghana, 28th January 2001, Ghana 1 v Liberia 3, A portrait of Liberia+s Prince Daye (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Born and bred in Monrovia, capital of Liberia, Daye fled to Ghana with his family in the early 90s when civil war — which claimed the lives of over 500,000 people — ripped his country apart. At the refugee camp, Daye — who had always aspired to become a professional footballer someday — was scouted and snapped up by then Republicans boss Plockey.

Before long, Daye had established himself as the team’s finest.

“During a ‘justifiers’ session for players who’d eventually make up Ghana’s World Cup-winning class of Black Starlets in 1995, Daye caught the eye of head coach Sam Arday, only missing out on selection because he wasn’t Ghanaian,” the younger Plockey recalls.

It was certainly a big blow to the budding midfielder, as he was keen on featuring for Ghana at a tournament which would introduce to the world the likes of Pablo Aimar, Edu, Harry Kewell, and Esteban Cambiasso.

Football, 2002 World Cup Qualifier, African Second Round, Group B, 28th January 2001, Accra, Ghana, Ghana 1 v Liberia 3, Liberia’s Prince Daye (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The pain of being left out remained with Daye until, years later, he had a chance to show Ghana just what they — not he — had missed. Then in France with Bastia, Daye — representing his homeland — was invited for Liberia’s 2002 Fifa World Cup qualifier in Accra against Ghana’s senior national team, the Black Stars.

That was in late January 2001, and, on arriving in Ghana, Daye first visited Mr. Plockey in Madina to express gratitude for his contribution to his development and growth as a footballer. Matchday followed at the Accra Sports Stadium, and Ghana looked firm favorites. They’d won their first group game of the series, after all, thrashing Sierra Leone 5-0.

Alphonso Davies and his family

Liberia, however, were in no mood to be such miserable guests. They may only have had a lone star in George Weah, a former World Footballer of the Year, but Liberia had no little supply of confidence, having beaten mighty Nigeria in their own preceding fixture.

As soon as Daye saw the Ghana line-up — featuring the aforementioned Kufour and other big names — he whispered to Weah that he had played with a good number of them in the past and didn’t think much of their ability.

“Overhyped,” he hissed.

It took just eight minutes for Daye to torment Ghana and prove his point, seemingly, cutting in from the left and leaving defender Stephen Baidoo crawling, before finding teammate Weah. The resulting shot from Weah, also Liberia’s skipper and coach, was cleared just before it could cross the line for a certain goal, to Ghana’s relief.

Two minutes later, the hosts weren’t so fortunate. Frank Seator headed in from a sublime free-kick by Kelvin Sebwe, and Liberia went on to condemn Ghana to one of its most humiliating home defeats in recent memory, with Daye particularly outstanding. Ghana didn’t win another group game till the reverse in July, but, by then, their quest to reach a first Mundial was already limp.

Liberia, on the other hand, enjoyed better fortunes, and only fell a point short of beating Nigeria to the sole ticket on offer to the showpiece in Japan/Korea. Daye’s own trajectory remained modest, and he went on to play for clubs in Tunisia, Spain, Israel, and Qatar.

Almost thirteen years after his retirement, another player of Liberian origin, with a not-too-different storyline, is also enjoying a career in football — only much bigger. Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, like Daye, has a Ghanaian chapter in his tale, having been born in the West African country before moving to Canada with his parents in 2005 as a five-year-old courtesy a United Nations relocation policy.

Of the three countries he is eligible to play for, Davies has chosen Canada and would be expected to headline the national team’s bid to make a mark as joint hosts (along with North American neighbours Mexico and the USA) when the 2026 World Cup comes around.

Davies would grace a platform Daye narrowly missed, but that’s probably where their respective paths cease to run parallel. One wonders, though, whether a little twist somewhere mightn’t have yielded more similar outcomes — for better or for worse.

Edmund Okai Gyimah — Daily Mail GH

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