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JONES: Alphonso Davies shines as soccer emerges from isolation shadow

Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies shoots on goal against FC Union Berlin as the German Bundesliga resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies shoots on goal against FC Union Berlin as the German Bundesliga resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of COVID-19.

It was a lot of things for Alphonso Davies.

First of all, in his 26th game of the season and first in 70 days, thanks to COVID-19, it was his graduation game as a certified Budesliga soccer star with a new multi million Euro five-year contract in his pocket.

The TV viewership numbers will almost certainly prove it was Phonzie Davies’ greatest exposure back home in Canada and around the world as the Bundesliga became the first major league in Europe to return from being shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was an actual live game to watch with the Edmonton product and former Vancouver Whitecap providing a rooting interest on the Sunday telecast of Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win over FC Union Berlin.

Davies, you should know, was trending on Twitter in Canada throughout the game.

Despite the layoff, the talented teenager returned to action and showed his speed and skills creating three goal-scoring chances from his left back position. Like a lot of rusty players returning to action, Davies looked a little off attempting a couple of passes and also took his first yellow card of the season for a high tackle.

But on the whole, his magic was still very visible.

In terms of exposure, there was no lack of praise from the British broadcasters leading into and during the game. And the international telecast came complete with a slick feature on Davies at half time.

“It’s a different game with no fans,” said Davies when it was over as he spoke into a microphone fastened on the end of an extender being held two metres away.

“It felt good after being in quarantine for two months. That was a little bit boring,” he said of the self-isolation he endured.

The 19-year-old was playing with a new profile after two months as that cooped-up, bored, and likely lonely Canadian kid self-isolating in Bavaria.

The entire experience resulted in the uncorking of his personality that happened while he was in quarantine.

Sitting at home looking for ways to amuse himself, Davies became a huge hit by building more than half a million followers on both Instagram and TikTok, delighting them with his takes on learning German, imitating goal celebrations of other players and all manner of engaging inspirations.

While he was self-isolating, Davies also made himself available to raise money in a special United Nations Refugee Agency project to help protect refugees from coronavirus.

It was a European version of the event featuring Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin in a game of NHL 20 , streamed on Twitch. Except this one was soccer on eFootball PES 2020 , streamed on Twitter and was more than a little relevant to Edmonton.

Ghana-born Davies, who spent the first five years of his life growing up in a Liberian refugee camp until his family immigrated to Edmonton, was matched against keeper Asmir Begovic of A.C. Milan. Begovic is also a former refugee. Organizers had no idea when they made the match, but Begovic also spent part of his youth growing up and playing minor soccer in Edmonton.

Davies created a lot of fans and made a lot of friends while he was self-isolating and that, in addition to the big new contract, brought a lot of focus on him.

There was also, however, an enormous focus on the entire scene that had absolutely nothing to do with him.

For pro sports fans in North America, it was more than a resumption of a soccer schedule in Europe. It had the added status of being a test event to analyze the effects of returning to play in empty stadiums.

For those who watched the British broadcasts of the games this weekend on Sportsnet, there was the novelty of seeing the games in empty stadiums, particularly of a sport and in a nation where the atmosphere provided by the fans adds so much to the scene.

Seeing reserves sitting in the stands instead of sitting on the bench, wearing masks, was definitely a curiosity.

There were reports of a police presence outside stadiums, running off a few dozen fans wanting to gather together there. There is so much built in to the Bundesliga succeeding and opening the door for others, the Germans don’t want to blow this.

In all, while we wait for the post-game coronavirus test results, there wasn’t a whole lot that appeared that might make the NHL, NBA, NFL, or MLB do a U-turn on any of their plans to proceed.

But while we wait for the other leagues to decide what to do, for Canadians, there will be Davies to watch again Saturday at home against Eintracht Frankfurt to be followed by a big one Tuesday against second-place Borussia Dortmond attempting to prevent Bayern from winning an eighth-straight title.


On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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