EDMONTON — Eight-year-old Emerson Doyle was thrilled to show his moves to Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies on Tuesday.
"I did a step-over. I showed him a step," Emerson said, holding his blue soccer ball in his left arm. "And Alphonso said, 'That's cool.'"
Emerson was among 44 kids, aged eight to 12, who joined the Canadian player at Victoria Soccer Club in west Edmonton — the first of many soccer camps said to be Davies's legacy project to inspire the next generation of soccer players in Canada.
"It's (about) enjoying the game and inspiring them to keep believing in your dreams," Davies said Tuesday at the soccer club.
Davies said camps like the one held Tuesday helped him find new friends as he was growing up, develop skills and compete, while also enjoying the moments.
The 22-year-old Edmontonian, who made history by scoring Canada's first and only goal at the men's FIFA World Cup in 2022, has inspired a young generation of players and hopes that his soccer camp will encourage youth to play the sport.
He's currently a member of FC Bayern Munich in Germany.
"Alphonso is an idol of mine," said 11-year-old Elias Sauer, who plays for a local soccer club, Edmonton Scottish, and aspires to "go big" like Davies.
Alan Mackenzie said his 11-year-old son Keiren, who was on the field with Davies, has been bouncing with excitement for a week.
"Davies has blown up soccer in Edmonton. All the kids are playing soccer and want to be the next Davies," he said. "It's exciting to see him in person."
Tickets for the camp at Victoria Soccer Club, where Davies played many matches and spent hours practising as a child, were sold-out within five hours of going online, a spokesperson with ATG Sports Management said.
He said the countrywide legacy project would run camps with grassroots programs, focusing on providing kids with the same curriculum Davies practised growing up.
The next camp is expected to be hosted in Toronto later this summer, and would eventually be expanded to regular camps every year, said the spokesman.
Davies, wearing a black jersey and black pants Tuesday, was quickly surrounded by kids on the soccer field, eager to learn and talk to their favourite sports star — telling him how much they love him, showing him their moves and following him around on the pitch.
The international soccer player, in return, was engaging with the kids, guiding them on drills like shooting and, occasionally, speaking to young players waiting for their turn on the pitch or helping a kid put on his team jersey.
"Growing up, I remember doing these drills, playing five-on-fives … It helps make it fun for everyone being able to compete with your peers," said Davies, who returned to his home city for a week since his last visit in December.
"These are the things I did to help me develop my skills and also socialize with others."
Nedal Huoseh, the CEO of ATG Sports Management, said launching the program in Davies's hometown was important for the legacy program.
"Alphonso is a symbol of what is possible for many kids who have big dreams, and we hope these camps can inspire kids to be the best version of themselves.”
— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023.
Ritika Dubey, The Canadian Press