We have a tendency to idolise professional athletes. As a society, we elevate them to similar levels of superstardom as Hollywood actors and A-list pop stars. It’s easy to imagine that life as pro athlete would be glamorous and care-free, that precise scenario is the subject of millions of childhood dreams. But there’s another side of being a professional athlete that we don’t often hear about. At the end of the day, it’s still a job.
Being a pro athlete isn’t as simple as showing up to games and performing. The profession requires immense levels of hard work and dedication. Above all, athletes need discipline. Not just the discipline to train hard and stay in peak condition, but to pass up on everyday occurrences we take for granted, like seeing friends and taking time to relax. Alphonso Davies understands this hardship more than most. In a recent Twitch stream, Davies opened up on the challenges he faces, “Sometimes it gets lonely,” said Davies. “I probably have like five friends. I’m a popular loser.”
22-year-old Davies recently became Canada’s first ever World Cup goal scorer in the team’s 4-1 loss to Croatia. This year, Canada made only their second ever World Cup appearance, qualifying for the first time in 36 years. Davies played a crucial role in breaking that drought. At just 22 years of age, Davies is already a UEFA Champion’s League winner and four-time Bundesliga champion with Bayern Munich. He’s also been selected in FIFA’s World XI and was named North America’s footballer of the year in 2021.
Davies was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp to Liberian parents fleeing their war-torn home nation. He and his family migrated to Canada when he was still a child. When he was only 15, he made an appearance for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USA and Canada’s top domestic league. Davies dramatic rise put Europe’s top clubs on notice, and it wasn’t long before German giants Bayern Munich swooped in and acquired his talents for a record transfer fee.
A move across the Atlantic Ocean was a massive step forward in Davies’ career, but it meant leaving behind friends, family and a way of life. Making it difficult to adapt to a demanding lifestyle. “For me, because I don’t have a family and my girlfriend is not living with me, I’m by myself.”
Have you ever been stuck at home with nothing to do? Ever felt like all your friends were busy? Or when you finally do have time to go out, it coincides with needing to take a break and unwind. Then you’ll understand how Davies feels. Except those aren’t occasional irks for pro athletes, they can be an everyday struggle. Training schedules interfere with plans and regular travel means athletes never really feel settled. “It’s a little bit worrying not having something to do and especially when all your friends have work,” said Davies. On top of that, athletes need to uproot their entire lives every time they join a new team, making any relationship unstable at best.
Like most jobs, there are positives and negatives. Obviously, many people dream of being paid to play the sport they love, which Davies admits, “Life as a professional footballer is very cool, no doubt.” But while we usually see them in jubilation, accomplishing remarkable feats on tv, being a professional athlete is as demanding as it is rewarding. Athletes face a number of unseen challenges that make their achievements all the more incredible. As Davies said, “I guess that comes with the job.”