World Cup: St. Nicholas will host a party in honor of Canada and Belgium and other news

The Edmonton high school is celebrating its special connection to the World Cup by skipping Wednesday classes to watch Canada’s first game.

St. Nicholas Junior High School in northeast Edmonton closes during the Canada vs. Belgium game so students and staff can watch and cheer on former student Alphonso Davis.

Davis’ former coach, Marco Bossio, runs a football academy at St. Nicholas, and less than 10 years ago he took notice of Davis when the then 11-year-old joined the program.

“The first time I saw him play, I was blown away by his athleticism and ability to handle the ball. I said to myself: “This is a special player,” said Bossio.

“As things progressed and I saw him develop as an athlete and as a person, the sky was the limit right away.”

Bossio said Davies’ love for football is evident when you watch him play, and that passion for the game and great attitude helped him excel during his three years at St. Nicholas.

“He was an absolutely wonderful kid because his contagious behavior on the field was the same as off the field,” he said. “You have to love this game, and Phonzy, when he played – when he still plays – he plays with a big smile on his face.”

By 9th grade, Bossio said Davis was ready to start thinking about his next steps, so the two of them traveled to British Columbia to try out for the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program.

“As soon as he took the field, the coaches in Vancouver were amazed. They wanted him to stay here and now,” Bossio said.

Davis finished 9th grade before he moved to another school, but when he did, Bossio said he was an instant success.

“He joined their youth academy and took it by storm,” he said. “You talk to any other directors and club managers, they say he came in with the attitude that he wanted to learn, he wanted to grow.”

Since then, Davis has become the face of Canadian professional football, and Bossio said it’s thanks in part to all the coaches and fans along the way.

“He had so many great mentors in his life, starting with his parents,” he said. “I mean his parents, what they had to go through to get to Canada and take care of Alfonso, I mean they deserve a lot of respect.”

On Wednesday, students will head to St. Nicholas Gym at noon to watch Davis face one of the toughest teams in the competition.

Bossio believes that Canada has every chance of winning. Regardless of the outcome of the game, however, Davis’s story is one of success, a lesson Bossio says reminds his students that a career in football is a real possibility, even if they live in a wintry city like Edmonton.

“It’s really great. It kind of tells young athletes that everyone has a chance to succeed,” said 9th grade goalkeeper Adam Majed. “It’s really cool how he went to the same school and now plays at the biggest stage. It’s really exciting.”

“I look up to Alfonso. He came here, (he) makes it clear to us that anyone can succeed, wherever you are,” said Ethan Darpo, 9th grade forward. “Going to the World Cup is a dream. So hopefully one day I’ll be like him.”

With the files of Nicole Lamp from CTV News Edmonton

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