Bayern Munich fullback Alphonso Davies and AC Milan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic both found their way to Canada at a young age as refugees with their families.
They know firsthand the danger and uncertainty that too many face.
“I’ve been in the situation twice in my life where I’ve been a refugee so I know how challenging those times can be in the best of circumstances,” Begovic said in an interview.
“Now when you have a global pandemic and a world crisis, it’s going to make things that much tougher.”
On Saturday, the two will match their soccer skills in front of a video game console, going head-to-head to raise COVID-19 relief funds for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN agency with the mandate to protect and help refugees.
Begovic and Davies will follow their personal journeys, playing first as their countries of birth (Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Ghana), followed by the countries where they are currently living (Italy versus Germany).
A third and final match will feature their current clubs, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.
Begovic, 32, says he may be the gaming underdog, describing his skills as “very average.”
“But I’ll give it a shot away and see what happens.”
The 19-year-old Davies, a world soccer star in the making, was born in a refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents. He was five when his family arrived in Canada, eventually settling in Edmonton. Eleven years later he scored his first goal for Canada and signed with Bayern Munich in July 2018 from the Vancouver Whitecaps on a then-MLS record transfer fee.
“As a former refugee myself, I am very grateful for the help my family received and the opportunities this opened up for me and where it has brought me,” Davies said in a statement.
“Right now, there are more than 70 million people around the world forced to flee their homes. These are people who — like my family — fled conflict to find safety. And now COVID-19 is putting them at further risk. I hope that whilst people are keeping themselves and their own families safe, they can also help support refugees who have lost everything.”
Saturday’s contest represents a virtual meeting for two.
“I’ve definitely seen him play. I know what a special talent he is, of course,” Begovic said of Davies. “What he’s doing at the moment is incredible.”
Born in Yugoslavia in 1987, Begovic was four when his family fled war-torn Bosnia. After six years in Germany, they moved to Edmonton.
As a child in Bosnia, he played soccer inside his bedroom because it was too dangerous to venture outside. He’d dive on his bed to make the save, either banging the ball off the wall or playing with his grandfather.
Begovic went to Europe at 16 to pursue his soccer career. He played for Canada at the under-20 level before representing his native Bosnia and Herzegovina as a senior international.
Currently on loan at AC Milan from England’s Bournemouth, Begovic has also played club football with RAA Louvieroise (Belgium), Chelsea, Ipswich Town, Macclesfield Town, Portsmouth, Stoke City and Yeovil Town (England), and Qarabag FK (azerbaijan).
Begovic joined AC Milan on loan in January.
“A dream come true to join a club like this. Unfortunately everything got hit by this virus. Hopefully we can get back to work soon.”
UNHCR notes even a small donation can make a huge difference to protecting refugees from COVID-19. Three dollars can buy a bar of soap that lasts seven weeks, helping prevent the virus from spreading.
The eFootball PES2020 livestream starts Saturday at 11 a.m. ET. It can be followed on the following platforms: