Back home in Edmonton, Canada, David Doe is reminded about what drives him in the soccer world every time he wakes up.
On the white wall adjacent to his bed are two FC Edmonton jerseys from Canadian Premier League (CPL) games — a primary jersey from his first full season as a professional and an alternate jersey from his second — both hung backward with ‘Doe 26’ printed in bold.
Next to them is a personalized plaque that was once nailed above his hook in the Eddies’ first team locker room.
These may be small mementos to the uneducated eye but they have significant value for Doe, given they were more than a decade in the making.
The journey began when Doe moved to the province of Alberta from Liberia at the age of six. Before then he had mainly experienced street soccer, but transitioned to playing 11-a-side in the Edmonton community and attracted the attention of talent scouts.
Doe then joined the Eddies’ academy, going on to make his professional debut in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2017 and later playing in the new Canadian league.
But signing for South Bend Lions is another unique landmark for the 21-year-old wingback, who has never played club soccer outside of Edmonton – let alone in another country.
“I left my old club and I really wanted to go somewhere else to try out the stage,” said Doe. “That’s the cool thing about soccer, experiencing different cultures with different teams.
“South Bend Lions is a new team and when I was talking to Thiago [Pinto – technical director], everything that he was telling me sounded perfect and what I wanted to do – to come and help a new club make history.
“I’ve seen there is a small, good community and everyone seems excited for the new club — that’s a great sign.
“I’m really excited to build a new relationship with the coach, the team, and the culture to see how the States is for me, and to just enjoy it.”
Fortunately for Doe, new experiences came thick and fast during his time in Canada, providing plenty of preparation ahead of this new adventure.
Doe represented FC Edmonton in the first season of CPL and at the 2020 Island Games, where all eight CPL teams lived and competed in quarantine on Prince Edward Island during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before that, his effort in the Eddies’ academy saw him called up to the Canada national team U-17 setup alongside some of the best youngsters in Major League Soccer.
“It was really eye-opening. When you are at that level, the best thing you can do is observe, listen and learn; the coaches have been there and they’ve seen it all, and even the players too.
“Everyone was from Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto; I was the only kid from FC Edmonton. It put a big responsibility on my shoulders because now more kids from Edmonton could have the opportunity to go to the U-17 academy.
“I was happy to be on that team, and all the kids there were crazy talented. It was a big steppingstone in my career and made me realize that I can go that far.
“CPL was also good because I saw lots of the players on my Canada team playing on a bunch of different clubs. Before and after every game, you’d see your friend and say hello, but on the field you didn’t talk.
“It was cool to experience that, and the league really helped all of us youngsters not only improve and play with older guys, but become who we are and find out who we wanted to be in the real world of soccer.”
During FC Edmonton’s transition from NASL to CPL, when the club had to temporarily cease operations for a year in 2018, Doe rejoined the academy and attended the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, recording some of the best collegiate soccer stats in the region.
After his professional contract was reinstated, some referred to him as David Doe 2.0, so does that mean we will see David Doe 3.0 in South Bend?
“Maybe. We’ll have to see.
“When the league shut down, I had to be patient for a whole year before the CPL happened. It was with a new coach too, so I had to impress again.
“My passion for soccer made me put in the work and stay back, doing more than anybody else for me to be selected in the new team.
“I always loved soccer so that made it easier — you have to wake up every morning, do the fitness, do the soccer, play the game, and you have to enjoy it or you won’t go far.
“Off the field I can make the whole team laugh, the coaches laugh, and bring a different dynamic, but on the field I am a very serious player and still learning.
“I first started as a winger and I slowly transitioned to the back, and it’s helped me because now I can see what’s behind and teach the player in front of me what I learned from playing in that position.”
Come the summer Doe will have a new jersey to add to his bedroom wall, but like the rest of his career so far, this is about so much more than collector’s items.
“You’ve still got to get a job done, so everything is still the same mindset. I take it game by game because each one is a new opportunity.
“I don’t like setting a certain goal, I always believe I can go as high as I possibly can in anything.
“My biggest learning curve so far is that there are always ways to improve. Even if you think you’ve made it, you never have because there is always another step to get better.
“I’m going to try my best for us this year, and I’m going to make you guys proud.”