English left back Nathan Mavila signed with Cavalry FC in February but only arrived in training camp last week, as Calgary’s new professional soccer club continues to prepare for the inaugural Canadian Premier League season.
The 23-year-old spent his youth career at Wycombe Wanderers Academy and West Ham U23. He has since played in the fourth and fifth tier of English football, including a stint with Leyton Orient.
Mavila recently spoke to Total Soccer Project’s Stuart Gradon about his career, the challenges of growing up in south London and his footballing highlights:
Welcome to Calgary. How did you end up signing with Cavalry FC?
“There was an agent who got in contact and said there’s an opportunity out in Canada,” said Nathan Mavila Saturday. “(I) didn’t quite know what it was. I didn’t know there was a premier league here or a premier league was happening.
“But I knew that I was ready for a new challenge. I was kind of tired of the same old things going on in England. So, I said, ’you know what, get out of your comfort zone and try something new.’ And Calgary was the place to be.”
Tell us about your footballing history.
“I started off with Wycombe Wanderers. They’re (EFL) League One now but back then they were League Two. After that the academy folded when I reached 16 (years-old). I had the opportunity of training with various clubs. And then I ended up signing with West Ham and signed a two-year scholarship. Then I went pro for two years with them as well. And then after that I got released. And then I was playing non-league. Was playing in the lower divisions.
“Last season I managed to play for Leyton Orient, which was quite a good experience, I mean getting back in the pro game. This season I was playing in the lower divisions and I thought, ‘you know what, it’s best to just give it a shot elsewhere. Get out of my comfort zone, try something new and put myself into the deep end.'”
What kind of challenges have you faced in your career?
“It’s hard, because you always picture yourself signing for a top team. But, you’ve got four major divisions in England. And then after that there’s the conference which is semi-pro and then probably amateur. And that’s what I was playing after West Ham. It was tough, very tough. Financially tough, because you’re not getting paid as much. So, I was working, at one point, four jobs just to fund playing football.
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“It’s crazy. I think the toughest battle was psychologically – still believing in yourself. And I think that my faith, I believe in god, that’s what kept me through. Without that I don’t think I’d be here today. I don’t think I’d be alive. So that’s brought me through. It eventually got me here.”
What do you mean when you say you’re not sure you’d be alive without your faith?
“Football got me depressed it put me low at times. Where I live in London, it’s a rough area. South London, there’s a lot of stabbings and shootings that are going on around there. It’s easy to get caught up in that life.
“Luckily, I didn’t, with good parents and family and a good faith behind me. It’s helped me get through.”
What are your career highlights so far?
“This season we played against Oldham in the FA Cup first round. It was televised on BT Sport, so that was the highlight of this season.
“The highlight of my career, I think, was turning pro. Turning pro was a big thing for me. Especially, where I come from, not a lot of people turn pro. They make it through the system but not through to pro. It was a big thing for me.”
You’re a defender, a left back. How would you describe your style of play?
“I’m an engine. I can go up and down. I see myself not as someone who stays back. I like to get involved in the attack and I also do like defending.”