TORONTO — Despite bouncing between multiple English clubs, continents, American states, high schools and countries, Charlie Anagho-Ntamark would consider an opportunity with the Canadian Premier League as, perhaps, the true start of his career.
The Birmingham, England native hasn’t just experienced more soccer environments than anyone at the CPL’s coast-to-coast tryouts; he’s experienced more trials, tribulations and adversity, too, something he uses to fuel his hope of eventually achieving his ultimate goal.
“I’m going to be a professional footballer,” Anagho-Ntamark bluntly told CanPL.ca during last week’s Hamilton trials. “I have a vision for myself, of how I want to get back to playing.”
At least a piece of that vision included an abrupt visit to a League1 Ontario camp. After boarding a flight from the U.K. to Canada, Angaho-Ntamark landed in Toronto earlier this summer before attending Sigma FC training just hours after clearing customs.
“I wanted to be with the most talented guys,” the striker explained to CanPL.ca, adding that an aunt living in Brampton, Ont., kindly acted as his chauffeur that day.
Remarkably, though, Anagho-Ntamark referred to last week’s Hamilton trials as, potentially, just the beginning, despite having already featured with more teams than most players do in a lifetime.
The son of former Cameroon international Charlie Ntamark Sr., Anagho-Ntamark spent his formative years developing in Aston Villa’s academy.
“It’s a lot,” he described Villa’s youth system with hesitation. “Academy football is like Hollywood: Everything is just given to you so easily. But when you’re a kid you don’t know a lot of things.
“I was one of the best in my (Villa) teams. Everyone, for sure, thought I was going to go straight from five years old to the first team — no doubt.”
Considered a prodigy as a tween, Anagho-Ntamark said “everyone” was shocked when Villa released him in his early teens.
“My bow legs were a problem,” he offered. “They thought I’d be injury prone. But it’s not like they didn’t want to keep me. It didn’t make any sense.
“A lot of coaches in those environments want to get to the next level. If the club’s director is saying something, what are they going to do?”
That’s when Anagho-Ntamark and his mother decided they needed a change. The duo relocated to Ohio, where a local coach took the 14-year-old under his wing.
Amid playing in a Sunday league with men who were “shocked” at how good he was, Anagho-Ntamark had offers to join the DC United and Chicago Fire academies.
Instead, a coach with the Ohio Galaxies suggested a different route: Attend Montverde Academy, a renowned prep school in Florida.
Anagho-Ntamark spent his sophomore year playing with some of the best prep soccer players in the nation while brushing shoulders with future NBA stars like D’Angelo Russell, who also attended the school.
“We were just killing everyone (en route to a national title),” he said.
The dream of becoming a professional footballer was very much on track, as far as anyone could tell. The positive experience at Montverde spurred Anagho-Ntamark to return to England for a trial with Stoke City that “didn’t go too well,” he admitted.
So it was straight into non-league football, leading to a series of stops — all in the same year — that were less than ideal.
First stop: Romulus F.C., where Anagho-Ntamark couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting first team playing time.
“Non league football is completely different to any sort of football,” he explained. “It’s basically England culture. It’s very direct. It’s very physical. It’s very loud.
“Coaches want players who have been at a decent level who can run, do a job, do all the basic stuff. They don’t really like the kids who come from academies.”
Next: Hednesford Town.
“That’s when I started getting paid,” he explained.
Yet Anagho-Ntamark was “annoyed” after appearing in just a dozen games.
Third stop: Rushall Olympic FC.
“They didn’t know what was going on, how I was getting paid,” Anagho-Ntamark lamented, adding he spent plenty of time on the treatment table at Rushall. “That’s what made it worse.”
Still just 19 years old, Anagho-Ntamark said he eventually had to get away from the “toxic” environments he’d bounced between the previous year. His Canadian aunt opened her doors.
“I was trying to get back to 100% fitness,” he said of initially travelling to Canada. “I just needed to get out of that environment. When you’re injured in football, nobody cares. You have to sort yourself out.”
He returned to England four months later as a personal trainer who still intended to carve out a soccer-playing career. After being out of the game for 18 months, Anagho-Ntamark again set his sights on Canada and Mississauga-based club, Sigma FC.
He showed up to the Hershey Centre earlier this year in an effort to reignite his career.
“I think (the CPL) is the perfect, perfect start,” he said. “This league that Canadians have built is brilliant. Canada has some fantastic talent. It’s exciting.”
After attending last week’s Hamilton trials, Anagho-Ntamark’s name also appeared on the advanced list of players set to attend this week’s Open Trials in Toronto.
One CPL coach identified the English striker as a player to watch coming out of Hamilton. His pace and power, his ability to distribute with his back to goal or turn and take on defenders, was marked during last week’s tryouts. As one CPL coach put it, “you can tell he’s been in professional environments.”
The 23-year-old said he’s hoping a CPL club will provide the opportunity he wasn’t fully afforded back home.
“You have to humble yourself. I’ve learned that early,” Anagho-Ntamark finished. “I’ve gotten rid of the entitlement that comes with being in an (English) academy. It brings you down. You have to get rid of it.”