‘The pipeline is thriving’: Cavalry FC’s Goteh Ntignee joins French club FC Annecy in league-record move

The sport of soccer is one that often moves incredibly quickly. Goteh Ntignee’s transfer deal is one such story.

It wasn’t long ago that the club’s front office was contacted about interest in the 21-year-old winger. Within a matter of days, there was an offer on the table.

On Thursday, Cavalry made it official. Ntignee was transferred to Ligue 2 club FC Annecy in France. The move, which is initially a loan, will become permanent ahead of the 2024/2025 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the impending permanent move is expected to bring in a league-record transfer fee.

“It was something that we thought ‘Let’s leave it to the end of the season,” Cavalry FC General Manager and Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. told “But the offer that they put in is very good, and something that we couldn’t stand in the way of.” 

Ntignee knows the speed of the sport better than most. His incredible pace is one of the many standout attributes that Wheeldon Jr. believes will help him thrive in Europe. The 21-year-old is enjoying a breakout campaign in the Canadian Premier League, scoring two goals and adding two assists in 18 appearances, with eight starts across all competitions. He is among the league leaders in successful dribbles per 90 (2.14) and chances created (1.53).

“I was having a good season with the club,” Ntignee told “For me and for everyone at the club and my family we just decided maybe it was the right time. I was in form, playing good, so I felt it was the right time to move.”

Spending the last season and a half with Cavalry was essential to Ntignee’s development as a player, both on and off the pitch.

Playing in the CPL was really good for me,” said Ntignee. “I think being a young player you need to play and show what you can do so it was perfect for me and playing at Cavalry, all those guys, all the coaching staff, the players all helped me on the way to really get where I am. Without the league, I don’t know.”

Ntignee joined Cavalry in August 2022 and took some time to learn the club’s system. He made a pair of appearances in his first season with the club, but it was in his sophomore season this year that his growth as a player really became evident. 

“He’s got something none of us can teach and that is pure speed and power,” said Wheeldon Jr. “We’ve seen him now play against some really established players within this league and give them a nightmare. He’s very good in 1-v-1s. He’s very good at changing the tempo of games but what he’s added to his game is his pressing, is his backtracking, is his defensive side.” 

The move is another success story for the club and the league, who are both committed to creating opportunities for young Canadian players.

“The U-21 minutes have been an absolute revelation for this league because it gives young players an opportunity where maybe they would have had to wait their time behind a more experienced player,” said Wheeldon Jr. “You are now putting in a young player over an experienced player in important games.” 

Ntignee’s move to France isn’t his first European experience. Prior to joining Cavalry, he spent time in Germany with Lokomotive Leipzig and FC Grimma. A self-professed shy person, one of the biggest things he learned from those experiences is to prioritize talking to people around the club and building relationships off the field as well.

I mean I know a little bit of French so maybe this will help me even more,” said Ntignee. 

Ntignee is the latest in a growing crop of players Cavalry has shepherded to higher levels. That includes Canadian internationals Joel Waterman (CF Montréal), Victor Loturi (Ross County), and Dominick Zator (Korona Kielce), as well as Aribim Pepple (Luton Town) and Mo Farsi (Columbus Crew).

This offseason, Cavalry brought in former player Oliver Minatel as the club’s Head of Recruitment and Player Development. A big part of Minatel’s role was expanding the club’s international network to facilitate more marquee transfers. Minatel’s connections were critical to making Ntignee’s move happen, Wheeldon Jr. said.

A particular point of pride for Wheeldon Jr. is how many players like Ntignee have come through the local youth system. Ntignee spent time at East Side Memorial FC in the Calgary Minor Soccer Association, before joining Thomas Niendiorf’s Pacific Elite Soccer Institute on Vancouver Island.

“Aribim Pepple came through Calgary Foothills, Victor Loturi North Side and then Foothills,” said Wheeldon Jr. “It doesn’t matter which Calgary soccer club they are playing for, it is part of our talent I.D. that when we are looking in those areas, we are not taking them out of their clubs too soon but we are tracking them, tracking them so that when they get to that 15, 16 (age) they may have an opportunity to come into what is now our under-21 group and start to understand the next level. It is great that it is local because that is what our crowd likes and what they get behind.” 

Playing for Cavalry not only gave Ntignee the opportunity to play close to home but also in a high-level professional environment where he could hone his craft. Tofa Fakunle, the former Cavalry player who now serves as the club’s assistant General Manager, was one such person who proved integral to his time with the club.

“Tofa he would tell me to just stick with the process, trust what they are trying to do and try to learn,” said Ntignee. “But other players that I do play with like Ben Fisk, Ali Musse, watching them, having them just explain some things to me, it really helped.”

Ntignee will now look to take what he did in the CPL with him back to Europe. He believes he has only shown a glimpse of his true potential. There’s more to come from Ntignee.

For his part, Wheeldon Jr. believes Ntignee has all the qualities for this to be the first of many steps in the European game.

“Honestly, I still feel he’s got more to come,” he said. “I liken his story a little bit to Tajon Buchanan, who kind of came out of nowhere in the NCAA, couple of good years in MLS and has now taken Europe by storm, and doing well on the national side. I think Goteh’s got that in him, now he’s got to do well in his next step.” 

William Akio and Goteh Ntignee flip after scoring a goal against Forge FC (Courtesy: Cavalry FC)

Wheeldon Jr. also hopes to see him competing to appear on the biggest stage in four years’ time. Ntignee, who was born in Nigeria before immigrating to Canada at age four, has been called into youth camps for both the Canadian and Nigerian national teams in the past, and may be looking for more internationally.

 “It is a good success story and hopefully, with the World Cup in 2026 it is something that’s a tangible goal for Goteh to get to (with Canada), if he doesn’t select Nigeria instead,” Wheeldon Jr. said. 

The first step on what should be a long career ahead for Ntignee will be recovering from a grade two thigh strain that likely would have ruled him out of the remainder of the CPL regular season. This is part of what made the late-season move a little bit more palatable for a Cavalry side that currently sits at the top of the league table.

“I think it is one of those where it is always sad to lose a talent but it was the same with Aribim leaving the club last year, that created the opportunity for Goteh this year,” said Wheeldon Jr. “That’s now going to be the next opportunity for somebody else to step into that, and as we’ve seen with Maël Henry he could be next. Eryk Kobza, we’ve got these young players … So the pipeline is thriving and we are going to continue to do our bit for the Canadian game.”