My Life Choice Was Simple. Football Or Gangs | Nathan Mavila
Tell us a little about your background?
My family came to the UK in 1995 and shortly after I was born. I have 2 sisters, a brother and a nephew and luckily both my parents. I grew up in Brixton, South London and went to St John’s primary school where I fell in love with football. At any break I would play but I wasn’t the best in my school year. In year 5 I made the school team and also started playing for my local Sunday league team called Afewee Urban FC. Funny story of how I even started playing for them was that my neighbour who ran the whole organisation came downstairs from our estate and saw me and my brother playing football and said that I’d be the footballer and he would be my accountant. Funnily enough he predicted both! My brother played for a bit and shortly after focused on his studies and now manages a group of artists called HOP/ HOUSE OF PHARAOHS.
My parents were pretty tough on me that I should stay focused in school or I wouldn’t play football. My parents have been the most supportive people. They have been through hell and back with me because of my career and also in my personal life. They never judge me and always made sure I and my siblings always had what we needed not always what we wanted and made sure we were alright.
How did you get into football?
I got into football at the age of 7 at school and shortly after started training at ferndale sports centre not far from where I lived with a team called Upsetters FC with primary school friends. From there I then went on to play for the school team, then signed for my first local team Afewee Urban. When I got into secondary school I captained both my secondary school teams (Bishop Thomas Grant and Sacred Heart). At my first school BTG I tried out for the school team and shortly after was put forward to try out for South London district schools, which is the best players that attend schools in Lambeth southwark and a few other boroughs, I managed to captain them and shortly after I was put forward for London county schools which is the best players in the whole of London and also captained them till the age of 15 when I stopped playing for them as football began getting serious.
When I was younger football was my life. Me and friends would sit at the computer and email clubs for trials, call scouts and academies but would never get a response or they’d shut us down. While playing for south london at 13 years old, the coach was the head scout at Wycombe Wanderers FC and organised a game against them. And we played them and me and 2 other players got offered to sign that same day (John Afolabi Coker and Jordon Ibe.) I took the papers home to my dad and he didn’t believe me! And from there I got my young career started. I made my reserves and under 18’s debut at the age of 14. At that time Arsenal had come in for me and I went to train with them at the ground in Hale End being scouted by the legend Liam Brady. They had offered to sign me but Wycombe had put a price tag that Arsenal were not prepared to pay so that broke down and I went back to Wycombe and played 2 more years at Wycombe before the academy folded and all players had got released. Luckily I had clubs watching me, I managed to go to Chelsea on trial but didn’t get in and West Ham offered me a deal right after. I spent 4 years there, doing a 2 year scholarship and turning pro and doing 2 years there as a pro too. I also made the bench in a Europa League fixture against Astra Giurgiu in Romania. A lot of great and bad memories I don’t think I’ll be able to put all in this. Shortly after being released, I went on trial at a few places but nothing worked out so I decided to sign in non-league and get some game time.
I signed for Wycombe at 13 years old. I had a friend who was at my school BTG, her dad was a scout at Charlton and he came to watch our school games quite a bit. Before Wycombe he got me down to come and train with them but something just didn’t feel right and I enjoyed playing with my friends at that time. All 3 of us going to training and playing together, the banter and performances together was a great feeling.
We all got into an altercation to defend my friend, which then led to a fight. There I witnessed my friend get stabbed and killed at the age of 16 right before our GCSE’s. I was left traumatised, I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I kept a lot in for a very long time until one day opened up and spoke to my mum about what I was going through. She had arranged for a pastor at our local church to speak to me and pray for me. I did not take my spiritual walk back then very seriously. But after he had prayed for me that night I slept like a baby and from then on I decided to follow Christ.
Shortly after I had made the decision to make use of what God has given me, firstly for myself and to make my friend proud. Shortly after I signed for Premier League club West Ham United.
After playing in non-league, I didn’t feel myself progressing any more. I didnt feel like I belonged there and I wasnt getting an opportunity in the higher leagues so I thought what is the point of even playing football if I’m not enjoying it or progressing. So not long after an agent had contacted me via LinkedIn and told me a Canadian club was interested and the manager wanted to meet me. I spoke to my dad about how I felt and he said go out there and give it a shot, you never know how things may change in a year. So I had agreed to meet him and he came from Canada to the UK and we met and I was sold from the first meeting.
It was a project and history I was excited to be part of as it was the first year. The first season was a very good one, different culture, we flew to every game, people would call the manager ‘coach’ or by his first name which was very weird, housing was taken care of, training was professional. I really really enjoyed it. On the pitch at first the fans were very reserved but after a few games it almost reminded me of England with their passion. One thing that’ll always stick with me is that Cavalry FC has the nicest of people, very courteous and always willing to help.
I follow boxing heavily as a few people in my family have boxed professionally. My cousin Ted Bami was a former World and European champion and I also admire close family friend Isaac Chamberlain. I also follow a bit of darts, basketball and tennis here and there.
My sporting heroes will have to be Rio Ferdinand because he made it out of where I made it out of and became one of the best centre backs ever in the world, Ashley Cole because he is the best left back I’ve seen in my generation and lastly probably I’d say Michael Jordan because of his drive and how much of an impact he had on people and how talented he was.
After football I would love to be able to help footballer’s with their game mentally, so currently I am studying sports and exercise science and hoping to further my studies after in sports psychology. Allowing them to understand the power the mind carries and the power they also carry if they use the mind right. The mind has a great impact on your game and career, just like your body if the mind isn’t well taken care of and strengthened you will fall out of the game or performances will decline very quickly.
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