William Akio has trademarked a goal celebration in the Canadian Premier League. And there was no sweeter moment in which he performed his iconic backflip than three weeks ago at Cavalry FC’s regular-season finale. Fresh off a trophy raise, the first in club history, Akio, as teammates pushed him on, launched into the air, much to the excitement of the jubilant Cavs fans who had waited so long for this moment.
Akio had been craving this feeling as well. An experienced CPLer with the club a province East, Valour FC, he developed into a mainstay of the scorecard in Winnipeg. So much so that he even earned a transfer to the Scottish top flight with Ross County. After a goal for them, and two more in the Scottish Championship where he was loaned out for six months, he opted to return home, right where it all began in Calgary, linking up with Tommy Wheeldon Jr., who coached Akio at the Calgary Foothills, even winning the Professional Development League back in 2018. Converse to Valour’s middling results in the table when he plied his trade there, the Calgarians were working their way through an incredible, record-setting regular season.
Wheeldon Jr.’s side was scary enough in attack with a four-headed monster that was Goteh Ntignee, Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse, and Myer Bevan. Of course, it turned heads when he signed with the Cavs, and questions were asked over how many minutes he’d actually play. Wheeldon Jr. obviously knew something that the public didn’t: Ntignee was set to be transferred to FC Annecy in France for a league-record fee. Akio was brought in to fill that gap of speed and skill. He more than sufficed, scoring at a breakneck pace of five goals in four matches to start his Cavalry career. His numbers have slowed down, but his effectiveness remains. A constant threat down the left, he drags out defenders and opens up space for the likes of Camargo and Bevan. He still generates plenty of shots and scoring opportunities, likely running into a case of being decoded by the CPL’s ‘keepers.
He is useful down that side as well since the Cavs have started pegging their fullbacks back. After José Escalanté departed the club, a few have filled the spot behind Akio, prominently Fraser Aird and Shamit Shome. Akio, as seen in the second semifinal against Pacific, will drop back and try to move the ball quickly, pinging it around defenders to set up a through-ball down the wing. He can turn on the jets in an instant, and with open space, defenders can’t hesitate to try to get the ball away from Akio. He cuts inside almost effortlessly and releases amazing shots. That exact move was shown in a brilliant goal against York United in August, a game one week prior to the boys in red going top-of-the-table, and remaining there.
“He’s one you always have to worry about because he’s got different ways to play. He can play anywhere across the front three, whether it’s central, right, or left he’s so dynamic in the way we attack,” the gaffer said to the CPL’s official website. “He fits where we’re at and where we’re moving with this new Cavalry.”
Cavalry are incredible on set-pieces, that’s an aspect of the game that could win them the North Star Cup. However, in live-ball scenarios, there are few better than Akio for the club.
Just as equally as set-pieces, what happens in open play, specifically on Forge FC’s side of the game, is so crucial. Given that the hosting Hammers could strike through open play, Cavalry will be asked difficult questions. Akio can be the answer.
When it is all said and done, who wouldn’t want to see one more flip this season from Akio? Emulating pure joy whenever he does it, his going head-over-heels is always a welcome sight in this league.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
Q: Your first couple of years in the CPL were with Valour, and maybe your contributions to the club goal-scoring-wise weren’t shown in the results of the club. How good does it feel to have your personal exploits be rewarded in the team making a deep playoff run?
A: “Firstly, for me, it’s a very important thing. Of course, I want the team accolades and I want the team to win championships, I want us to win the double this coming weekend, but if we’re just talking about personal accolades I think it’s very important for something to push for, in your own personal career. And for me, just going far ever since I’ve come back home has been a massive thing for me to keep me happy, and it also just gives me the reassurance that I’m playing well, that I’m playing at a good level and scoring goals for my team. It’s nice.”
Q: Since you arrived, how have things changed for the club? Your backflip partner Ntignee left, and of course, you sustained an injury, what has the process been like to get to this stage?
A: “Yeah, when I came in Tommy just made it short and sweet to me, he just told me we need you to come in, help us score some goals, and elevate the team in the locker room and outside the locker room. Just bring your energy, bring your enthusiasm that you always have, and it’ll help us win some championships. So far, it’s been going so good, we’ve got one [trophy] under the table and now it’s time for the second. And for me, [what’s good is] the boys, the boys around me are very lovely and very helpful. They know why I came here, and they treat me with so much respect and I give it back to them. It’s a good group of boys we’ve got here. Coming in like a final piece, it feels good.”
Q: What’s it like playing alongside Myer Bevan, the Golden Boot winner, when you’re obviously a goalscorer too, what’s the dynamic there?
A: “He’s your typical number nine, he’s your proper number nine, someone you want on your team. He holds up the ball for you, takes all the hits, will do all the running for you without complaining, just so the wingers and midfielders can look good. Myer Bevan has been an outstanding striker, one of the best that I’ve played with in my career. At the same time, off the field, he’s also a true leader for the forwards, that’s nice.”
Q: Forge is obviously a massive rival of the club, does that in any way play into your preparations knowing how much it means to the fans and veterans of the club?
A: “Yeah, especially after the last game we played against them. Obviously, we want to prepare a bit differently this time but we look at the last game, we still played well, we still had lots of the ball and had chances, we were going down [Pacific FC’s] throat. It’s not anything to be really stressed out about, but at the same time it’s just something we want to be careful about now that we’re in their home, we gotta probably have a different kind of gameplan, come at them on the front foot and just see what happens, see how the game goes. But I’m pretty positive, the boys are positive, the coaches are positive that we’ve got this under control.”
Q: This year, because you guys lost in the semifinal qualifier, you didn’t have a week off or host the final, do you think not having a week off is actually beneficial?
A: “I’m gonna be honest, yeah, that’s actually something we talked about as well as a team. I feel not having that week off, it’s a bit too much time, you get nervous, you wanna play, you wanna get the season, like in a sense, over with, and you wanna just keep the momentum going. So, I feel like the more time you have off, you do get the cold feet, too much time on your hands, you know? You could be overthinking, and it’s just stressful, waiting a full week to play the Final. For us, it was back on the road, 2-3 days later, getting to Toronto, and the preparations have been really good, we’re ready for whatever happens.”
Q: Is there anything you learned from your year in Scotland that translates into these massive playoff matches or is something you can project onto your younger teammates?
A: “Yeah, 100 percent. For me, it’s just how cutthroat the game is. The game is not easy, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s football, man. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to take your spot, and you’ve gotta give absolutely everything. That’s one thing I realized when I went to Scotland, just how intense the game is. Like, in a sense, how rude people are. Not everyone’s nice, they want to take your spot, you gotta be able to come perform, and if not the next person is right there to take your spot. You gotta take it very seriously.”
Q: What would it mean to do the double and win another trophy for your hometown?
A: “Man, honestly, it’d mean a lot. I talked with a bunch of my old teammates, like Sergio Camargo, Ali Musse, and Tommy, about when we won the PDL in 2018. All the boys that were here, we did it the first time together in 2018 and then we did it again a few weeks ago in Calgary, and we can do it again. Win the double, have a super season. And I’ve dreams, I’ve had thoughts about this happening, and it’s all kinda come full circle since it’s come home. I think it’s our time, I really do believe it. We just have to make sure we prepare properly, and just come out with our tactics, give everything we’ve got on the field. It’s gonna open a lot of doors for people as well, I’m just so excited. Hopefully everything goes to plan, pray to God, and see what happens.”
Top photo by Audrey Magny