It’s a cautionary tale for any young footballer who thinks they’ve got what it takes.
Even if you’re pretty good, and people keep telling you that you’ll definitely ‘make it’, do you really possess that extra 5-10% of something almost indefiniable that clubs are looking for in future stars?
“When an opportunity like that is presented you have to be willing to sacrifice everything to be successful”
More and more kids are attracted to a career as a professional footballer because of the rewards on offer, but Kamal Guthmy’s story highlights the difficulty of getting to that level and the sacrifices one has to make to chase the dream.
For the last three years, Guthmy has been living away from home all over England in order to pursue his ambition of becoming a pro player.
After being released by Barnet FC in 2013, he was recruited by the Nike Academy which helps unsigned talent find clubs willing to take a chance on them.
“They play against some of the biggest teams, and if you perform well those teams may take you on trial,” says Guthmy. “And if you do well during those trials, they may sign you
“It was an amazing experience because playing against and for those clubs is the pinnacle of a young boy’s dream of being a footballer.
“What I gained from it was that no matter where or how you grow up, with or without help, when an opportunity like that is presented you have to be willing to sacrifice everything to be successful.”
That’s exactly how his move to Birmingham City earlier this year came about, as his performances at Nike Academy landed him a trial with the Championship side. He impressed in two development squad games and landed a six-month deal to train full-time with their Under-21s squad.
Guthmy recalled: “I moved to Birmingham after I signed. At first I was staying in a team hotel, but then after a month I got my own house. I was training six days a week and mostly two sessions a day.”
The 20-year-old was devastated when the Blues opted not to keep him on after his contract expired. He admits he lost his motivation but still learnt from the experience.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and you have to be ready for any opportunity that’s given to you – to be ready to get chucked in to the deep end.
“Guthmy will continue to try and impress in the non-league game as he aims to make it third time lucky as a professional”
“As soon as it [his release] happened, I went on holiday. I took a couple of weeks off and then I played for a few lower league teams.
“I was then gone for a month because I lost my motivation for a while, but then I just started playing again.”
It was football or nothing for the Kenyan-born winger who currently plays in the Conference South for Chelmsford Town.
“To be honest, there was never a plan B, but as I got older it was the case of if I got injured and never got to play again, then maybe go in to coaching.”
At the moment, Guthmy combines playing for Chelmsford with coaching for a company called Badu Sports.
“We go in to schools and coach. They found out that I had the FA level 2 coaching badge and so they wanted me to start coaching kids. It’s rewarding but, to be honest, if I did want to get into coaching, I’d rather coach teams than in schools.”
In the meantime, Guthmy will continue to try and impress in the non-league game as he aims to make it third time lucky as a professional.
“As well as the ability of the players, the big difference is the intensity,” he explained. “Here, I’m training three or four days a week, whereas at Birmingham it was six.”
Even though he suffered setbacks on the road to achieving his goal, Guthmy remains determined to ‘make it’. This ambitious and driven young player is not prepared to give up on his deam of one day playing in the Champions League just yet.