FRISCO - One month into its inaugural preseason and North Texas SC’s squad is on the verge of being finalized. As expected, the roster is largely comprised of younger players at the dawn of their soccer careers, looking to make a name for themselves. However, one player—discovered in an open tryout—stands in stark contrast to his youthful teammates.
Anthony Bardon, a 26-year-old midfielder with an eye for a pass and a knack for controlling the tempo of the game, comes to North Texas SC with years of professional experience both at the club and international levels.
Although he was born in London, Bardon represents his mother’s nation of Gibraltar—a British overseas territory located on the isthmus between Spain and Morocco at the mouth of the Mediterranean.
While playing for Gibraltar in European qualifiers, Bardon faced some of Europe’s elite teams and players including Robert Lewandowski, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne—the latter two of whom recently helped Belgium to a third-place finish at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
At the club level, Bardon played professionally in England and Gibraltar. He even competed in the early rounds of the UEFA Champions League with Gibraltar’s top club, Lincoln Red Imps, occasionally playing in front of crowds of over 50,000 spectators.
However, the high-stress environment associated with soccer at the top European level began to sap Bardon’s love for the sport itself.
“To be honest, I had lost my love for soccer completely,” Bardon said. “I had lost it. I was at the point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, it was so stressful and nonstop. I had lost a lot of love for it. I was thinking of quitting soccer completely.”
Seeking a change, Bardon moved to the Texas where his mother and American stepfather lived, and began taking online sports management classes. In January, a few months after moving, a friend recommended that he try-out for FC Dallas’ new USL affiliate, North Texas SC.
Following a successful tryout, Bardon found himself in preseason competing for a contract and spot on a professional team once again—just months after he’d made the choice to leave the game for good. However, his new role as a senior figure in the locker room helped change his outlook on his profession.
“I’m really enjoying not only playing soccer again, but I enjoy helping the young players learn parts of their game and speaking to them on the pitch,” Bardon said. “This club, and this whole organization, has given me a new love for the game again, and that’s the biggest thing.”
But Bardon’s mentorship doesn’t end at the final whistle. He feels a sense of responsibility to help the young players navigate the many pitfalls an emerging pro player may endure off the field.
“Professional athletes are exposed to a lot of things at a very young age and it can go to your head—make you think you’re bigger than you are,” Bardon said. “I want to help them in that sense. Help them keep their focus on the right things, focus on training and working hard every day and then the blessings will come.”
Although he is relishing his new quasi-advisory role, Bardon knows that lending a helping hand to the young players is not enough to warrant a contract offer from the club, or a starting spot in the team. He’s well aware the most important thing is to show his worth and quality on the field.
“Just because I’ve played in Europe, that doesn’t mean anything here,” Bardon admitted. “I’ve got to prove myself on the pitch every single day. That’s what it is.”
Should Bardon impress North Texas’ coaching staff and make the final cut before the season kicks off on March 30, his experience of winning titles and playing in Europe’s top competitions could prove invaluable to the club’s ambitions.
“My mindset is to win the championship.” Bardon said. “That’s what we work for every day, that’s why we train in 25-degree weather. That title is what we’re working towards.”