Anton Walkes remembered: Charlotte FC hold Celebration of Life

Anton Walkes 1

Stories and tears flowed as Anton Walkes was remembered in an emotional hour-long Celebration of Life at Charlotte FC’s Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, close friend Mohamed Khalifa, Charlotte FC player Andre Shinyashiki, head coach Christian Lattanzio and technical director Bobby Belair spoke about the impact Walkes made on and off the field – as a player, teammate and friend.

Walkes passed away on Jan. 19 following an accident in South Florida. He was 25 years old.

“Unlike many of you, I wasn't fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Anton. But as I’ve read so many tributes and listened to those who knew him as a father, as a son, as a teammate and a friend, one thing was abundantly clear: Anton was a good man,” Garber said. “And he represented everything that’s great about our sport, and everything that’s great about our league.

“We’re a league where players are more than just players. You care about each other not just as devoted teammates, but as partners that support and love each other on and off the field.”

Walkes was also honored in video tributes from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, as well as close friends from England.

He developed through the Tottenham academy before debuting in 2016, then joined Atlanta United ahead of their MLS expansion season in 2017. Walkes spent three seasons with the Five Stripes before being selected in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft by Charlotte FC, leading to 93 MLS games played.

Walkes was remembered as a loving and loyal friend, someone who always had his teammate’s back. An emotional Shinyashiki spoke about how Walkes sprinted across the field to support midfielder Derrick Jones following a hard tackle and remembered his message after Shinyashiki scored against Nashville SC.

“Anton grabbed my jersey and my face, and said, ‘Kiss this badge, man. This is our club. Our house,” said Shinyashiki, who joined teammates in wearing Walkes’ black and mint green No. 5 jersey. “We aren’t letting anybody come in here and disrespect us.’ And I just wish I could hear you say that again one more time.”

While Walkes won’t be in the Charlotte FC XI, Lattanzio said the defender will continue to have an impact on the second-year club. His legacy will live on.

“I’m not going to talk about him in the past tense. I said to the boys: ‘I’m always going to talk about him in the present tense because I want Anton to be with us,'” Lattanzio said. “I feel his presence and that gives me strength.

” … The promise I can make on behalf of all of us, the coaching staff, the club, football players is that we will honor him on a daily basis. He will be with us, home and away, and the extra strength that we will have this season, without a doubt, will come from Anton.”