Chelsea's Trevoh Chalobah on 'unbelievable journey' from Sunday league to Champions League
Tuesday, 5 April 2022
"When I started playing football, I wanted to be a legend." Trevoh Chalobah talks ambition, overcoming self-doubt, battling 'Turbo' Timo Werner and more. Follow Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid with UEFA.com.
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Defender Trevoh Chalobah followed in his brother Nathaniel's footsteps as he made it from playing casual football in his London neighbourhood, Gipsy Hill, to the first team at Chelsea.
The Sierra Leone-born brothers played Sunday league football until Nathaniel was picked up by west London side Fulham. Chelsea soon recruited Nathaniel after coming up against their neighbours, and Trevoh raised his game as he looked to follow his older brother's example.
"When I saw that, I just started to step it up a bit more," the 22-year-old says in an interview for FedEx's Next in Line. "A few weeks after, Chelsea came in for me."
Joining the Blues' youth ranks proved to be a massive step up for Trevoh. Playing in the same teams as future England stars Mason Mount and Declan Rice, he admits he doubted his own ability at times.
"I remember I used to be in the car with my scout because he used to take me to training and back home. I'd start to cry in the back of the car, saying: 'I'm not good enough, this is too hard for me.'"
However, a breakthrough was made as the club spotted some untapped potential in Chalobah. "One of our coaches said: 'I'm gonna try you at the back'," he recalls. "I started doing well there! And then I started to believe in myself more. I had the height, I had the strength. I improved on my speed. From U16 onwards, that's when I started to step up."
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Chalobah honed his skills during loan spells with Ipswich, Huddersfield and French side Lorient, making his Chelsea debut in the 2021 UEFA Super Cup, where the Blues overcame Villarreal on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Belfast.
"I remember the meeting two hours before the game and I saw I was in the starting line-up," he says. "I was shocked but at the same time, happy and nervous. It would be my first UEFA final for the club. I was just so pumped up for the game. You want to impress and you want a chance to get a trophy. We ended up doing that and it was just a great way to start the season."
Chalobah's horizons were further broadened in November 2021 when he made his UEFA Champions League debut. He rose to the occasion, opening the scoring and being named Player of the Match in a 4-0 win against Juventus.
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The challenge now is to maintain the momentum, with Chalobah pushing himself in the gym to improve his performances.
'I'm always working on my speed," he says. "After every game when we get into training, it will be on the screen: the max speed we hit, the work rate, the speeds, the decelerations, everything. My highest would be probably 34km/h. That's pretty quick, to be fair, but I think the highest is Timo Werner. I think he's got 36 or 37. 'Timo Turbo': that's what we call him."
Chalobah is determined to maintain the pace of his own career. "Not everything is gonna be in a straight line. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs and you've got to be willing to go through it and come out of it at the other side.
"When I started playing football, I wanted to be a legend, wherever I'd be; be that person that's inspired young kids, that's led a good path, and obviously that's remembered. From representing a Sunday league team, to then one of the biggest clubs in the world, yeah, it's an unbelievable journey."