When I was asked to be an ambassador for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship 2018, I did not hesitate in accepting; it was a simple decision.
I remember playing – and winning – the tournament, so I am proud and honoured to help. I have great memories of playing in the competition back in 2010 and 2011. The nerves and excitement I went through before the Championships were unreal.
And I am sure it will be the same for the young players who will be taking part this year in an England jersey – especially now it is just less than 100 days until it begins.
- Born: 12/12/1994, Freetown, Sierra Leone
- Clubs: Chelsea, Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading, Napoli (all loan), Watford
- Caps: U16, U17, U19, U20, U21
- Honours: U17 Euro 2010, FA Youth Cup 2012, Toulon Tournament 2016, Premier League 2017
- Twitter/Instagram: @Chalobah
Some of the biggest names in world football today have all played in the Championships previously. I remember when I played back in Liechtenstein 2010 and France had Paul Pogba in their side and Gerard Deulofeu was playing for Spain. And then in Serbia 2011, France had Kurt Zouma and the Netherlands had Memphis Depay while Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford and Nathan Redmond were in our squad.
But that England team of 2010 was very talented as well, we had the likes of Ross Barkley and Jack Butland in our squad – players who have kicked on with the senior team. In the semi-finals, we beat France and then Spain in the final.
The final was probably one of the longest 35 minutes of football I’ve played – it was just fantastic to do it with a group of lads who had been together for such a long time. It was a relief to win the tournament.
The competition is a platform for young players to really showcase their talent – the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Gotze and Pogba have played in it, so it’s an opportunity to show how good you are.
I feel like some of the young boys going into this tournament – it’s an opportunity for them to show what they can do and really kick-on in their careers.
It is also very exciting for England to be hosting the tournament and for the fans in the communities. It’s not very often you get players from the best clubs in Europe, who are playing for their country, coming to your local area to feature in competitive football, especially in a prestigious tournament. So this an opportunity for kids to go out there and watch talent from all over Europe. It’s a chance to wave the flags as high as they can, join in with the songs and cheer the players on and just give them as much support as they can.
I looked forward to it every time I got called up for England and it was always an honour to put on the shirt for the Young Lions at age-group level.
For me, it was a matter of taking it game-by-game, trip-by-trip and just enjoying myself and playing with a smile on my face. I wanted to make sure every time I went away with England I enjoyed myself and I really did enjoy it the whole time.
The first thing you must remember is it’s always an honour to get called up – if you’re fit and healthy then it is a massive deal to represent your country.
And I feel like it’s an opportunity to really test yourself against the best of the best from different nations and that for me was what motivated me in the games we played.
I really wanted to see how good I was against other opposition – that would probably be my advice to some of the lads coming up – take the opportunity, enjoy it and just do the best you can.
The lads who won the tournament with me in 2010 had been together for two years before – we had developed good friendships between each other even though we were playing against each other week in, week out at club level, so when we met up with England we were like a family.
I felt like when we went into the Championships, that was probably one of our biggest advantages playing together as a group, we’d known each other for a while.
We had that connection, we had that team bonding and I felt like we showed that on the pitch in those championships. In the end, it paid off because we won the competition.
Now it has come full circle and I am now an ambassador so it’s an opportunity for me to pass on my experience onto the younger lads who are taking part in this tournament. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.