In the final part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, defender Bashir Humphreys talks us through how he came to love football, his swimming days and playing for England.
What’s your earliest memory of playing football?
My earliest memory of playing football is from when I was seven years old. It was in 2010 - the World Cup year - and up until that point I had hated football. But my friend convinced me to give it a go after first getting me into Match Attax trading cards, which were very popular at the time. From then on, I started playing football at school and fell in love with it.
Where did you play your football before Chelsea?
I played for a few different clubs. I joined my first team Caversham AFC when I was nine. They were a local team who I played for until I was picked up by Reading, which was the closest Academy to me and I played for them until my Under-12s year when I got released.
For the next two years, I spent time at three different local clubs - Caversham Trents, Reading Pumas and Rotherfield, which carried me until the end of my Under-14s season when I first trialled at Chelsea.
Have you played in any other positions?
Throughout my life I have played predominantly in two positions; centre-back and central midfield. As a young player, I started off in midfield as I wanted to be involved in the game as much as possible. I enjoyed the defensive side of the game but I loved scoring goals as well. I have interchanged between the two positions throughout my life but since being at Chelsea I mainly play centre-back, which is my preference.
Did you have any idols?
As a youngster I looked up to Cristiano Ronaldo a lot. I used to sit at the computer watching videos of how to take knuckleball free-kicks like he did. I’d then go to the courts across the road and try my best to replicate it. I also admired Neymar a lot as he was a young player himself and he just looked like he was on the pitch having fun. He was fearless and brought a lot of flair and excitement to the game.
Were you into other sports as a youngster?
My mum had a rule growing up that all of us kids had to learn how to swim and to be strong swimmers so from a really young age she would take me and my sister to swimming lessons. I did this for five years and was becoming pretty good - I even had the option to swim competitively but this was at the same time that I was falling in love with football and I couldn’t do both as they fell on the same days. My mum said that I had to choose and I chose football.
What’s your first memory of watching football?
My first experience of watching football was Match of the Day. Back then, I was the only football fan in the house so we had no live sports channels. Each Sunday morning, as soon as I woke up, I’d go downstairs and watch it. Wayne Rooney’s iconic goal against Manchester City also sticks in my head as it was the first bicycle kick I’d ever seen.
What footballing memory from your career sticks in your mind?
A fond footballing memory for me was my debut game for England. It was at the end of a four-day camp during the February half-term and we were playing against Belgium. This was in my Under-15 year and the camps were full with over 20 players. We had two teams and switched the entire 11 after the first 90 minutes. I played in the first game and we performed well, even though we hadn’t really played together and we got a good 2-0 win.
I had a good game and a clean sheet was a massive bonus. It was a huge moment for me as I had still been playing grassroots football just 12 months earlier. To play for England makes me extremely proud.