This Black History Month, we take a deeper dive into the journeys of two Academy players and reflect on how despite coming from different backgrounds, their work ethic and role models have pushed them to be the players they are today...
Bashir Humphreys and Omari Hutchinson are two players who have featured heavily for Chelsea’s Under-21 team this season, and they have both been speaking about how proud they are to be black and what it means to them for different reasons.
In a sit-down with both players, Humphreys expressed that his drive and determination stems from, among a number of things, the role models he has chosen to learn from.
‘My main idol is Kobe Bryant, and that’s without me being the biggest basketball fan,’ he says. ‘A large reason for this is because of his mentality and application to his craft.
‘He’ll always be remembered for giving 100 per cent no matter the obstacles that he faced, in addition to being the person more often than not that his team-mates relied upon. That same mentality and work ethic is what I want to be remembered for.’
Humphreys, captain for both the Under-19 UEFA Youth League campaign as well as the Under-21 team, has already been involved in three different competitions for two age groups so is accustomed to being the person that people look to for inspiration.
The Mamba mentality coined by the late Kobe Bryant means ‘just trying to get better every day’. It’s the simplest form of just trying to get better at whatever you’re doing. This is a mindset that as a young black man Humphreys has decided to immerse himself in.
‘Being a young black man in the Chelsea Academy and captaining the sides that I play with will always be a massive achievement for me,’ he continues.
‘I think it is always important to appreciate how far I have come. However I think I owe it to myself, to the young black players in the younger age groups and to young black footballers everywhere to continue applying the work ethic that has helped me get this far.
‘I just want young black individuals in whatever profession to feel like it’s possible for them to achieve their dreams as long as the dedication matches the ambition.’
While it is important for us to celebrate Black History Month in terms of how much we have achieved, it is still important to raise awareness on the struggles black people have faced and continue to face even today.
Summer signing Hutchinson, who joined Chelsea from Arsenal, placed a focus on the need for reform within football and on social media platforms due to the abuse players suffer.
‘Even though I have not personally suffered racist abuse, I have heard stories from friends and people I don’t know on the impact that this abuse plays in their life.
‘No human should have to go through that, and it is a major problem if we create a habit of not dealing with it in the right way.’
Brentford striker Ivan Toney is one of the latest footballers to have racist abuse directed his way through social media and the lack of accountability for individuals behind such abuse is something that troubles Hutchinson.
‘It’s a serious problem that we face right now in sport, where it appears that athletes are not being protected from the vile and toxic nature of some of the abuse.
‘We just want to be able to play the game we all know and love without thinking about whether we will be attacked because of the colour of our skin.
'Gestures like "taking the knee" can never lose its value and if we rally together and remain focused on driving change, we will see the society we want.
Marked in the UK for more than 30 years, Black History Month takes place in October and aims to celebrate the achievements and contributions of the black community over the years.
Both Humphreys and Hutchinson, who come from two different backgrounds, have provided two different perspectives on what Black History Month means to them. For all that we have achieved as a community in the past 30 years, there is still room for greater improvement in the next 30.