Nathaniel Chalobah is ready to stake his claim as London's best new baller. After coming of age at Chelsea, the 23-year-old made the jump to North London with Watford he's on track to becoming one of the Premier League's most dynamic and entertaining prospects.
Chalobah's style of play is London through and through. There's an irrepressible confidence and control to his game, alongside an attitude that only comes from growing up in the city. The pitch, much like the cages and courts he grew up in, is treated like a blank canvas for expression and creativity.
It's this unmistakable vibe that's led to Chalobah being selected as one of 258 inspirational Londoners to appear in Nike's new campaign, 'Nothing Beats a Londoner', which celebrates the city's global contribution to sport and culture.
Nathaniel Chalobah opened up to talk about why inner cities are the perfect breeding ground for elite athletes and why Gipsy Hill will always feel like home.
“I wish I could go back and see if kids still play out on the estate like we used to.”
VERSUS: What was it like growing up in Gipsy Hill?
Nathaniel Chalobah: I lived on an estate and we had a cage, so everyone would play football there, and everyone knew each other. Growing up was fun times. It was a rough area, but as I got older I got to know more people and it got better. Everyone enjoyed doing different things but when we had the chance to play football, everyone got along. It was really competitive, but I have some really good memories and I wish I could go back and see if kids still play out on the estate like we used to.
Do you think playing on the estates has translated into how you play football now?
Yeah in a way. When we were younger it was about who had the most tricks, who could do the most nutmegs, who had the most flair and I would stay out and do tricks outside my garden for ages. But when I signed for an academy and started doing tricks I realised it’s a lot harder than that. As the game goes on, you’ve got to learn a lot more.
Do you think playing football that young had a positive impact on you?
Definitely. Especially having a cage on the estate, if you went in there everyone knew you were going to play football. Then other estates would come around and we would have tournaments. Stuff like that.
“I’m a South London boy. When I went to different tournaments I wanted to compete against the best in different boroughs.”
What are some of your favourite things about London?
Just the hustle and bustle of everything, and the diversity of everything. I can go into town and see so many different people, nationalities, languages, and that is one of the best things about London for me.
What do you think makes young Londoners like yourself so unique and aspirational?
Personally, it’s that I’m a South London boy. When I went to different tournaments I wanted to compete against the best in different boroughs. We would always have the London Youth Games and it would be so competitive. But I feel like everyone has their own identity in London.
What advice would you give to young Londoners trying to chase their dreams and be the best versions of themselves?
Believe in yourself, work hard and stay focused as much as you can. If you’ve got a goal, stick to it.
Why does nothing beat a Londoner?
That’s quite powerful to me, because it means that we’re quite strong and, despite being from different areas and boroughs, we’re all very united.
To find out more about the Nothing Beats a Londoner campaign and sign up to Beat This Week, visit Nike.com.