Stars are among the most mesmerising and awe inspiring sights in the world. Their magic has captured people’s imaginations for millenia. From Galileo to Disney, stars have been at the centre of science and stories forever. And although some people have even spent their lives dedicated to studying these dazzling, astronomical objects, very few have worked out how to become one. Eberechi Eze is one of them.
The born and bred South Londoner grew up a stone’s throw away from the world famous Greenwich Royal Observatory, which might explain why his skills on the pitch are out of this world. One of the brightest stars to come out of South in recent years, Eze’s rise to the top is one that has inspired countless others - and although he is a star in his own right, he works hard to ensure he inspires those around him to reach new heights too.
Despite growing up by the river, the Crystal Palace baller’s Premier League journey hasn’t been plain sailing. But for every setback he’s encountered along the way to the top, it’s made for an even bigger comeback. The starboy of ‘Concrete Catalonia’ has overcome rejections and injuries like no one else in the game, but his perseverance and commitment to be the very best version of himself has resulted in a milestone not many have reached: a collaborative boot with New Balance.
Inspired by the stars that can be seen from the same observatory he grew up near, and the light that famously shines out his hometown of Greenwich, Eze and NB’s ‘Furon 7 Starraiser Edition’ is a nod to humble beginnings and a reminder to never give up on your dreams.
The 24-year-old worked closely with NB's design team on the 'Starraiser', drawing on his early memories of playing football in Greenwich Park. The green graphics running across the boot are inspired by the constellation of stars viewable from the observatory, symbolising his drive to reach for the stars; whilst the 'Blue Moonshadow' colourway is reminiscent of the kit worn by Eze's first team as a junior player. To launch the boot, Eze came together with a current age group from the same club to show what's possible for young people looking to follow in his footsteps.
Ahead of the boot drop, VERSUS caught up with Eze to discuss the release, his footballing journey and what advice he has for young ballers looking to emulate his success.
Photography: Elliot Simpson for VERSUS
VERSUS: What does it mean to have worked on this collaborative design with New Balance and what’s the concept behind it?
Eberechi Eze: Man…I can’t even begin to explain this! It’s really hard for me to own this and be like, “yeah! This is me!” because I am honestly so grateful to be here, living in this moment and experiencing something like this. Where I have come from, the things I have seen…to grow up and be right ‘here’ and have the opportunity to have this [the boot] – it’s almost unbelievable.
In regards to the player you are today, how important was playing football on your estate?
Playing football on the estate was huge for me. It allowed me to enjoy and express myself – I would say it’s played a huge part in the type of player I am today and what I enjoy doing.
You were born and raised in South London, it’s your home – and you’re now playing professional football with a club in the area, too. What is it about South London that creates big ballers?
With South London, I don’t know if it’s an energy that just moves around but there is this determination in everyone.
Everyone wants to be the best they can be. Everyone wants to make strides to do better and find some sort of motivation to move from where you are because in most places, not just South London, it can be quite difficult. There is an inner determination to achieve and help the people around you. That plays a huge part in why there are so many success stories.
“I’m grateful to the people who gave me the opportunity to play this way, without restrictions. Without those people along the way, I would not be here today.”
It’s well known that your journey consisted of several setbacks. How did you keep bouncing back?
My faith was key. My belief in God and trusting that his plan is always perfect – no matter what my circumstances look like – was a huge thing for me. It kept me grounded and focussed but I’d also say that having belief in myself was huge. Regardless of the situation I’m in, it’s down to me to do everything I can to move on and keep progressing. I’m grateful to my parents and family for giving me that faith, and their support from the very beginning has helped me to become the player and person I am today.
Your playing style is so unique. How have you managed to maintain it despite so many rejections on your journey?
I didn’t actually maintain it – and that’s probably why I received more rejections. As a young kid, being rejected or getting released really knocks your confidence and can easily discourage you from being the type of player you want to be. But through the grace of God I was able to regain myself. I know there are many people who get released and can’t find their way back, so I’m very thankful that I was able to restore a belief in myself that lets me play freely.
With where I am now, I really understand that playing like ‘this’ means I’m showcasing the very best version of myself.
I’m also grateful to the people who gave me the opportunity to play this way, without restrictions. Without those people along the way, I would not be here today.
“I am grateful to God that I was chosen, and I pray that I can do everything I can to help those who are looking to me for inspiration.”
Not many people become professional footballers. What does it mean to be known as a star within the community?
I don’t know how I feel about that, you know? I think I’m just so blessed and grateful to even be in this position. And to have some sort of influence and help the people who are on their own journeys, including those around me, it’s a special feeling. It’s a privilege.
I can’t express anything other than gratitude and thankfulness because there are so many kids who I grew up with, or people nowadays elsewhere who have worked hard too, who weren’t ‘chosen’. So, I am grateful to God that I was, and I pray that I can do everything I can to help those who are looking to me for inspiration.
How important is community in ensuring that everyone can chase their dreams?
Community is vital for young people growing up. From encounters they have on their estates or streets to the opportunities they’re granted in the hope that they’ll make something of themselves. I think community should always be a big focus. Not just for government and policymakers but each individual has influence and a part to play in making the world a better place.
It should be a focus for everyone to build better communities.
Many people have a ‘North Star’ when it comes to unlocking achievements. As you are a South representative, what is your ‘South Star’?
South Star! That’s a new one, sounds mad!
For me, it’s just to be the best version of myself and continue to improve every single day. To be the best influence I can be to the people who watch and look up to me. I know that I’ve been given some type of responsibility which I’m grateful to have, and I just pray that I can continue on the journey that I’m on and never forget to enjoy it.
A few years ago, the milestone was your Premier League move. Two years ago, we spoke about you becoming a New Balance athlete. And now, you’ve just worked with the brand on their most recent boot release. If you had one lesson for younger Ebs, what would that lesson be and why?
My lesson for younger Ebs would be: just chill out man!
It would be to relax and enjoy the journey along with the process. As difficult as it may be, just know that you are being tested so that you can be built for the future and whatever there is to come. It’s the testing of your character that builds you. I think knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried as much. A lot of things you worry about don’t actually matter or materialise into anything worth worrying about, either.
The main thing should be to enjoy the present moment and continue being your best. That would be my lesson to younger Ebs.
“The colourway is of my Sunday League team, so to know that I’ve come from there to here – this is the stuff of dreams.”
What do you want this boot and this moment to symbolise for future generations?
I want this boot to symbolise the fact that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. If you have faith and believe in yourself and put in the work, anything is possible.
For me, this is big! I am grateful to be in this position. Even the colourway is of my Sunday League team, so to know that I’ve come from there to here…this is the stuff of dreams.
Even seeing the kids here today who play for the same team as me. It’s a full circle moment, and to have them here witnessing this is a blessing. I never got to be on set with anyone at 14-years-old, but having been their age and knowing what they’re going through, this is a humbling moment for me.
I can’t describe all of this in any other way than, ‘gratitude’. I am fully aware that so many other people could be in this position and for some reason, God chose me. This shoot, this boot release, this moment and meeting these young players…it will sit with me forever.
Get a full look at the New Balance Starraiser Furon v7 below, and buy now from New Balance.