It goes without saying that the internet has revolutionised the way we interact with football. From social media to instantly uploading highlights but for one young footballer, the internet has provided him with so much more. It has provided him with a whole new world of opportunity.
“My move came about when the club saw a video of me playing on the internet. They then contacted us and I went on trial.”
They are the words of Kobe Jae Chong, a midfielder from Birmingham who is still two weeks shy of his 17th birthday. The club who saw his highlight reel were Italian Serie A club Cagliari and it is where Jae still plays his football now.
Having previously played at West Bromwich Albion and Kidderminster Harriers, the move to Italy was an opportunity too good to turn down for the talented young midfielder. After impressing on trial, he soon moved to Italy to join his father who had already made the move to continental Europe.
The 16-year-old who describes himself as a creative and skilful midfielder with bags of flair, noticed a difference in the style of play immediately.
“The biggest difference is definitely the focus on the defensive side of play and the tactics. There’s always a highly detailed game plan and it’s your homework to study it and master it on game day.”
This season has been a huge learning curve for Jae who has been featuring for the club’s under-17 side. After being unable to play for most of his first season in Italy due to eligibility issues, this season he has made twelve appearances, all of which were from the bench, against the youth sides of teams like Inter Milan and Lazio. He even took on Inter’s very talented young striker Edoardo Vergani, an Italy U17 international who Jae names as the best he has ever played against.
“This season hasn’t been easy for me,” he says. “I haven’t been a regular but I’ve learnt a lot and matured a lot as a player and a person so it’s been a success on that side of things. I’ve still improved a lot!”
The former West Brom man has certainly made an impact however, he scored in a training game against the club’s first team which saw him earn a mention on the Italian Sky Sports website and he also trialled at Portuguese giants Sporting CP on two occasions.
Outside of football, he attends a local school in a village in Cagliari region called Decimomannu but his passion definitely remains for football.
“My ambitions are just to become a professional footballer. I don’t know where, that’s a hard question. But if I had a choice I would definitely choose a team back in England.”
His Italian adventure isn’t over yet however, and the 16-year-old who looks up to new Liverpool signing Naby Keita as his aspiration is still a Cagliari player and has another year on his contract but he will be 17 at the start of next season and regular game time will surely be a priority.
But there is also something else in his future which is undecided, his international allegiance. Both his parents are English but with his dad’s heritage being Malaysian Chinese and his mum’s being Jamaican, he has a lot of options.
“I would like to play for England as that’s every boys dream but I also wouldn’t mind playing for Jamaica either!” he says.
Whoever Jae decides to play for in the future, there’s no doubt that his experience in Italy will be a beneficial one. Not many young players get the chance to experience football abroad at such a young age and being removed from your comfort zone so early can only prepare you for what’s to come in the future. We haven’t heard the last of Kobe Jae Chong.