Cherno Samba reflects on his crazy and sometimes suffocating life as a soccer boy wonder.
About 20 years later, much of what he has been through is burned into his mind, experiences that he can remember as if they were yesterday.
“I remember coming home from school one time and one of my friends said,“ Cherno, two people are waiting for you at the bus stop, ”began the 35-year-old Samba.
Former English child prodigy Cherno Samba informs Sportsmail about his career struggles
As a youth, Samba (above) has been named one of the best strikers in world football
“I put my head out, saw two guys standing there and said,” I’m not coming out, I don’t know what they want. “
“In the end, because you were walking with some of your friends, we all came out together and said,” Let’s go, let’s go. “
“We tried to leave and they came up to me and said,” Hi Cherno, my name is X, I’m from Joe Bloggs [agency] can we talk to you “
“I said” talk about what? “They carried on.“ Can we talk to your parents? ”And this and that. I just got on the bus and left quickly.
Samba’s career did not materialize, despite the fame he received as a teenager
“They were people I didn’t know, but they also came from agencies and clubs.
“After I remember my headmaster had to prevent that, people came to my school. Then they would show up at my house instead.
“I didn’t know how the hell they knew where I lived. Some of them would show up at my training ground. It was chaos. That messed me up.”
It was a small snapshot of the attention that Samba could hardly escape at one point in his life.
His ability to score goals had made him the most wanted teenager in the country and he apparently had the world at his feet.
Samba was once the hottest teenage boy in England and the biggest clubs wanted him
But his talents were also exposed to a darker side of the game, which helped keep him from not reaching the expected heights and eventually spiraling into depression.
No wonder he’s now returned to the game as a player representative to steer the careers of the next generation. He says, “I was there in the system and lived it, so there is no better person who can lead me these players to where they should be. ‘
At the top of the world, samba was given as a tip two decades ago.
As he soared through the Millwall ranks, student goalscoring records, including one from Michael Owen, were “broken”.
Teddy Sheringham once described samba as “the best talent I have ever seen”.
Samba was designated to partner with Wayne Rooney to win the three lions for the 2006 World Cup.
As a teenager, Samba was selected to partner with Wayne Rooney (above) at the 2006 World Cup
Every big club in the country wanted him and Liverpool were on the verge of signing Samba in 2000, hiring Owen on their charm offensive to lure him to Anfield via Manchester United, Arsenal and Leeds, among others.
“I was sponsored by Nike and could get anything I wanted,” explained Samba as he discussed some of the advantages of his status.
“If I went to a restaurant with my friends near me, I wouldn’t pay anything.”
“People told me I would be a millionaire by 19. Stupid things like that.” This conversation got stuck in my head so the hard work got out of the way. “
The move to Liverpool never came off as they did not make a deal with Millwall.
Samba describes a failed move from Millwall to Liverpool as the beginning of the downward curve
At this crucial intersection, Samba says, “All I got was more hope and false promises. “You will be a millionaire at 19, so don’t worry.” They told me what I wanted to hear and not what was best for me. “
In retrospect, Samba, whose fame was only increased by the star he later got in the popular computer game Championship Manager, wishes that he could develop under the radar rather than in the burning spotlight.
And what he needed was home truths and help instead of hanging himself up
“Someone who supports me, runs the race with me and says,” Wait a minute, you’re only 15 years old. You have all of your years ahead of you. This deal can come back, but you have to work, work, work, ”he explained.
Samba has managed to cling to fame through its Championship Manager video game status
“People weren’t honest with me. They wanted me to feel good and tell myself what I want to hear, not the truth, so that I can get away with murder if I can say that.
“They always made excuses for me for some reason … if they didn’t want me to be upset about them, if they wanted to make me happy, whatever, but I wasn’t getting the truth from people.” From clubs, agents, friends, everything. I look back now and say to myself, “I will never be that person and that’s why I’m so honest with my kids, my friends.”
The obsession with the money he could make was particularly troubling.
“At the age of 15 that was all I cared about, especially if the deal didn’t go through.” [to Liverpool]. All I was interested in was, “Right, how do I make sure I’m a millionaire?” Because I had heard this since I was 14.
Samba was promised to be a millionaire as a teenager, but his career failed