A full international at the age of 18, Callum Hudson-Odoi has this week opened up about the bigoted abuse faced by him and fellow England players such as Raheem Sterling, and what it’s like to go to school in South Croydon and be chased by a menacing peacock
Whitgift winger Callum Hudson-Odoi has added his voice to calls for an end to racist chanting and abuse in football.
The 18-year-old Chelsea player and under-17s World Cup-winner started his first match for the senior England side in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro in March, where he and a number of team mates, including Player of the Year Raheem Sterling and Spurs defender Danny Rose, were subjected to racist chanting.
Hudson-Odoi attended Whitgift School in South Croydon, where he admitted this week he “ran away from a peacock because I thought it was gonna rush me”.
Hudson-Odoi also made it clear that he wants no more of the evil of racism when he plays football. “Just everybody stop the racial abuse,” he said.
“I just want to live my life. I just want to play football and make my family proud.”
Montenegro have been ordered by Uefa to play their next home match behind closed doors as punishment.
“To be hearing stuff from the crowd saying, ‘You’re a monkey’ or, ‘Ooh-ah-ah’, stuff like that, for me it’s, ‘Why? Why do that evil?’ How can you even racially talk about someone else, or discriminate against them because they’re a different colour to you?”
Sterling’s goal celebration after scoring England’s fifth against Montenegro deliberately drew attention to the bigots in the home crowd. “Best way to silence the haters (yeah I mean racists),” he posted on social media.
In the case of Rose, he said after the game that the levels of abuse and racism he encounters as a professional footballer makes him look forward to the day when he finishes his playing career.
“I had so much respect for Raheem when he scored and did the celebration and the Instagram post after,” Hudson-Odoi said this week in an interview with The Players’ Tribune. “But no player should ever go through the racism and discrimination Raheem has had to go through. It’s not right.
“If anything, the chants backfired,” Hudson-Odoi said.
“When it happened during the game, it didn’t put me off my game, but instead made me more motivated to beat them and make sure we won.”
Hudson-Odoi’s season ended last month when he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in the Premier League game against Burnley. It means he will miss the chance of playing in the Europa League Final in Baku against Arsenal later this month.
As he recovers from the surgery on his injury, he has explained what it was like attending Whitgift’s £21,000 per year independent school.
“Whitgift isn’t your typical school. As soon as you walk through its gates, it’s like entering another world. On my first day there, I remember seeing this massive football pitch as my dad drove through the grounds.
“But it didn’t look like your typical school pitch. It looked the way you see the ones on TV, all crisp and smooth. I thought to myself, ‘This is gonna be different’.
“You gotta imagine some Henry VIII type vibe. Big, big libraries with books older than my house. They had a maze. Honest to God, there was an actual maze, and you could go running about it like you were Harry Potter or something.
“My friends who went to different schools would roast me for it. ‘Cal’s off to Hogwarts’, and all that. But really, what could I say? My school had wallabies and flamingos just walking about. Just having a stroll.
“And this peacock. The first time I saw it.
“Look, I’m a kid from South London, I didn’t know what a peacock was outside a storybook. So there I am, some young kid, just trying to find my way around, and I see this bird looking at me.
“It was a shakedown. This bird was proper watching my face as if it wanted to ask what my postcode was. I was like, ‘Uh? What’s this?’
“And then it came edging closer to me. Creeping. And I was like, ‘Whoa, what are you doing?’
“I was trying to back away. It’s not like you can beef a bird. Then it rushed me! Chest all puffed out like it was about to swing for me.
“And, I can’t lie, I ran away. And not just the once. I ran away from that peacock most of the time I was at school.”
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