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Chi's Diary: My Life As a Professional Footballer

In her first diary entry, Chi gets to grips with London and begins her Arsenal career with a bang
Image: Arsenal Ladies

London-born U.S international Chioma Ubogagu joined Arsenal Ladies for the 2015 FA Women's Super League season. In her first diary entry she recalls her arrival in the city and on the pitch.


Growing up, my dad frequently asked me what I'd like to be when I was older. With two big brothers I was the epitome of a tomboy – all I ever did was what they did. "I want to be a professional football player, Daddy!" Time is round, and it rolls quickly. The future quickly became the present and a long desired dream swiftly turned into a surreal reality.

My family moved from London to America when I was three, so my memories of the city are as foggy as the weather. Now football has brought me back across the Atlantic to my birth town, and I am astonished by its grandeur. I spent the first two weeks familiarising myself with the public transportation – trains, the Tube, double-decker buses. I was trying to be a real Londoner, but instead I just got real lost. My detour was still enjoyable as it led me to London Bridge. Walking across it twice – I couldn't find the station I needed – was the first of many explorations I look forward to experiencing.



On my first day here I was met at the airport by Del, who is the sweetest man. He made me a cute sign so I knew who was picking me up. We chatted for the majority of the ride, and he told me all the Arsenal men's players he's also picked up from Heathrow. When I arrived at my new home, my housemates/team-mates showed me my room. Smiling at me from my bed was an extremely generous amount of gear – Merry Christmas to Chi!

Playing for Paul Ratcliffe at Stanford University for four seasons taught me a lot, and I was excited to see how I would adjust to the European game. After just a few minutes at training it was clear that the tempo was quite different in London. My body was not only acclimatising to the new time zone, but also to the increased pace of the game. I struggled in timing my runs and finding the correct angles in my movements. Practices were demanding, not so much physically but mentality – the level was sophisticated. My team-mates knew what they wanted to do with the ball not one or two passes ahead, but three and four. I started to question whether I was resilient enough to compete. In the end, I tried to remind myself that it was only day one, and I put forth all my effort into learning the Arsenal way as quickly as possible.


Game Day! My roommates were absolutely buzzing; it was easy to join the hive. It was an away game, and the atmosphere was edgy. As our coach pulled into the stadium Notts County's supporters starred us down. It was a tremendous environment.

In the locker room, I think it finally hit me that I was playing professional football. Yes, I'd moved thousands of miles away from home and yes I'd been training with a completely new team prior to the match, but those all seemed like subtle changes compared to that moment. When I saw my last name on the back of an Arsenal kit – that's when it really sunk in. My Godfather use to buy me the new Arsenal kit every year and even pay the extra fee to stitch my surname in the back, but now I wasn't just a long time Arsenal supporter anymore. My Godfather could save his money – I was a player. I was an Arsenal Ladies player.


It may have been nerves, but we were a shell of our usual selves during the first 45 minutes. We weren't connecting passes like normal, and we seemed to all be on a different page. But credit to Notts County for putting us under pressure and scoring a quality goal from a set piece. It quickly went viral; Ashton Kutcher even shared it on his personal Facebook page!

Prior to the match, our manager Pedro had said he felt comfortable using me as sub, but after conceding a goal I didn't know if he felt the same way. It meant a lot to me that he did and in the 66th minute I entered the game. At this point of the match we were attacking very well. You could feel the urgency for the equaliser on the bench, and stepping on to the pitch the determination was intensified.

I remember my first touch on the ball: I went down the right flank. I favour my left foot, so I cut inside which fortunately gave me a step on my defender. I quickly tried to bend my shot into the top left corner, but instead it was an easy snag for the keeper. I guess I momentarily forgot that she was already warmed up…

My second touch of the game set me up on a breakaway. Alex Scott played a fine ball from the right flank that found me in the central part of the pitch, past the defence with only the goalkeeper to beat. Unfortunately the linesman found me too – offside.

With my third touch I received the ball from the left side of the pitch. Caz was dribbling out of the back down the left flank and played a cheeky ball that split two defenders. I took a touch at the top of the 18, aimed for the bottom right corner, and struck the ball. I remember seeing the goalkeeper stretch to block my shot, and then I remember Jordan Nobbs jumping on me. Then came the rest of team-mates with hugs and high-fives. I was ecstatic to score in my first appearance, and I am so delighted I could help secure a point away from home (even though we all wanted three).


Chi's goal can be seen at 01:30


Game Day! For the men this time – the club provided me with two tickets to the Arsenal vs. Liverpool match for my first trip to the Emirates. I took my cousin Mac, who's also a longstanding Arsenal supporter, and we had an incredible time. We joined in all the chants and arguably celebrated the most when the Gunners scored again and again and again and again. The good guys won 4-1 – and all four goals were absolute beauts.

Follow Chi on Twitter: @chialreadyknow