EXCLUSIVE: “It made me feel ashamed of my skin colour” City U18 starlet Henri Ogunby talks to City Watch

In 2018, it is appalling to see racism encountered so frequently. How can this occur in such a diverse society? Well, unfortunately, it is still present with many footballers having been subject to such discrimination, none more so than Manchester City’s under-18 prodigy Henri Ogunby.

Recently, we caught up with Ogunby with the intention of finding more about his rise in the footballing world, his talent on the pitch, and an insight into his life off the pitch allowing City fans to become more informed on the 17-year-old.

However, on his own accord, he delved into a deeper, underrepresented issue in football which can be used to gain awareness of racism’s impact on individuals, especially at such a tender age. There were so many other topics that could have been the focus for his first interview of a prosperous career, but this an issue that needs to take the spotlight.

It could never have been foreseen, as like many others, Ogunby began playing football at his local club without a worry in the world, that side being Ladybridge Giants in South West Bolton. He had trials at Everton, Bolton and Oldham and settled at Bury, where the latter still holds a special place in his heart. “It was my main development area, they did so much for me I could never repay them. They believed in me and gave me confidence.”

Ogunby’s ability has always stood out from the crowd; a pacy right-winger who likes to get crosses in and cut inside, he doesn’t attribute his style to a particular player. “The way I play is my own style as I haven’t really seen someone play my way”. It was this aptitude and intuition that made him stand out to Manchester City scouts, as he adds: “I was playing two years up, so when I was at under-12’s I was playing at under-14’s level. I got spotted by City and negotiations went from there.”

Ogunby comes across as a very humble, assured and grateful young man, or teenager in truth, for the opportunities he has been given. He is especially appreciative of the late Cyrille Regis’ presence in his life for the impact he had on and off the pitch.

“Cyrille was a massive inspiration to me, he helped me through so much, both good and bad. He motivated me to get the best out of my ability”, Ogunby says. It wasn’t just on the pitch Cyrille helped Ogunby grow as a person as he adds: “He taught me so much on and off the field like how to deal with racism especially when I have had a few incidents”.

At the tender age of 17, this sparks alarm bells for not only English football, but for society. How can someone so humane be subjected to this kind of abuse this early on in a career? There is no need to delve into specific incidents as this is not the time nor place.

However, it is the time and place to discuss the impact this can have on young players, like Ogunby, who’s intentions are to simply enjoy their football and develop as players, but they are faced with such issues.

Ogunby is very well-informed on the situation, as he goes onto say: “Shockingly, it still goes on. People need to realise what harm can be done”. That statement is not just generalised, sufferers first hand, like Ogunby, know the effect it has. “It made me feel ashamed of my skin colour and left a scar in my mind”.

Now, Ogunby is displaying honesty in its rawest form and his words reflect the repercussions that racism has on an individual. Action must be taken.

Not long ago, Rhian Brewster bravely made his plea to UEFA that more needs to be done to combat racism, and Ogunby is no different. The Football Association needs to be taking notice. Ogunby identifies this as he speaks out on the issue of equality. “More should be done so we can all fit in together without people talking about how another person looks or the background they are from”.

Ogunby should feel an enormous sense of pride as he makes it clear, that more needs to be done with not just young players or footballers, but with society also.

From a football sense, the organisation Kick It Out are tirelessly working to remove racism and discrimination from the game. They need more support from our National Governing Body to impose harsher punishments with full investigations to act as a real deterrent to truly Kick it out.

Looking ahead to the future, there is no doubt that the youngster’s career will be bright, as he states: “I would love to get some first-team action in the next year or two. It’s a great target to work towards and once I get there more and more targets will appear.”

These are words from a boy that is wise beyond his years. He remains grounded and sets his targets within their measures displaying real maturity. He also has some advice to players who may have experienced similar situations and are unsure how to move forward, as he says: “Your mindset is your set mindset, don’t let anyone else try to adjust it or change it, nothing can affect you unless you let it. Keep pushing towards your dreams and make sure you would hard to get the most out of it (your ability)”.

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