On July 30th, Tottenham Hotspurs announced the signing of gifted forward Chioma Ubogagu. “I’m really, really excited to put on the Spurs kit,” Ubogagu told The Beautiful Game Network. “We’ve been training in preseason now for a couple of weeks and everyone’s just really excited for the games to arrive. You know, my decision to come play for Tottenham just had a lot to do with the conversation I had with (head coach) Rehanne (Skinner). I loved the vision she had for the club and I think my playing style fit with how she wanted her team to play.”
“On top of that, I was coming back home to London, the place I was born, seeing a lot of familiar faces with family and friends. Tottenham is also the club my dad supported, so everything just seemed aligned pretty well and felt right in my heart.”
Finally back home, the London native said, “I just love going into the city, shopping and looking around. I just really love the architecture, so there’s a lot of things I love about the city.”
She shared that two of her favorite places to eat around town are Nando’s and Benihana, adding that she’s obsessed with hibachi so the fact that it’s in London is just amazing to her.
This will be Chioma’s second stint in her hometown as a professional, previously playing for Arsenal back in 2015. She’s also showcased her skills for clubs in the United States, Australia, and Spain. “I’m really blessed and grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to play in so many different countries and continents,” she said. “I think each league has given me a different experience and I’ve taken that and combined it with my game.”
Discussing the different leagues she’s featured in, Chioma noted the speed of play in the US, the technical focus in Spain, a combination of physicality and technique in England, and the opportunities for young players to learn and grow the game in Australia.
Similar to her resume as a player, Ubogagu’s background is diverse. “I think all of my nationalities have helped shape the person I’ve become today,” she explained. “I often get asked which nationality do you feel more connected with, but to be truthful, I feel extremely proud to be Nigerian, I feel extremely proud to be American, and extremely proud to be English.”
“I think there’s certain aspects I love about each one that’s different perhaps, but you know, all of them make me ‘me’ and I’m really proud of that. I think sometimes people want to box people (in) and want them to fit a certain type of description. For me, my nationalities just help me become the unique individual that I am and proud to be.”
On the international level in soccer, she was eligible to represent any of the three countries that she mentioned. While she first debuted at the youth international level with the United States, Chioma decided to represent England on the senior national team level. “For me, I think a large part of why I love this game so much and why I wanted to play football in the first place was being born in London and seeing the culture of football,” she explained.
“I grew up in the US, started playing, and got picked up by the system. When I finally got my senior team call-up for the US, the culture and the environment, I don’t know, the best I can describe it is it wasn’t the feeling I expected to get. So, that’s when I kind of talked to my club coach at the time and told him I was interested in seeing if I could have an opportunity with England and started that whole process.”
She continued, “Once that went through, I obviously had to prove my ability and they were tracking my progress through that whole season. When I earned a call-up, I was extremely excited and (former England national team head coach) Phil Neville actually called me on my birthday to say he wanted to bring me into camp.”
Ubogagu said, “The vibes and the energy I had the minute I went into camp was amazing and that’s kind of what I imagined it would be when you get the opportunity and cross of that goal of reaching the senior level. The best way I can explain it is just the feeling and that moment that it felt right when I was with England and the girls and representing the Lionesses on my shirt.”
Still only 28 years old, despite all of that professional experience, Chioma is right in the middle of her prime years. “I feel really good spiritually, mentally, and physically,” she said. “Each year and after each season, I learn a lot about myself and all of the lessons during the seasons and just how handling adversity really strengthens your character and you evolve as a person.”
— Tottenham Hotspur Women (@SpursWomen) July 30, 2021
“I definitely feel great, I definitely feel like I’m in my prime, and I’m definitely excited to see what this season and the future holds.”
While she’s nowhere near the twilight of her career, Chioma used the downtime forced upon sports by the pandemic to add a skill that she can utilize outside of football as she became a certified computer programmer. “In college, it was something that I was curious about but never took a class,” she recalled. “Then, when the pandemic hit and my season got suspended, I had a lot of time so I enrolled in some courses and just gave it a go. I ended up loving it, having a blast, and it ended up being another passion of mine. I was really excited to learn that about myself.”
When asked how important it is for athletes to gain knowledge and learn skills outside of their respective sport, Ubogagu answered, “I think it’s extremely important because, as much as I love football, I can’t play forever. It’s really important to look at life outside of football and the kind of opportunities and careers you can potentially have.”
“Coding has given me another tool for all kinds of opportunities because, as you can see, the world is very technology dependent in all facets. I’m really excited to see where I can take this tool that I’ve gained and see where I can next use it to help people.”
As far as her skills on the pitch go, Tottenham supporters will be in for a treat this season. Describing her skillset, Chioma said, “I think for me, in terms of my game, I’m a very attacking-minded player. I love to get the ball, I love to take people 1-on-1, I love to score goals, I love to create goals, I love to assist goals.”
“I just really want to help the team create as many opportunities to score a goal as we possibly can in a match. Obviously, in this modern day game, you need to play defensively as well, which obviously I’ll do for the team. But, for me, I’m just a very attacking-minded person and player and just really want to show creativity and take risks and enjoy the beautiful game.”
Ubogagu and Spurs will kick off their Barclays FA WSL season in early September against Birmingham City.