Many Malaysian fans may have already know about Kobe Jae Chong by now, but who he is actually and why he wants to represent Malaysia?
Kobe was born on 28 June 2001 to a Malaysian Chinese father and a British Jamaican mother and he lives in Birmingham.
He took interest in football when he played together with his father.
“My earliest memory was when I was two years old playing football my father. I would trained in the kitchen and practiced a lot of kick-up. My dad have been training me in my whole life before I started to go to the school.”
He took his interest even further when he joined a Birmingham futsal league.
“I started playing futsal when I was 5 to 6 years old. In futsal, it was all technical and tactical. I was probably the best player in my age around my area.
“As you get older you have to be quick minded and physically ready. So I joined Brazilian soccer school. Brazilian football is a lot of flair and they are very technical and players need to have a good work rate. You also need to know how to beat a player.”
By the age of 10, interest came knocking his door.
“West Brom scout came to my house and want me to sign straight away without trial. So I joined them and stay for two years.”
But then, he had the opportunity to join Sporting CP.
“My father knew a scout in Portugal and he can get us a trial with Sporting CP. It was massive experience to have a chance to join in the same academy as Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Despite the enthusiasm, Kobe wasn’t selected in the end and when he was back in England, he was released by West Brom after absence for two weeks because of the trial.
“When I was released, I was absolutely distraught. I have made so many friends at West Brom.”
He went back playing in futsal league. But just as it all looked bleak, he begin playing for Non-League side Kidderminster Harriers in the Junior Premier League.
“I’ve had a good season at the time, I was selected in top 11 players in the team.”
His performance was recorded by his father who uploaded the video in the Internet. Soon, he received a call from Serie A side, Cagliari Calcio.
“Cagliari decide to fly me over to a tournament and I ended up playing under Inter Milan legend! It was different compared because I just played in the junior league for Non-League club, and next thing you know, you are in squad against Juventus! It was a big opportunity to have a chance to play in Serie A.
Kobe impressed the coach, and he soon moved to Italy. He stayed at Cagliari for three years. He still remembers how his team beat Inter in his second season at the club.
“I still can’t believe I played with Kidderminster Under-16, to playing Cagliari Under-16 the next season. It was something I never forget and definitely something I learned.
“The language barrier is strange, so I studied Italian. But I was still treated differently because I was a foreigner.”
By the age of 18, he felt he had to return to his home.
“I felt it was the right time to be back home, be with family and see if I can pursue career in England.”
He went on to play with several clubs including Brentford. But he noticed the difference between football in England and Italy.
“In Italy, they fight to win, they have their own mentality and a good game management. Also, as full-time footballer you always get a second chance.
“For the Non-League side in England, if you are not up to standard you won’t stay in the team. That’s how brutal it is the football here.”
Kobe settled down in London and continued to play football until the COVID-19 outbreak struck the world, forcing everyone to stay at home.
But his desire to play for Malaysia one day remain to be his ultimate goal.
“Recently, a lot of Malaysian fans interested to know me, they supported my career. It was nice.
“What is unique about my heritage is that although I look Chinese Malaysian, I have been living in a tradition of Jamaica. It was unique and it’s not something everyone has.
“But my short-term goal is to represent Malaysia because they have a big fanbase and for me, coming from England its really special, and I want to show what I can do.”