January, 21 2024.
Calvin Bassey's remarkable journey from the gritty streets of Newham, one of London's toughest neighborhoods, to becoming one of Europe's rising football stars is a testament to his resilience, determination to achieve his dreams.
Born in Italy, Bassey faced adversity from an early age when his father abandoned his family. His mother, undeterred by the challenges, moved to the UK with Bassey and his three brothers, settling in the challenging environment of Newham. Described by Bassey as a "War Zone," the area was plagued by gang violence, where kids were being stabbed and killed. Bassey himself lost two friends during this period, experiencing the harsh reality of life in a "deadly" neighborhood.
Faced with limited options for survival, Bassey recognized that the choices he made would shape his future. In a neighborhood where joining a gang or playing football were the only perceived paths, Bassey chose the latter—the beautiful game, football.
As a teenager, Bassey faced rejection from numerous football clubs, including Crystal Palace, West Ham United, Wolves, Leyton Orient, Charlton Athletic, and Barnet. The rejection, especially from Charlton Athletic, hit him hard, making him question his own abilities. However, Bassey refused to let rejection define him and decided to give his dream of playing professional football one final push.
In a "Do-or-die" trial at Leicester City, where 13 left-backs had been rejected before him, Bassey played with freedom and joy, earning him a contract at the age of 15. The mental strength displayed by a teenager who faced rejection from six clubs but persisted is a testament to his elite mentality.
Moving from Leicester City's Under 18 to the Under 23's, Bassey faced challenges but kept working hard.
In 2020, Steven Gerrard signed him for Rangers, marking a turning point in his career. Within five months of signing his first professional contract, Bassey achieved a significant milestone—he moved his mother and brothers out of Newham.
Although his Rangers career didn't start as a regular under Gerrard, Bassey's perseverance paid off when Giovani took over. Moved from left-back to center-back, Bassey emerged as one of the best young defenders in Europe.
In a historic moment for both Bassey and Rangers, he became the club's most expensive sale, securing a move to European giants Ajax for a record fee of £20 million in 2022—just two years after joining Rangers.
Calvin Bassey's journey is a testament to the magic that happens when one refuses to give up. His story inspires not only aspiring footballers but anyone facing adversity, proving that with determination and resilience, dreams can become a reality.