What a season it has been for former Arsenal man Chuba Akpom in Greece. Not only did his side PAOK finish the season unbeaten securing a first league title in 34 years but the English forward also helped his team complete a league and cup double when he scored the winner in the Greek Cup final.
After his successes in Greece, ITV News produced a documentary, interviewing Akpom on his return to his former school in Canning Town. It’s a really good piece and I recommend giving it a watch. Akpom passes on some great advice and it’s wonderful to see him inspiring the future generation at his old school.
With the video having already surpassed 100,000 views, I caught up with the documentary’s producer Antoine Allen, who was the man interviewing Akpom in the video, to learn more about the time he spent with the double-winner and also about his plans for the series in the future.
English Players Abroad: Why did you choose Chuba to be the feature of your first documentary? Had you been following his progress throughout the season?
Antoine Allen: Coincidently, before I became a presenter, I was an Arsenal steward. I had seen many players at the club whilst working there. Chuba was one of the players that stood out. After I heard he had left the club, I was interested to see how he was doing in Greece.
I eventually saw that his team and himself were doing well. So, two weeks into my new reporter job at ITV News London, I took a chance and sent him a DM message on Instagram and he replied!
I told him about my documentary series idea. He liked it and was interested. Luckily, he was flying back to the UK the same week. He still had a semi-final to play in the cup and one game left of the season. He gave me great access and we spent two days filming what is now a well watched and received documentary.
EPA: How much did you enjoy getting to known Chuba? He came across as a very humble person.
AA: Chuba, is a really nice, friendly and humble guy. People watch the documentary and think we were already friends. When in fact, we spoke for the first time in the opening scenes of the documentary. It was great to see his friend meeting him at the airport, the reaction of the school children and the pride of the teachers, when seeing Chuba routine back to his roots.
During filming, I took us to what used to be my local Jamaican take away shop on Caledonian Road, Islington. He was very gracious in his conversation with the Trevor, the owner of the restaurant- whom is also an Arsenal fan. Chuba even offered to pay for everyone’s meal. Which, I couldn’t allow him to do, seeing as we had been driving around in his car and using his petrol all day. The documentary had zero budget, but Chuba never complained and was happy to fulfil all my requests for pictures or help with interviews with his teachers.
The whole time he was with us, he was actually recovering from an injury to his hand. You can see our tentative handshake at the beginning of the documentary. He really is a great guy, especially at such a young age. I can say this as someone whom has interviewed a lot of sports people!
EPA: How much of an impact do you think successful people like Chuba can have on the people back home where they grew up?
The impact is huge. I could not fit it all in the documentary. But, Jermain Defoe went to the same school as Chuba. Chuba told me about how Jermain coming back to the school, when Chuba was a child, helped him realise that being a professional footballer can be a reality.
I even interviewed Jermain at his charity football event for the Jermain Defoe Foundation, he gave Chuba a well done message. However, the documentary was already pretty long so there was not space to fit it in.
Both of them are proof that young people simply need positive role models to follow. But, also role models that are not just on screens. People they see in real life and sometimes get to speak. Much like the young footballer Chuba speaks to in my documentary. Most people need some form of guidance in life. Even if it is just one chat, it can change a young person’s life.
Society gives a lot of time and money to footballers, sports people and celebrities; I believe they should give their time back to help inspire the next generation.
EPA: Finally, what are your plans for the series going forward? Are you looking to feature more English players abroad?
AA: The series is on-going. However, the biggest stumbling block is simply getting people to say yes. It’s essentially a long interview. Chuba gave us so much of his time. Most celebrities or sports people won’t do that.
However, I hope this first episode shows that if they give their time to the right person and idea they can be apart of something that really resonates with people and is interesting to watch. It is far more than just a sit down interview. It is a journey from boy to man. It is showing people the side of Chuba that exists beyond 90 minutes on a football pitch and the reasons for those tears at the beginning of the documentary.
I would love to feature Raheem Sterling, Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton, Jadon Sancho, Andy Murray, Troy Deeney, Ian Wright and many others.
I have already spoken to boxers Joshua Buatsi and Lawrence Okolie- they have said yes! So, hopefully more names will come forward.
It is essentially about telling the stories of positive male role models, whom have overcome various difficulties and temptations to stand for something or have a great achievement. A lot of people know people’s successes, but only a few get to know their journey- the ups and the downs aka how they went from a boy to a man.
Watch the hit documentary below now.