FA Cup: Chesterfield’s Jesurun Uchegbulam on life at AC Milan and heart surgery – BBC Sport

Of all the players competing in the third round of the FA Cup this weekend, few will have experienced a journey quite as eventful as the one that led Jesurun Uchegbulam to Chesterfield.

Born in Nigeria, Uchegbulam spent several years at AC Milan’s academy and experienced playing at the San Siro, one of the most iconic stadiums in world football.

When his family moved to England, the winger had an extended trial at Everton cut short by a health scare which resulted in heart surgery at the age of 16.

“They found a cyst growing on my heart and I had very high blood pressure,” said Uchegbulam, who only turned 22 on Sunday.

“They had to cut me open and insert a tube. I was told if I didn’t get it done then I could collapse or even worse.”

Several months later, eager to play again after making a full recovery, he joined Stockport Town in the 10th tier of English football.

Uchegbulam had gone from playing at the San Siro to the North West Counties League in the space of two years.

After joining National League Chesterfield last summer following spells at Mossley and Matlock Town, he hopes to help the Spireites deliver one of this weekend’s biggest surprises when West Brom, from three leagues above, visit the non-league club.

“I’ve always told myself to get back up and keep going whenever I’ve had setbacks,” added Uchegbulam.

“Chesterfield is my first professional contract. It is a dream that I still haven’t woken up from.”

Read the full unabridged article on the BBC Sport website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/64115919

Jesurun Uchegbulam

Inside AC Milan’s famous talent factory

Uchegbulam was born in Lagos and grew up in Italy after his parents, Donatus and Gloria, moved to Venice when he was one.

He was seven when he secured a place in AC Milan’s academy, one of the world’s most famous talent factories whose graduates include Paolo Maldini, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Uchegbulam recalls one particular season when he scored more than 100 goals for the under-13s while playing as a centre-back.

“We’d have 50 to 55 games each season and we used to play against the likes of Roma under-13s and beat them 14-0,” he said.

“At Milan, I always played in teams at least two years above my age. When I was 14, I was playing for the under-17s.”

On his experience of playing at the San Siro, Uchegbulam added: “We played Inter Milan in a youth team fixture which we lost.

“There was quite a big crowd. Because I was so young, it was just like walking out onto any other pitch.

“Now I’m older I get goosebumps walking out to play for Chesterfield.

“Back then I didn’t pay too much attention to nerves or anything like that. I just wanted to get on the pitch and have fun.”

Uchegbulam’s dream of making it at AC Milan, the seven-time champions of Europe, did not last and after his parents lost their jobs, the family moved to England in search of a better life.

It was not long, however, before the player was reeling from another setback.

Read the full unabridged article on the BBC Sport website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/64115919