Creative Soccer Culture

King Promise On Football In Ghana & His Love Of Chelsea

From scrounging enough cash to watch a game in the ghetto’s of Ghana as a kid to now rubbing shoulders with the stars at Stamford Bridge and beyond, the rise of King Promise is one to be admired. While music is his bread and butter, opening doors he never dreamed could be opened, he’s never lost that pure love of the football.

Born and bred in Accra, Ghana, Gregory Bortey Promise Newman was around music from an early age. But while his passion was promoted and eventually paid off in a professional sense, there was also another love: football. For the man who would go on to become King, the beautiful game was a vital part of his youth, playing a huge role in his formative years. And as a result, that love of football has remained, along with his diehard support of Chelsea. 

We caught up with the highlife and Afrobeats singer-songwriter at Stamford Bridge, where we walked and talked, taking in a number of topics, including why Chelsea is his team, his first experience of watching them live, and his connection with certain players in the squad.

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So tell us about when football first came in to your life,  what was it like growing up with football around you?

If you're from Africa, or Ghana to be precise, every kid grows up wanting to be a footballer.  It's like a first main passion for everybody, before anything else.  D'you know what I mean?  So, I thought I'd be a footballer like everyone else – that was my dream. But, for my parents it was more about going to school, getting a good education and once I had done that I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. As well as football, I grew up with music around me. I really took it to a different level in my last year of uni, so I was like ‘yeah this is me now’ but even through school I played on the school football teams.  From junior team to the senior team – I was always playing. 

I remember the very first time I actually wanted to join a team – my community team – so bad, I was like, 12, and I was so small, – I'm still small – so, I didn’t make the cut. We would always be playing though, constantly. I was part of the school team and all of that, so from early I loved football. Then, when I knew the rules of the game, it went up a gear. To set the scene in Ghana, we don’t have Sky at home like you do in the UK, we literally had to pay to get into places to be able to watch the games. We had to try and find some money, run around, get some coins and go pay at the game centres wherever there was a game on.  We’d all go there, me and my friends. It was from moments like that, that I discovered Chelsea. They were the very first team I discovered and since then they’ve always been my team.

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Tell us about the “game centres” – what was the atmosphere like on a game day?

Well, it's a madness back home bro. [Laughs] I feel like … you just have to see it to believe how much it goes off. We’re mad for football in Ghana. You need to see it. If you guys ever came to Ghana I would take you to one of those ones.  We’ll go to the ghetto, like the ends where people die for football. You know what I mean?  Most of the talent from back home come from that ghetto, it's not even from like the sophisticated nice areas, it's from where we have nothing. ‘Cos all you need is shoes to wear and, you know, you're good to go.

There’s so much talent out there. But when you go to these game centres where the passion is different. Sometimes it’s like you’re going into battle in representing your team out there. It's like, this is my team and it's a different type of crazy – there’s a lot of soul and emotion in there. When your team loses, your whole day is messed up. D'you know what I mean? You and your boys, you’re all sad for the day and the other teams’ fans are flaunting it a bit. It hurts but you love that rivalry at the same time.

So what was it about Chelsea that first like caught you?

I'm not gonna lie, Essien was one of the reasons why I became a proper Chelsea fan. I mean, I love football in general and I was all about Ghana Black Stars first before Chelsea, then it became Chelsea ‘cos I'm Ghanaian, so my national team and the connection to Chelsea, kinda like cemented the Blues in my heart. 

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So from those early days finding football to being sat at Stamford Bridge – what a journey…

Bro, it's crazy. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d even get in the building. It feels quite spiritual. I'm soaking it in. And listen it's mad ‘cos I always felt my first game in England I'd go to see would be a Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge but then there was a Chelsea game against Arsenal at The Emirates that I got tickets to that – that was incredible.

Imagine, it was the open of the season, I'm in the Arsenal box ‘cos one of my boys also plays for Arsenal, he's Ghanaian as well, Eddie Nketiah, so he invited us. It was my best friend’s birthday – my best friend is an Arsenal fan – so I'm like ‘We’ll go see the game’.  But you know Chelsea, we're in the Arsenal box, Chelsea scores…and then I remember “oh shit we’re not in the Chelsea section”.  People were looking at me like ‘What the hell is this guy jumping for?’

That’s so good.  Again, when you think of how far you've come now that players are your mates, how does that feel? You must be curious about their lives?

Oh, I'm someone who always remembers where I'm from. It’s crazy that I actually do have a direct connection with the club and it's not just far from my house, like now we're in the building and the boys who are on the pitch, I remember when we were playing that game with Arsenal, I was in the box, they showed me when they were training before, doing the warm up and we were right next to them…it's a movie, bro.

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These players have a mutual respect for what you do musically. What’s the musical journey been like, given so many people are now consuming your music?

The plan and the goal has always been to take our music to the world, you know what I mean, ‘cos we have beautiful music back home, not just in Ghana, across Africa. You can tell what Africa is giving to the world right now, so it's becoming a global phenomenon where it's rubbing shoulders with genres that have been around forever.

For me it was always a goal that we’d do this on a global level where people love the music and wanna be a part of the movement. Now we get to tour the world, and take it to everyone. The way we are now.

The way both football and music bring people together is special isn’t it – is that something you love about both industries?

The funny thing is, as much as it's a sport, it's also art. So it's indirectly connected.  D'you know what I mean? It's a work of art seeing these players play – there’s so much skilful ability and it’s so tactical too. Music’s an industry where you have to get every part of your artistry brain right, d'you know what I mean; it's not just your voice, it's about how you look, it's about how you carry yourself. And football is the same.

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Even football jerseys have become more like a basketball jersey was back in the day. Can you see that and do you ever want to wear a Chelsea jersey on stage?

I have several times. Everyone knows I'm the biggest Chelsea fan back home, I mean I say I'm the biggest but I know some other people who are like crazy like they have the biggest group in Ghana and they're the biggest Chelsea fans as well. Like I say, we always wear Chelsea jerseys, ‘cos there's a picture on my page where me and one of them we won the Champions League, we have our outfits, we're all wearing the away jersey, you know with such pride.

Whether it’s a listening party or a gig or an album release, what’s it like to see so many people appreciate your work?

Of course it feels good when your work is appreciated. When you put a lot of hard work in, late nights, early mornings, sleepless nights,  it’s you trying to perfect what you're gonna give the people and it comes…So yeah it's very satisfying, fulfilling.

On pitch with Chelsea, how do you feel about this season?

Oh, I have issues [Laughs]. I have a lot of issues we need to solve.  But at the end of the day, we bleed blue, d'you know what I'm saying? I feel like we're gonna have a good season, it's just a matter of just getting our team into rhythm.

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What players do you have a lot of love for in terms of what they're about?

Most definitely Hakim and Callum; they’re my boys, we have a personal relationship, It's mad. Definitely Hakim and Callum ‘cos they're just cool people. Hakim has been a friend of mine for a minute now…From when he was in Amsterdam, I found out he was into my music when he was there. When we met he was singing my music, I was like ‘I didn’t even know this’ [Laughs].  D'you know what I mean?  And it was so random, I'd never met him, meeting him from nowhere, I was just a big fan. 

With Callum it’s also been a very nice relationship, ‘Cos these are my brothers who actually do support me. I just shot a video in Amsterdam and invited him to come and see, so he was there. It’s incredible to have that support. When he comes to Ghana, that’s when I pick him up, We go out, just have a good time, and very lately I've connected with Trevoh Chalobah as well. So him as well, you know, these are also cool people.

To have your music playing in the dressing room – that’s gotta be a mad feeling…

Bro. I need to perform here one day. That’s a dream. I wanna make it happen…

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Daniel Jones

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