Armando Broja has spoken about the tireless hours his family would commit to ensuring he made it as a footballer in his youth, and what it means to be a young star representing Albania on the world stage.
Broja shot to prominence at Southampton last season, on loan from Chelsea. The forward impressed throughout the campaign and returned to west London having scored nine goals in all competitions and racking up 32 Premier League appearances.
Since returning to his parent club, the Albanian international has penned a new long-term contract with Chelsea and been integrated into the first-team, featuring for Thomas Tuchel before his dismissal as head coach.
But the future remains bright for Broja, despite the managerial change, with Graham Potter now in the hot seat.
Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, Broja credited his mentality and ability to thrive under pressure to his family, namely his father, who pushed him throughout his childhood.
“He’s always been so desperate to succeed and for his kids to succeed. Growing up, there wasn’t a minute to waste. Time was the most precious thing to him,” the striker said.
“I remember when I was young and just starting off in football, he’d come home from work late and he’d be exhausted. It might be like 10 or 11 at night and he might’ve worked a 15-hour day, but he’d always ask, ‘Armando, have you done your training today?'”
“Obviously lyin’, I’d be like, ‘Mmm, yes?'” he added: “He’d know the truth, though, and out we’d go to the park and he’d make me run laps. Twenty times around the pitch.”
Broja went further, explaining his father’s detailed eye for his traits and progression: “When I had a growth spurt around 16, he got worried I was gonna lose my speed. Pace had always been one of my biggest strengths. So he took me out to do hill sprints for like an hour at a time.
“I was basically falling down the hill by the end and he’s there standing over me like, ‘Nah, go again. Another one. Defenders gonna catch you.’
“We joke now that my success is 50-50. Half mine, half his and my mum’s. They put in the work you don’t see. In those early years, though, the balance was waaaay more on their side.”
Broja also discussed his inspirations, explaining that his affinity for Brazilian legend Ronaldo came from his father, after he would show him clips on YouTube.
But alongside R9, Broja namedropped Lorik Cana – the first and only Albanian to play in the Premier League before him.
It was this that fuelled his discussion about flying the flag for his nation and what it meant to represent Albania, who he earned his first senior international cap for in 2020.
“There was a moment when the England under-21s wanted me and, yeah, I thought about it and what I wanted for my future, but honestly … I didn’t have to think too long,” he explained: “I grew up in England, but I’m proud to be Albanian.
“Every time I travel for international duty and pull on the red and black I feel this incredible pride and excitement.”
The 21-year-old added, explaining how he relishes the opportunity of being able to shoulder responsibility and expectations at a young age for his country, while also expressing his desire to fire them to a World Cup.
“You can step up and be a star. And if you do well, you can become an icon for eternity. When my career is over, I want my name to live on. For Albania. For my dad.”