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Ex-Prem and EFL player joins 9th tier club and speaks on losing £2million to gambling

Ex-Prem and EFL player Michael Chopra surprises as he joins a 9th tier club and speaks on losing £2million to gambling addiction.

Chopra played in the Premier League for both Newcastle and Sunderland, and over time dropped down the leagues, but after a fair few years out of the game, he’s now at Northern League Division One side West Allotment Celtic and is still scoring.

His new club said: “West Allotment are delighted to announce the signing of Michael Chopra who started his career at Newcastle United and went on to play for a number of other clubs like Cardiff, Blackpool and Ipswich to name but a few. During his professional career he made 389 appearances and scored 108 goals. He also represented England from U16 to U20 level. The management team at West Allotment are delighted to sign such an experienced player who can only help the team improve their professionalism and of course they hope to see quite a few goals along the way.”

Since then, he’s spoken about gripped by a gambling addiction for years and at one point, he gambled around £20,000 per day, admitting he used to set his alarm for 3am just so he could place bets on South American matches.

Now, aged 38 and back in football part-time, Chopra wants to pass on advice so that young players whose position he was once in do not go down the same harmful route. He says his Twitter DM’s are open for anyone to ask about having similar addiction issues.

As his addiction got worse and took it upon himself to get professional help, getting admitted to the Sporting Chance clinic set up by Tony Adams, who has said football is dealing with a gambling “epidemic”.

In addition to speaking openly to the BBC about his addiction in an attempt to help others, he recently came back from the Maldives, where he spent time with vulnerable young people in his role as ambassador for the Football for Peace foundation.

Chopra, who had 60 Prem appearances to his name, is back playing after a six-year absence and is preparing for the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.

The 38 year old signed West Allotment Celtic, a team near Newcastle, and will make the 150-mile round trip to play at Penrith in the world’s oldest cup competition on Saturday.

He tells BBC Sport how he now gets fulfilment helping others.

“I will always reach out to someone who needs advice because you don’t know what drastic action they might take,” adds Chopra, whose addiction got so bad he would set his alarm for 3am so he could place bets on games taking place in South America.

“I want to try to help.”

It is nine years since Chopra told a court how he was targeted by loan sharks during his time at Ipswich.

“They came up to me and asked me for my autograph and said I better get myself into the club and get that money now,” the player, a witness in a £750,000 cocaine trial, said at the time.

“They said they knew what car I was driving and they would follow me until I paid them. They said they knew what school my little boy went to and where my parents lived and where I lived in Ipswich.

“I felt sick that I had put my family in that situation from my gambling.”

In 2013, Chopra said he had lost about £2m through his addiction that started around the age of 16 and carried on throughout a career spanning more than 400 professional appearances and 121 goals.

“I was a youth-team player at Newcastle earning £70 a week and there were five or six of us who would put £1 or £2 in slot machines at an amusement arcade,” he told the Sporting Highs and Lows podcast.

“It helped kill the time while we waited for our bus to take us home. That is where it probably all started.”

With Chopra’s wages increasing, so too did the size of the bets he placed.

“As soon I as turned 17, I was on £500 a week, then £3,500, then £6,000-£10,000 at Cardiff – I doubled my wages at Sunderland, and it started to become a big problem,” he added.

“Sunderland sent me to a specialist hospital and I was staying in a hotel around the corner from the hospital. I’d do the classes at the hospital but as soon as I finished I’d go straight into a nearby betting shop because I didn’t want to help myself.

“It wasn’t really until about 2012 that I really wanted to help myself.”

The day before this interview with the BBC, he was contacted on social media by a partner of a footballer worried about their gambling.

“Gambling is such a bad addiction. Deep down in your head it kills you, it really drains you,” he says. “You have got to open up and admit you have got a problem. That is the first step in recovery.

“I’m happy I am there for somebody who needs someone to talk to and give my experience.”

Asked when he last gambled, Chopra says: “Years ago. You have to take it day by day. This is how I live my life now.”

These days, he splits his time between the Netherlands – where he has a family home in Amsterdam – and, after making a return to the football pitch, England.

Spending pre-season with West Allotment Celtic has helped Chopra both physically and mentally. He has also got rid of some of the excess weight he gained after he stopped playing in 2016.

“I’ve lost about 10 kilos in about two months. The first training session, we ran 5km and I was blowing by the end of it.”

At 18, Chopra played against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League for Newcastle. 20 years later, he’s getting ready to play in an FA Cup tie at Penrith.

“It’s going to be an eye opener,” he laughs. “I’m used to playing in the FA Cup in January – not at the beginning of August.”


Youth career
1993–2000 – Newcastle United

Senior career
2000–2006 – Newcastle United – 21 games (1 goal)
2003 → Watford (loan) – 5 games (5 goals)
2004 → Nottingham Forest (loan) – 5 games (0 goals)
2004–2005 → Barnsley (loan) – 39 games (17 goals)
2006–2007 – Cardiff City – 42 games (22 goals)
2007–2009 – Sunderland – 39 games (8 goals)
2008 → Cardiff City (loan) – 11 games (5 goals)
2009 → Cardiff City (loan) – 16 games (4 goals)
2009–2011 – Cardiff City – 73 games (25 goals)
2011–2013 – Ipswich Town – 78 games (18 goals)
2013–2014 – Blackpool – 18 games (0 goals)
2014 – Kerala Blasters – 9 games (0 goals)
2015–2016 – Alloa Athletic – 23 games (2 goals)
2016 – Kerala Blasters – 10 games (1 goal)
2022– West Allotment Celtic
Total 389 (108)

National team
1997–1999 – England U16 – 10 games (0 goals)
1999–2000 – England U17 – 5 games (0 goals)
2000–2001 – England U19 – 7 games (0 goals)
2001–2003 – England U20 – 9 games (0 goals)

Fans reacted as the ex-Prem and EFL player joins a 9th tier club, but also speaks on losing £2million to gambling…

@scott1975burns: You wanna hope he’s not 1 on 1 in your local derby @arsefallsout

@NewbigginSunday: Doing anything on a Sunday chops?

@DaleGraham26: Fair play to him trying it out, hope all works out

@FM_Wonderkidz: 🗣️”What’s that coming over the hill, West Allotment Celtic – it’s Michael Chopra, Michael Chopra! ” 🎶 Goodluck MC 🍀

@thebomb83: Fantastic player , all the best chops lad , great addition 👏

@CatePoet: Great to hear his story. A person can change. I wish him well.

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