Marc Guéhi: 'Hard to put into words what my mum and sisters have done for me'
England defender discusses the importance of his family as part of Black History Month and this year's theme 'Saluting Our Sisters'
This year’s theme for Black History Month is ‘Saluting Our Sisters’ and Marc Guéhi is certain he would not be where he is today – lining up as an England international – if it wasn’t for the incredible women in his life.
Guéhi’s performances for Crystal Palace have seen him become a regular in Gareth Southgate’s squad but the 23-year-old still relies heavily on the support of his mum and three sisters.
The Crystal Palace defender may have become a household name in recent times but he continues to live at home with his parents and three sisters – Lois (21), Joelle (16) and Shirel (12).
Guéhi credits the togetherness of his close-knit family and his Christian faith for much of his success.
He said: “It's actually hard to put into words what my mum and sisters have done for me because anything I say wouldn’t actually justify what they've done. I'm just so grateful to have them in my life.”
Marc Guéhi | First Impressions
Marc Guéhi sits down with Josh Denzel back in March 2022 following his initial call-up
Guéhi’s parents are from Abijan in the Ivory Coast and moved to London when he was one, with his dad becoming a minister at a local church.
The Guéhi family grew up in Grove Park, Lewisham, and after impressing for local club Cray Wanderers, his grassroots coach recommended him to Chelsea’s academy.
Despite being one of the best young defenders at the Blues, his parents helped ensure education remained his number one priority well into his late teens, when it became clear he was destined to become a Premier League footballer.
Performances on loan at Swansea City in the Championship, for the England age-group sides and then in the Premier League for Crystal Palace persuaded Southgate to give the centre-back his first senior call-up in March 2022 and he has been a regular in the squad since.
But none of it would have been possible had it not been for the support of his mum and sisters.
“My sisters and I have always been close, even now it is crazy how close we are,” Guéhi said.
“I think we are all fortunate because not everyone has that and I'm very aware of that – I’m just glad we've grown up together.
“We spend a lot of our time together and even when one of us is away, we will be messaging each other to make sure they are okay.
“I'd say our relationships aren't really serious, it is more about having jokes and having fun together. I’m just glad we still have that bond.”
And as for his mum?
“Your mum is someone you just rely on for everything don’t you?’ he said.
“She has always been there for me, whenever I have needed her. Whether that is because I am tired and just need a hug or her always making sure there is food in the house for us, or how strong she is having to raise four kids, she is everyone in our family’s rock.”
He continued: “You appreciate your mum so much more as you get older and realise everything they have done for you. You realise how fortunate you are to have a mum like that and to have someone who cares for you so much.”
England internationals Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori have spoken previously about how growing up in London with African parents – in their case from Nigeria – allowed them to have ‘the best of both worlds’, and it is a sentiment echoed by Guéhi.
“You get to see both sides,” he said. “You grew up in England, you speak the language, you go to school here and you get to experience the culture.
“Then you go home to African parents and you experience where they are from, their heritage and how they want you to be raised so you get to experience the best of both worlds.”
Guéhi’s father is a minister and the defender’s faith continues to play a huge role in all aspects of his life.
Growing up, another key focus for Guéhi and his parents was education and working hard not only on the football pitch but also in the classroom.
And when asked what he loves most about his African heritage and the values it instilled, Guéhi replied: “I would say hard work. I’m sure that is instilled in everyone but I would say most African kids, when their parents come to a European country from an African country, they see the hard work they are putting in.
“So naturally you want to replicate that because you have seen how their hard work has put food on the table and allowed you to have a roof over your head.
“That hard work has now meant we are where we are today, but it all started from our parents and that idea of hard work. We are just carrying that on.”
Marc Guéhi's grassroots story