With football around the world suspended due to the growing coronavirus pandemic, fans of all ages have been struggling to find ways to keep themselves entertained during the beautiful game’s absence.
Step forward Ben Nuttall, a world-class football freestyler with over 25,000 followers, who has made it his mission to teach the nation’s children a new trick every day.
As schools all over the country are currently closed as a result of the nationwide lockdown, the social media influencer wanted to play his part in providing kids with daily activities that have physical and mental benefits.
Nuttall spoke exclusively to Football FanCast about his latest initiative in a wide-ranging interview.
“Everyone is in the same boat, and I was thinking how I can make something positive out of this situation, and that’s what I try and think about in general.”
“I do a lot of coaching, and have a partnership with the Prince’s Trust, where I help out with young offenders, but obviously I can’t do that at the moment.”
“Everybody has a phone nowadays so I thought I could share content online. I have had this idea where I will be posting a tutorial for a new skill every day, and I am going to post these clips to my Tik-Tok and Instagram.”
“All the children are off school and a lot of them are probably bored and missing football. So, it is about giving them something positive to focus on and keeping them active, so hopefully it has physical and mental benefits.”
In fact, his videos have become so popular, he launched a brand-new TV series in partnership with Sky Sports last month.
Given the glowing feedback so far, it looks like the youngster is well on the way to becoming football’s answer to Joe Wicks.
The 20-year-old started his career in the Birmingham City academy and opened up about his time at the Wast Hills Training Ground.
“I played football from a young age, just like any other kid really. I was playing for Birmingham City in their academy. I had always been more interested in the skills side of football, and when I was playing for Birmingham, I was quite a tricky winger.”
“When I was 12 years old, they released me from the club, and from that point, I thought I would practise my skills and take this a bit more seriously.”
“I planned on going back to Birmingham and trying to get back into the academy, but I got so hooked on trying new skills, so much so that I enjoyed it more than playing regular football, and from that point on I have stuck with freestyle ever since.”
As a lifelong Blues fan, Nuttall shared his opinion on academy product Jude Bellingham. The teenager has been linked with a number of major European clubs in recent months, including the likes of Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea.
“When I was playing in the academy, he was the guy already tipped to play in the first team.”
“He looks like he’s got his feet on the ground, but personally, I think Bellingham should stay for another season, just to get a bit more experience, as he has definitely got the technical ability, and then look at the other bigger clubs.”
The Englishman is no stranger to performing in front of tens of thousands of people. He has already worked with the likes of Usain Bolt, Sir Mo Farah, and recently appeared as a stunt double for Phillip Schofield in an advert for webuyancar.com.
Having seen some of his childhood friends end up on the wrong side of the law, Nuttall credits his number one passion for keeping him on the straight and narrow.
“When I first started practising, it kept me on a straight path, and instead of going out with my friends and causing trouble, any spare minute I had, before school and after school, I spent time mucking about with the ball.”
“I think I was quite lucky to find such a major passion of mine and something to focus on, because some of my old friends fell off the path and ended up in young offenders’ institutes.”
He went on to reveal Brazilian legend Ronaldinho is his biggest inspiration. The former World Cup winner popularised several iconic moves, including the famous Elastico, before hanging up his boots.
“I used to watch Ronaldinho a lot, just watching videos of him online. When I started doing freestyle properly, as I got more and more into it, I discovered there was a little community of other people practising skills in the UK. It was all self-taught for me.”
Despite his boyhood club letting him go, Nuttall didn’t let the initial rejection deter him, and wants to spread the same message to his young audience.
“A lot of my aims and goals are now around motivating and inspiring the younger generations growing up. Whatever their passions are, music, art, or sports, you can overcome adversity, and if you put the hard work in, then you will reap the rewards.”