Professional football freestyler Ben Nuttall is a 3x Guinness World Record holder who is regarded as a world-class freestyler.
Growing up, your dream was to become a professional footballer, what was your initial response to being released by Birmingham City at a young age and how did you overcome the disappointment?
“I had my dreams shattered so of course, I was upset. This made me lose focus and ambition, falling onto a bad path at school for a bit and so on.
“However, when I started to focus on my skills soon after this, it really helped me overcome the problems and gave me something positive to channel all of my energy into.”
You performed at the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, how did it feel to perform at such a grand event with the whole world watching?
“A surreal experience, from practising for years with no one watching to performing my tricks on a global stage, which felt strange but of course amazing.
“I had so much adrenaline and excitement. Not only that but to be in and around the city for the days before and on matchday was an amazing experience as it was buzzing with energy and excitement.”
Do you think there are people out there who could have become really good freestylers but had to settle for being average footballers. What would be your message to encourage them to think about freestyling as a career?
“Yes, possibly and I think that would have been the case with myself. I think if I would have really trained hard I could have possibly played professional football but I don’t think I would have been one of the greatest footballers in history.
“For me personally I would rather be elite at something earning less money, rather than average in my field earning more money.
“Some people may prefer it the other way round, to just be an average footballer but be on ridiculous amounts of money, but everyone’s different so I’d say it just comes down to your mindset and what you want, and only you can decide that I don’t think you can force it.
“But freestyle is only getting bigger and bigger and amazing opportunities are arising from it. I enjoyed it more than playing football so that’s why I decided to become a freestyler instead.”
When did you realize that freestyling would be more than just a hobby for you and you could make a career out of it?
“I just started practising for fun and started posting my videos online just to track my progression and started to make a name for myself locally through people watching these videos.
“After 4 years of pure practice, I started to get offered local performances at dinner events or local football clubs teaching skills etc, and it was a bit of a snowball effect with word of mouth getting my name out there more and more.
“Then the likes of Adidas, Nike and so on started to notice me and give me some opportunities. At this point, at the age of 16, I realised I could make something out of it with a bit of marketing.
“Now I’m really focused on the TV and social media world here in the UK trying to conquer all of that.”
Freestyling has made you travel around the world, how has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your career and the football freestyling industry in general?
“Yeah, I was set for the biggest year of my career with a summer of sport, with the Euros and the Olympics going on so was prepared for a lot of events, advert shoots, TV work, social media videos getting a lot of traction and so on, but everything’s obviously been put on hold so hopefully that busy wave will happen next summer.
“In lockdown I’ve filmed a TV series with Sky Sports from home, teaching people skills to learn now they’ve got a lot of spare time. I have been focused on my social media videos as a lot of people are spending time on their phones right now, and just been planning a lot or when things are back to normal.
“A lot of things have been adapted and opportunities are coming in online forms at the moment but it will be much better when things are normal again.”
Lastly, could you tell us a bit about your project to promote freestyling through volunteering and the various services that you offer?
“I am really interested in inspiring the youth through my tool of freestyle football. It saved me from possibly going down a destructive path with no focus in my life, but not everyone just stumbles across something such as this like I did, so I think it would be selfish to not share it with others and try help them by teaching them my skills and provide them with a bit of motivation.
“I regularly visit prisons/youth offending institutes in the UK to teach my skills and pass on some advice. I usually just give a message that you can see how this has helped me — I’m a real-life example of the effects of hard work and dedication to something.
“They may hear about this all the time but here it’s standing right in front of them. I just say it doesn’t matter what it is, you don’t have to go away and become a world-class freestyler, but if you have something to focus on, whatever it is whether it be art, music, basketball or whatever it will keep you focused and help you so much mentally. Benefits such as self-confidence and so on just as I have experienced.
“I think it’s something a bit different that these kids don’t experience every day and I can relate to them as I am young. It’s not a lecture, just a bit of inspiration.
“I am having amazing feedback and have become an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust charity. I also help out with mental health charities, disabled schools, youth clubs etc, as well as trying to inspire people globally with my videos.
“For me this is the most important thing that I do and really feel great from helping others, I want to continue doing this for as long as I possibly can, reaching as many people as I can.”