MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The life of a Guinness World Record holder – How freestyle football changed everything.

What happens to footballers if they realise that although they love the sport, the mainstream eleven aside game isn’t for them? Or if they don’t quite make it in the professional club world but still have a huge talent behind the ball? Eighteen-year-old Ben Nuttall has just the answer.

Ben Nuttall is a 3x Guinness World Freestyle Football Record holder. But just five years ago, he was part of the Birmingham City youth academy squad. Little did he know, a sudden injury would crush his dreams of becoming a professional footballer and lead him to be dropped from the squad. Ben, aged thirteen, did not want to give up on football, which is when he started exploring other options.

He said: “Whilst I was out I randomly stumbled across a video of football freestyle online, and went straight into my garden and the streets to practise all of the tricks. I’d always been into the skill side of football but never seen or tried anything like this before.

“I just got hooked on it and addicted to getting new tricks, starting off on the basics and working my way to the more advanced tricks, and just stuck with it”, he continued.

Photo credit – Ben Nuttall

Before discovering freestyle football, Ben used to frequently get into trouble at school, because he didn’t have a focus and would get distracted easily. But from 2013 he suddenly got a real purpose, a real focus in life. It gave him an opportunity to put all of his time and energy into something he was passionate about.

He continued: “I no longer had any distractions because I was so focused and spent all my time training the tricks. It was also a great way for me to express myself and helped with my confidence a lot.

“I can train whatever I want, when I want, and create my own style and identity. There’s also no teammates so if they make a mistake I’m not going to suffer from that, so whatever you put into it you get out which is what I like.”

In recent years, he has taken the freestyling world by storm. He set his first two Guinness World Records in Summer 2018, one for the most kick ups with a rugby ball (the previous record was 60, he got 187), and the other for the most neck passes in one minute (he took the record from 20 to 41).

His most recent record was March 2019, at the Guinness World Records HQ in London, which was for the most kick ups with a football whilst wearing 10kg ankle weights. The previous record was 60, and he set it to 217.

Photo credit – Ben Nuttall

Ben added: “When I first started to aim for these records, three was my goal, so I’m content with that at the moment. But, I’m never satisfied so I reckon in a year or so I’ll aim to get two more to make it five, and then eventually maybe I’ll aim for 10.

“I’m looking to be the face of football freestyle and also push it out more into the mainstream and share my story. I’d love to make it so big that I can have my own show at Wembley, and create a freestyle academy for kids so they have a place to train.”

Ben, having achieved so much in just five years of learning freestyle, is a prime example of how the mainstream route doesn’t always have to be the way. With a growing social media support of 150,000 followers across multiple platforms, he is definitely one to watch.

Featured Image/ Ben Nuttall