On the winter solstice of 1996, Lionel Richie married clothing designer Diane Alexander, Tasmania beat Pakistan—and the odds—in the cricket and, over in Buckinghamshire, Benjamin James Chilwell was born into this world.
You know Ben Chilwell: the complete modern left-back/wing-back hybrid, just as good in attack as in defence, cosmic left foot and a brilliant set-piece taker. But did you know he’s the first England player to make his international debut at his club ground since Paul Scholes earned his first cap at Old Trafford in 1997? Did you know that his grandfather played for the legendary Corinthian Casuals? Did you know he was once served a meal of fish fingers and ice cream and genuinely enjoyed it? You did not, you liar.
As a kid, Chilly would go to Spain with his family, where he became famous at a local restaurant for his love of fish fingers and ice cream. Separately, of course. Apparently they had the best fish fingers in the world.
“We went back every night, and on the last day, the chef brought me out the fish fingers in ice cream, and I ate it all. It was unbelievable! It worked. It just worked! Looking back, it’s a bit strange…”
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Could be the future. Probably isn’t the future. But it could be.
Chilly carved his path via Rushden & Diamonds’ Centre of Excellence, Leicester City's academy, and a loan spell at Huddersfield Town (more on that later), before breaking into Leicester’s first team and rapidly developing into one of the game’s elite wing-backs, earning his big move to Chelsea and becoming an England regular. As a result, Ben Chilwell has travelled more than the average person. How many people have been to Malmö, Turin, Madrid, Lille, St. Petersburg, Salzburg, Zagreb, Porto, Copenhagen, Bruges...?Not many.
Wouldn’t it be good, then, to get some travel tips from Chilly himself? And that’s what we did.
TIP #1: Do not travel to the airport with N’Golo Kanté.
“Most likely Chelsea player to be late - 100%, N’golo Kanté, without a doubt. And everyone’s always so surprised. You’d think he’d be nailed-on first one there, but he’s just so laid-back and relaxed, and so chill. So if he’s late to a meeting or late to the coach, he just walks in and he’s like, ‘sorry…’ and everyone just laughs.”
N’golo Kante: always in the right place on the pitch, never in the right place off it. Truly an enigma.
TIP #2: Do not jeopardise the harmony of your group by getting addicted to Mario Kart.
“We went through a phase last season where we were gaming, all of us together, on our DSs playing Mario Kart, and that was fun but that… that got boshed.”
Gaffer didn’t like it?
“Nah. It was just getting too competitive. Everyone was getting so angry. Personally, I just like to nap. I don’t want to miss out on the gaming, but I also want to nap so…”
We’ll let you draw your own conclusions about who was kicking up a fuss about losing Mario Kart. We have our theories.
TIP #3: Play it safe with food.
This one might cause a bit of a stir. Travelling is supposed to be about broadening your horizons, trying new things, having new experiences. But maybe Chilly has a point. If you’re an elite sportsperson, you probably don’t want to be risking a dodgy stomach hours before a game.
Having said that, some things are unforgivable: “I had my first Chinese with mates last week. That’s an exclusive.”
“It was good… it was nice. It’s not what everyone’s made it out to be. I think the build up was too much. So just play it safe.”
Right. Listen. That is… let’s just move on.
TIP #4: Don’t go in the sea.
Chilly says, “I don’t like going in the sea because there’s sand everywhere. I’d rather just go to a
nice cool swimming pool.”
He’s got a point about sand. Sand is everywhere in the sea, and it is annoying. The pool wins this battle. No sand, no problems.
TIP #5: Always pick a safari over scuba diving.
But Chilly, you could get eaten by a lion or bitten to death by mosquitos!
“Yeah but you could get eaten by a shark. And also I feel a bit claustrophobic underwater. Scuba diving… what are you actually seeing? You might see the odd fish. Think about it - with safari you’ve got lions, elephants, giraffes… you don’t have any of that under the water.”
Literally impossible to argue with, to be fair.
TIP #6: Beach football is the best.
“I went to Athens this summer. We were just playing footy on the beach and ended up playing with six or seven people who were all from Athens. Two of them played for a local team in Athens. It’s just fun. It’s a good way to meet people. We ended up playing two-touch for a few hours on the beach.”
Did they realise they were playing with you?
“I think one of them realised. Or maybe they were like…”
Were they like, “God, this guy’s touch is elite”?
“Yeah! ‘He’s not a bad football player, is he?’”
TIP #7: Give it all at the karaoke.
On Chilly’s first overnight stay whilst on loan at Huddersfield, he was initiated into the group via the classic stand-on-your-chair-and-sing-to-the-group ordeal. Which song would you choose to sing? Something simple? Something relatively easy to get through without looking daft? Chilly chose Sam Smith. That is a madness.
“I was 18, I didn’t know anyone in the team. I was petrified. I couldn’t even eat my dinner. But I gave it a good go, to be fair. When I watch people doing them now, if people just embrace it, it’s better. I was dreadful but I went for it.
So there you have it. Seven extremely useful tips from Chilly himself to help you travel like a pro.
We couldn’t let somebody who’s seen as much of the world as Ben Chilwell has go without asking for his favourite travel memory, though.
“The Final in Porto, 2021. I just remember there was one moment: me, Reece, and Mason were
just sat on the halfway line…”
You locked Mahrez up in that game - Mahrez is still reeling now...
“I know. I’d played against Riyad so many times, and I saw him a few weeks previous to the game. He said, ‘Chilly, I’m gonna kill you in that game.’ So I was like, Yeah. OK. Cool. Then obviously my dad came on the pitch, best mate came on the pitch… just unreal having pictures with them, everyone’s seeing how proud my dad was. And then we all went to the team hotel and everyone got together and we had a big dinner and team party. I think our flight home was at 9am the next day. I don’t think anybody slept a wink. You should’ve seen some of the eyes on that flight.”
Beautiful. Here’s to many more European trips, lads holidays, family memories, and journey after journey up and down the touchline for club and country.