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Clock-watching and cooking – life in the Cabango household

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Routine and rewards are the ways ahead through the lockdown, suggests Swansea City defender Ben Cabango.

The 19-year-old – who has won rave reviews in his breakthrough season for the club – admits life at home when the football season shut down took some getting used to.

Even though he has burst into Championship football with the Swans, Cabango still lives with his family in Cardiff.

That forced a natural structure to his day of rising early, travelling to Swansea’s Fairwood training ground and then exerting plenty of energy under the directions of club coaches before returning home.

More recently, he had moved into a house in Swansea but when the season was suspended in March – with no training or matches for the country’s professional players – then Llandaff North local Cabango moved back in with his parents, brother Theo, and grandfather.

“That nice routine all went and suddenly I was going to bed late, waking up late and finding I’d missed half the day,” he admits.

“Before the lockdown, I’d be on my way before 8.30am. I’d be in the gym by 9.30am and then out on the training field soon after 10. There was a structure to the day, I’d have achieved lots by early in the day and I knew where I was.

“Next thing I knew, I was rolling out of bed at 11 in the morning! I had nothing planned for the day ahead, apart from a bit of exercise, and that’s no good for me. I need routine.”

I think about the season starting again – that’s what is giving me the motivation at present – to stay as fit as I can so I can be ready when we start playing again.
Ben Cabango

Having discussed his needs with club coaches and officials, the teenage centre-back – who has been tipped by many to be part of Wales’ campaign at next year’s postponed European Championship finals – is now feeling much more settled.

His current routine involves rising at 8.00, eating a healthy breakfast, and then venturing outside for a run to set up his day.

The club did give him a two-week exercise break to re-charge his batteries after an exhausting debut season in first team football, but now his days are filled.

“I might do a 5k run, then a series of little sprints, and I can then go home where I’ve got some dumbbells and kettlebells to work with in the garden.

“In the afternoons, I might just relax with the family, socialise with friends online, or take one of our two dogs for a walk.”

Sometimes, instead of the running, Ben and 17-year-old Theo – who just happens to be a good enough rugby player to be part of the Cardiff Blues’ academy set-up – take a round ball and an oval one to sharpen their skills in the park.

Which brings us onto the rewards, because all work and no play would make Ben a dull boy.

The treats for Cabango senior involve a new found passion for cooking – a combination of fun and good nutrition.

“This season, I have begun to take my diet and nutrition a lot more seriously, because you have to if you’re going to get the best out of yourself in training and in matches.

“Good food makes me feel better and I’ve begun to enjoy making it. I made a nice paella the other night which was pretty decent.

“I have made a pretty good sweet potato curry and I was looking to make some healthy pizza with my own dough, but I’ve been having trouble getting hold of flour.

“Cooking is just a useful skill to have and it’s enjoyable because it takes your mind off everything else that is going on at present.

“A lot of the Swansea boys have been developing different skills. Connor Roberts is into his carpentry and is busy making bookshelves and cabinets, while Joe Roden is just a PS4 lover.

“That’s a skill, I suppose – and at least it keeps the players connected which is another big thing for us at present – to keep in touch with everyone and stay connected.”

For the moment, PlayStation is about the nearest any professional footballer in Wales can get to competitive action while the lockdown continues.

There are no set dates for players in either the Premier League, or the Football League to return to action, although clubs remain optimistic they can pick up the pieces of their season at some stage this summer.

Next summer – in 2021 - there could well be a different ambition in mind for Cabango with those delayed Euro finals proving an opportunity for some international glory.

Having already won honours with Walas at Under 17, U19 and U21 level, he is eager to break into Ryan Giggs’ squad in time for the tournament finals.

“I think about the season starting again – that’s what is giving me the motivation at present – to stay as fit as I can so I can be ready when we start playing again.

“Before this season stopped, it was my aim to try and push on and maybe even make the squad for the Euros this summer.

“I knew it was within sight if I kept in the team for Swansea. But with the finals being put back a year, it has given me more of an opportunity to make sure Ryan Giggs has a look at me.

“If I work hard every day to improve myself as a player, and get a solid season under my belt, then I think I can make sure I’m ready for it when the chance comes along.

“I would love to play at the Euros for Wales. It would be a massive honour and it’s another big motivation for me at present.

“The delay gives me another year to make my case and it also means players like Joe Allen have another year to recover from injury and get fit.

“That’s massive – so there’s a lot to look forward to.”

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