Following his loan period with The New Saints FC, Ben Cabango’s star has most definitely been in the ascendancy since he returned to his parent club, Swansea City.
As well as continuing to feature for his country (Wales) at U-21 level, Ben has gone on to make his first-team debut for the Swans. The latter in particular, has attracted a lot of media attention here in Wales, and several articles have been published from various writers documenting the central defender’s career path since departing Park Hall.
In this piece though, I want to look at things from a different perspective and away from the actual pitch activity.
I first met Ben in June 2008, when he joined the squad for the pre-season training camp in Portugal. Living near Wolverhampton and departing from Birmingham, I met with everyone at the airport, as we flew to the Algarve.
Top of the media list was an interview with Ben that we could get out on the TNS FC website and social media platforms. Therefore, at the earliest opportunity we chatted in the glorious Portuguese sunshine, discussing his career to date, and of course, how he felt when he knew the champions of Wales was interested in him and what he expected from his loan period.
Initial impressions indicated that Ben was a rounded young man, confident and well-spoken and he communicated well. That proved to be the case throughout his loan period and he was always a pleasure to interview.
Coming from a professional club with experience at the very top of the English game, the input into his wider career, and not just the time spent on the pitch was obvious. However, and far more important, the support and influence of his family came through clearly.
For many on the outside, the life of a professional footballer is all about glamour, fame and riches. While some may reach those dizzy heights, for the vast majority it’s about handling disappointment, wondering if you’ll get a contract at the end of the season and working extremely hard to keep that self-belief at times when the going can be very tough indeed.
That’s where, more than anything, knowing that your family is there for you is vital. Remember, we are talking about young men looking to carve out a career in a world that is brutal at the best of times. Even now, a year after returning to Swansea City, Ben is still a teenager, albeit in the dying months of that stage of his life.
It was a real pleasure getting to know Ben during his time with The New Saints and the image below is from the training camp in Portugal. I interviewed him several times during his time with us and captured numerous photographs.
However, my personal favourite is the lead image. Taken at TNS In The Park, where our Foundation hosts an annual fun event at Cae Glas Park in Owestry, the photograph features Ben, Kane Lewis, Joash Nembhard and Josh Hmami, along with my grand-daughter, Nyah.
After meeting the players, Nyah asked if she could have her photograph taken with them, hence the shot.
I’ve kept in touch with Ben since his return to Swansea and it’s great to see how his career has developed on the pitch. My own personal memories though will not only be what’s happened during the ninety minutes of a game but also what’s gone on beyond it.
All the very best for the future, Ben.
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