Dele Alli tries a meat-free 'chicken burger' using plant-based product Tindle, a company he has ... [+] invested inHifen Studios
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli was impressed with his first taste of ‘vegan chicken’ Tindle.
“It was actually incredible,” he tells me, before joking that he’ll have to persuade the chefs at Spurs to start using it.
Dele’s interest in the meat alternative is not strictly dietary, although the Tottenham midfielder is well aware of the health benefits, he has invested in Tindle.
The plant-based product’s differentiator is that, unlike most other chicken substitutes, it comes in a doughy form which can be sliced, rolled or reshaped into whatever form a chef desires.
Tindle’s plan is to be adopted by the restaurant sector before expanding to the mass consumer market.
It’s a smart time for Dele to make a bet on a plant-based business venture.
That said, vegan chicken production is not the typical opportunity Dele has chosen through his investment company so far.
“To be honest, the majority of the time I was investing in quite safe stuff,” he tells me.
“But I feel comfortable enough to invest in things that are a little bit more risky. Something I can have fun with and enjoy.”
‘Something I believed in’
A 'chicken burger' which uses plant-based meat alternative TindleHifen Studios
No specific goals have been set by the Spurs star for his return on his Tindle investment because, as he is keen to explain, this opportunity was about more than money.
“It is something that I believe in,” he continues.
“I think [eating plant-based alternatives] is a great idea and the right thing to do.
“This product is something that is beneficial to the world and people's health.
Dele says as a role model for youngsters he wants to promote the environmental and dietary benefits such foods offer.
“With social media and things like that [soccer player’s] are a big influence on a lot of kids,“ Dele adds.
The growth of veganism
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal in action during The MIND Series match ... [+] between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 08, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)Getty Images
Although not a vegan himself, Dele is well aware of the growing popularity of this type of diet.
"It's becoming a lot more common that you meet people that are vegans, vegetarians or just want to eat plant-based,” he continues.
“I think it's just the way the world's going and it's obviously important as it helps the planet.”
It’s increasingly likely that Dele will find himself facing a vegan on the field or sharing the dressing room with one.
Former Arsenal star Hector Bellerin and Roma defender Chris Smalling are two of soccer’s best-known vegans, whilst players like Jermaine Defoe and Sergio Aguero have both spoken about the benefits of reducing meat consumption.
Dele says having products that can match meat for both nutritional value and taste is helpful for any athlete considering altering their diet.
As well as having a fibrous texture which is remarkably similar to chicken, Tindle also contains the same quantity of protein.
“You always want to try and get that little extra per cent in whether it be in your diet or your training,” Dele explains.
“To be able to have an alternative you actually enjoy, tastes good and still gives you the same benefits [is crucial].”
‘You can’t play soccer forever’
Dele Alli of MK Dons (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)Corbis via Getty Images
Like many soccer players, as a boy, Dele hardly dreamt of being the big-time investor sinking his cash to a food-based startup from Singapore.
However, he realises that having made a career at the elite level of the game, putting some of the seizable wages his career provides into projects which offer returns further down the line is a sensible move.
Not that he always thought this way. Dele broke into the Milton Keynes Dons’ first team at just 16 years old and, understandably at that stage, was not thinking of what might happen in 20-odd years.
“When I was younger I just thought I'd be playing forever,” Dele adds.
“Naturally over time, as I started making more money, getting a little bit older and more mature. I realised; you can't just play [soccer] forever, there's a point where you have to retire.”
The Tottenham Hotspur star points out that players retire from the professional game around the age of 35 if they are lucky, which makes investing in their future incredibly important.
“I’m just trying to make sure that I have everything sorted and I can enjoy different things, [when that time comes],” he says.
Making the most of opportunities
ENFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Dele Alli and Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur during the Tottenham ... [+] Hotspur training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on September 29, 2021 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
There has been a significant evolution in the attitude towards soccer stars having interests outside the sport in the decade since Dele made his debut.
Increasingly fans and the media realise that demanding players live a monastic lifestyle purely in service of the game is not healthy.
Having projects which fill the ample downtime between studying tactical videos or working on the training pitch is positive.
As Dele’s Spurs teammate Eric Dier told me last year the idea that he could be less committed because he had interests outside the game is nonsensical.
“Me spending my time using my brain on other ideas and trying to build something successful,” Dier said, “I don't understand how that could ever impact my [soccer].”
And, as Dele points out, making the most out of being a soccer player is using the spare time and money the career offers productively.
“I think we're very lucky to be in a position we're in, it gives us opportunities to explore different things,” he adds.