Kabasele reveals the secrets behind Watford's perfect start

Beans are banned at the Watford training ground so Christian Kabasele settles down to spill the avocado and quinoa.
On the menu is the story of a young striker who idolised Thierry Henry before he transformed into an elite centre half with the help of YouTube. And the clinical sense of humour which sparked a dressing room pseudonym, and his refusal to keep quiet in the fight for racial equality.
The 27-year-old Belgian is intelligent company on all subjects, but first to the secrets of the Vicarage and Javi Gracia's gentle revolution, fuelled by healthy oils and super-grains.
'We eat completely differently from last season,' says Kabasele. 'More avocado, more quinoa. Less pasta and rice during the week. Only the day before the game and the day of the game. Less tomato sauce. Beans are not in any more.
'When I first came here, I saw especially the English players with their eggs and beans in pre-match meals. This was a surprise, but we've seen big improvements. It is a question of eating well in the right moments — now we know the 48 hours after a game are very important — and we feel better on the pitch.
'We are fresh, finding extra effort in the second half and we don't have as many muscle injuries.'
Kabasele's excellent early-season form has been the perfect response to his omission from Belgium's World Cup squad.
He, like most of the Watford squad, can feel the benefit of a five-week break and a full pre-season and detects team bonds tightening under Gracia, who introduced daily yoga sessions and a stricter fines system.
'We register with an iPad when we arrive,' says Kabasele. 'So the manager knows exactly what time we are at the training ground. In the past we would report at nine o'clock and some players came at five or 10 past. Now there is no space for this. If you are not here at nine you pay £100 a minute and you go to the manager's office and explain why you are late.
'One or two are always late. Not very, very late but one or two minutes. Now 9.01 or 9.02 is late.'
Kabasele approves. 'It makes each player responsible,' he believes, and feels on solid ground as he has 'never been fined one pound' in more than two years at Watford. He jokes about 'liking the money'.
Kabasele cannot resist a one-liner, which is clear from his social media platforms, where he teases team-mates and enjoys running gags about failing to smile or being mistaken for team-mate Abdoulaye Doucoure.
'In the dressing room, they say I am a silent killer,' he says. 'I don't speak much, but I can be funny and if I can make a joke I will. We need fresh air.
'Life is difficult for most people. It's important not to take everything seriously.'
Equally, he has become an articulate voice in Belgium's fight against racism ever since he confronted abuse from the terraces in Belgium with a monkey mime celebration following a goal he scored for Genk in 2015.
This week he was active in support of Cecile Djunga, a weather presenter in Belgium who sparked a national debate with revelations of a complaint from one viewer who thought she was 'too black' to be on television.
'The mistake would be to say nothing,' he says. 'We have to speak loud about this problem and speak over and over.
'It is important to educate the kids. If you don't tell them every human is the same, they will not understand and will make these mistakes.'
Kabasele was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo when it was still Zaire and moved to Belgium at a young age.
Six years ago, his promising career as a 'selfless striker' was drifting. He had returned to KAS Eupen after a year in Bulgaria when, days before the start of a new season, he was summoned by manager 'Tintin' Marquez to solve a crisis in central defence.
'He said, "Look Christian, we are not going to buy anybody",' recalls Kabasele. 'He said, "You have the characteristics to do the job. You are tall, fast and strong in the challenge".
'The first thing I did was call my agent. It was the last year of my contract, everybody knew I was a striker and if I changed position and stayed on the bench it would be difficult for me.
'I tried to find a way out, but it was difficult for my agent to find a club and eventually I started the first game of the season in defence.
'We won 4-0 and I was the best player on the pitch. It wasn't easy but I felt comfortable in this position. After this, he never took me out of the team. Even when the central defender was back. He was the captain, but he stayed on the bench. This moment was the start of my new career.'
As a teenager, Kabasele spent hours curling shots inside the far post in the style of Henry.
He followed Arsenal during the Invincibles era and liked to believe his friends when they said he played like his idol.
'My dream was to be a striker,' said Kabasele and he was good enough to play up front in Belgium's youth teams, including once in tandem with Thomas Meunier, who is now the right back for Paris Saint-Germain.
'I was up front and he was No 10. He changed position two or three years after me. We laughed when we saw each other again at the national team, both defenders.'
Expected to learn a new craft, he launched into a crash course.
'I watched a lot of Vincent Kompany,' says Kabasele. 'He is one of the best defenders in the world and I tried to see how he played, tried to learn how to be a defender because I didn't have any information.
'I learned on the pitch but also through the video. I went to YouTube so many times and put in his name. Sergio Ramos, Rio Ferdinand as well, a lot of different defenders.
'I wanted to do it well and for me it was the fastest way to learn how to be a defender.'
Kabasele left Eupen for Genk who banked £5.8million when they sold him to Watford, where he is thriving under Gracia, preparing to face Manchester United.
'I think every day about my incredible journey,' says Kabasele. 'I don't think many players can say they were a striker in their 20s and now at 27 they are a defender in the Premier League and with the national team of Belgium.
'It's a question of luck. OK, there is the quality of my games, but I was lucky that the defender got injured and that the manager thought about changing my position.
'If I didn't meet him at this time, maybe I would not be playing against Manchester United.
'Maybe I would be playing in the second or third division in Belgium.'

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