Celin Bizet interview: Rhythm is gonna get you – Spurs’ iced-out Norwegian with the Cuban link

Photo: Tottenham Hotspur/Shutterstock

The uplifting era that rode into town last summer at Tottenham Hotspur Women has had some of its most colourful sparks coming live and direct from Celin Bizet Ildhusøy. The young Norway international is a personality and performer stacked with adventure, and sizzling with a side of Cuban style.

Spurs Women’s 2023/24 finale was a fitting farewell to a season of hope and progression. The 3-1 win over West Ham United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium gave a deserved curtain call to a campaign in which they left the previous year’s survival scrap in the dust.

With a top-six Women’s Super League finish and a first FA Cup final, Robert Vilahamn’s arrival in English management has also given rise to increasing individual success stories, like Norwegian live wire Celin Bizet. For the 22-year-old, one flavourful snapshot against champions Chelsea in the penultimate game – spinning between two opponents and flicking the ball past one – embodied how her team have courageously tried to attack the WSL’s long-established gap to the elite.

The ebullient wide player signs off her second season in England with Spurs fans’ fondness, for both her attacking promise and playful persona, having only grown.

“I always loved in the winter to go snowboarding,” she recalls of life back home. “Obviously, I can’t do that now, because of my contract.”

Her daring streak might be reined in for now in that regard, but the risk element that could make her one of the game’s more intriguing talents in the coming seasons is one that the former Paris Saint-Germain player is not afraid to run with. She has been observing one international teammate – the Barcelona star who exemplifies such creative bravery – with interest.

“Caroline Graham (Hansen), it’s just how amazing she is on the ball,” she says, describing what she has picked up most in their time together. “Just be creative and enjoy the ball, and it’s nothing bad losing the ball in the game, just continue.”

While born and raised in Norway – Celin’s father, Kjell Gunnar Ildhusøy, was a footballer back home – there is bolero bubbling beneath her Nordic chill. With her mother, Judith, coming from Cuba, maybe there is good reason for the extra swerve in her on-field stride.

She responds with razor-sharp vigour when asked if she has Cuban rhythm.

“Yes, absolutely – I’m not dancing like my father! I’m more like my mother, 100 per cent!

“I was a lot with my mum when I was younger, so me and her have been vibing a lot in music. I took a lot of the music from her, and to holiday there is just another world, another vibe; just what I love the most, to be fair.

“I love Norway but Cuba would be nice to live in.”

Any plans to kick back in her corner of the Caribbean full-time, however, might come with some homework first.

“My mum was learning Norwegian when I was born, so she used me, kind of, to learn Norwegian! So, I’m really angry about that, because I don’t speak Spanish, and it would be lovely to speak Spanish!

“She moved from Cuba when she was 19, and had me when she was 24, I think, in Norway. I’ve been a little bit to Cuba, maybe six or seven times in the summer breaks; it’s a lovely place, my favourite place.

“And yeah, I don’t speak Spanish, so I can’t really communicate with the rest of that half of my family!”

Understanding has, though, been a feature at Spurs of late, for a squad who have appeared to revel in each other’s company. They had unforgettable moments to celebrate this past season, the most seismic of which both came at their intermittent home of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 2023/24’s group will be remembered as the one to secure a historic, first victory over rivals Arsenal (1-0 in December’s WSL derby), as well as the extra-time FA Cup win (2-1) against Leicester City in April to send them to Wembley.

A 2022 addition during Rehanne Skinner’s tenure, Celin has emerged as an irrepressible presence in the changing room, and not just because she supposedly spends the longest in there getting ready (as claimed by teammates Martha Thomas and Jess Naz in the BBC’s FA Cup final build-up). As young striker Lenna Gunning-Williams revealed in her interview on here recently, Celin has had the role of gym-session DJ locked down, but what about when it comes to the acid test – on a match day?

“Sometimes, but it’s mostly been Molly (Bartrip) this season, and me and Beth (England) sometimes when Molly’s not feeling for it. But yeah, I do it in the gym mostly; I’m more like the training-ground (DJ).

“I’m more fun and dancing, and vibing, I think. I’m not so serious before the game, but when I enter the pitch, I am…maybe…sometimes!”

Spurs spectators at regular home venue Leyton Orient have by now had a brimful of the Brisbane Road beatboxer, but Celin’s DJ set plays to a more exclusive audience. Sharing a hint of what keeps her playlist popping, she also confirms whether there any dissenting voices in the ranks.

“No, they’re too scared to complain, I think! Now, I’m playing more like Afrobeats, but it can be anything from Chris Brown, Jorja Smith, it can be some house music; a good mix actually.”

The 20-cap, seven-goal Norway attacker carries confidence befitting a number 14 at a north London club, like perhaps…David Ginola (was there someone else fitting that description?). Gallic flamboyance and ‘90s L’Oréal Elvive adverts aside, Celin played true to those showtime principles when serving up one of the WSL’s standout goals of the season in November.

Shrugging off a Liverpool challenge in her own half to win possession, a sumptuous foot-roll over the ball, and strength to evade a trip, sent her striding away. A 50-yard burst at the retreating Reds backline got its first-class finish when she cut a right-footer into the far corner from the edge of the box.

For a player who backs herself on the pitch, it should probably come as little surprise that she went big with her Spurs initiation.

“Yes, I did (sing)…and I was the best, someone said! It was ‘No One,’ Alicia Keys.”

But can she really hit such Grammy-winning high notes?

“On a good day, I can! I sang at PSG as well, ‘Let Me Love You’ (by Mario), and I was up on the table singing, because they were going to pay me for that.

“But they didn’t pay me…I feel a bit angry.”

The most recent behind-the-scenes video – of what became an extensive series this season – offered a glimpse of those vocals, with Celin briefly breaking into the opening verse of Alicia Keys’ ‘If I Ain’t Got You.’ Alongside her in that clip was Spurs’ recent Manchester United loan star Grace Clinton, one half of their fun-loving double act, with their friendship forming one of the lighter side stories of the WSL.

For the future action-film sidekicks (make it happen, Hollywood…), Celin recalls how they hit it off…eventually.

“We met each other the first time in pre-season; I think I didn’t say hello to her the first day she was here, actually! She didn’t say hello to me, but she moved into the players’ house, and then we just clicked after that.”

Squad-wide get-togethers across the season, Celin believes, have underpinned Spurs’ in-game connection.

“It just helps when you’re friends outside the pitch, to be open on the pitch; you can yell at each other, or say good stuff.”

Their downtime also included a landmark event for her.

“I’ve been to one concert actually, with Grace, that was my first one, and we were listening to Jorja Smith. If I was going to see any artist now, I would most likely love to see Rihanna.”

Although Afrobeats now dominates her speakers the most, life growing up brought a different backbeat, owing in no small part to each of her parents.

“Spanish music, a lot, and my dad is obsessed with old songs from when he was young, so I listened a lot to that. I think Rihanna was one of the first I bought, and Beyoncé.”

The Jencarlos Canela track ‘Bajito’ (with Ky-Mani Marley) is tied to family memories of visiting Cuba, while Fleetwood Mac, Tomas Ledin, Postgirobygget and Guns N’ Roses are among many sealed in her dad’s affections. Long before London, Paris, and international voyages with the Norway team, Porsgrunn was home, ahead of moving north to Frogner.

“I had a lot of friends; I was always outside playing football when I was younger, with the boys. It was a really good time actually.

“It was my local people, I didn’t travel much around cities, I was always home, going outside in the afternoon playing football. Outside Oslo, so I wasn’t really central, it was more like in the countryside.

“I was biking a lot, up and down that mountain – it was awful! But it was really calm, to be fair.”

Back home in Norway as a teenager! Photo: Kjell Gunnar Ildhusøy

Dad Kjell, also an attacking player, appeared for Norwegian top-flight Molde’s first team as a youngster in the ‘90s. While Celin, who has an older sister and younger brother, says she was too young to remember him on the pitch, his input was fundamental for her.

“I know he was the person who put the ball at my feet. I also did a lot of other activities, like handball, badminton, skiing, so I just did all these different sports, and I wasn’t the best at football in the beginning, but I think I liked how I could get better.

“In handball, I was really good, but I didn’t want to continue that, because I thought football was more challenging, and more exciting to do.”

The challenge of recording a cup-final song might be a few decades past en vogue, but Spurs’ pre-match co-ordination last month, with their sleeveless, cream, Wembley suits, was so pinpoint that some might have been left wondering when their first single comes out. Grace Clinton was revealed on this site last year (by Everton’s Megan Finnigan) to have taken the less travelled of initiation-song routes, as a teenager and first-team newcomer – the iconic ‘Smelly Cat’ from Friends’ Phoebe Buffay.

If Celin ever needs a trusted collaborator on her own debut release, surely her partner in crime will be first on the list?

“Oh…not Grace, she’s a terrible singer! I think Olga Ahtinen is a really good singer; maybe we would do a Rihanna song.”

Left to right: Celin Bizet, Grace Clinton and Rosella Ayane.

On international duty, she has happily been leaving playlist control with Atlético Madrid midfielder Vilde Bøe Risa, while relishing each chance on the pitch to get in step with the team’s noteworthy attacking talents. As well as the aforementioned Caroline Graham Hansen, she has been absorbing all she can from the likes of Lyon goal queen Ada Hegerberg and Chelsea schemer Guro Reiten.

“Ada, she’s just so professional every day. Guro, always the small details; good on the ball, passing, crosses.

“I’m learning so much from all of them.”

Her own commitment to developing into one of the world’s best is undeniable, though she admits with characteristic candour that she prefers not to be consumed by the sport in her free time.

“I don’t really watch football, to be fair – I’m just playing it!”

In any case, having made her tournament debut at EURO 2022, being consigned to tracking last summer’s World Cup from afar certainly was not the plan. Was her impressive club campaign this time around further fuelled by that omission?

“A lot of (Spurs) players were away at the World Cup, and I think that was the period where I maybe practiced most on myself, in the pre-season. I was really sad to not go to the World Cup, obviously; it was so fun (being) in the EUROs, so I was looking forward to it.

“I was kind of prepared some weeks before, and I thought, ‘If I’m not going then I’m just going to use the holiday well and be with my family, friends, and fiancé. If I’m going there (to the World Cup), then I’m going to be really happy, but if not, I just have to deal with it; it’s not the end of the world, is it?

“There’s going to be more World Cups, so just be prepared for the next Euro, Olympics, whatever it is.’”


After a brief break abroad, she is now with the national team for their EURO 2025 qualifying double-header with Italy. Head coach Gemma Grainger, appointed in January after leaving her Wales role, has already demonstrated her backing, with Celin starting the scoring in April’s 4-0 win over Finland in Oslo.

She highlights the added energy she has gleaned so far from the Middlesbrough native, while the support back at Spurs has been consistently apparent. Ahead of the season’s final game, Robert Vilahamn described her as possessing ‘the potential to be the best winger in this league.’

Attempting to gain ground on the WSL’s big hitters brings bumps in the road, but deeper belief comes when supporters and players alike see clarity of leadership and ideas, and liberating ones at that. Formerly an ace goalscorer in Sweden’s lower divisions, Vilahamn has shared his belief that the game should provide entertainment, while his approach to player care and the team environment has also widely resonated.

He has publicly credited the groundwork of backroom staff prior to and since his arrival, including that of assistant head coach and ex-Liverpool manager Vicky Jepson, who had steered Spurs to safety as interim boss last year. Celin gives her take following her first season under the guidance of Vilahamn, who previously tried to sign her for BK Häcken.

“He’s really professional, first of all. He is giving every player confidence.

“He’s telling us to do what we want to do, and then we have a plan, and I think it’s been good for the team, because it was maybe a bit stressful before; it’s more calm now. We have a plan, we go through that plan, and if it doesn’t work, he will say it’s his fault, not our fault.

“I think it just gives a lot of confidence to the team to just do what we’re good at.”

Catching the eye of various clubs while at Vålerenga, she won a Norwegian league-and-cup double in 2020 alongside the likes of Dutch midfield great Sherida Spitse and present-day WSL names Rikke Madsen (Everton), CJ Bott (Leicester) and Dejana Stefanović (Brighton). A move to Champions League contenders Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, where current Spurs goalkeeper Barbora Votíková was a teammate, may not have proved the dream outcome she hoped for, but it is a choice she would not change.

Paris, first of all, lovely city, lovely there. Obviously, I didn’t get to play much, but I did get to train with some of the world’s best players and I just learned so much from it; I would do it again at that age, if I got the chance!

“I’d never seen such good trainings before; 11-v-11 was always good, competitive, good people. I learned a lot and I’m really happy I went there.”

When asked of any colleagues’ support that she especially leant on when moving overseas, she explains a caution-to-the-wind spirit that she tries to live by.

“I’m not the type to ask for help, I like to do stuff myself, to be fair. I like to adventure with stuff, and if I fail, it’s okay.”

That purposeful thinking seemed to spark Spurs’ most impactful attacking moment in the FA Cup final defeat (4-0) to Manchester United. Introduced early in the second half (having recently returned from a minor injury), her 65th-minute run at the United defence and pass to Amanda Nildén on the overlap led to Beth England heading against the crossbar.

Vilahamn is eager to find more ways to get her running in behind teams, feeling that her speed into space could carry greater impact than when taking the ball with defenders in front of her. Her potentially-scintillating style perhaps mirrors what Spurs are at present: a work in progress worth sticking around for.

She details what she feels she needs at this point from a coach.

“I’m loving positive comments and just ‘keep going, continue doing that.’ When I was younger, I was really a fan of being yelled at, because I think I needed it, but now, I think I learned from that, so I’m more like positive energy and good feedback from the sideline.

“I think you have to be stressed if you get yelled at in a game. For a player in this league, every game’s important, every game is hard, so I don’t think anyone is actually not working hard; especially me, I’ll never not work hard.

“So, I just need good vibes, good comments, ‘keep going, next one,’ that’s what I’m reacting best on now, I think.”

Her summer will be punctuated again by international duty in July, for final group-stage EURO qualifiers against Finland and the Netherlands. Switch-off time over the coming weeks, meanwhile, may get a touch more exotic than during the season.

One U.S. series aside – “I love Grey’s Anatomy, that’s my favourite…” – the hobbies she has adopted of late are starting to sound dangerously…English.

“I like to do activities more than sitting around watching TV, to be fair. I love to play pool actually, and I’ve been doing a bit of darts lately.”

As for finishing on a double, continuing to multiply her seasonal goal tallies like she did this year (up from two to four) will do nicely. While she finds herself somewhere allowing her to feel challenged and comfortable in equal measure, there appears no need for a checkout (is that enough darts references?) from a story only just starting to take flight.

“It’s been a really good season, it’s been fun. We won a lot; we have so many more points than last season.

“I just love this league; I think it’s the best league in the world. I’m really settled now.”

To catch each of these interviews, you can follow: @chris_brookes

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