The latest phenomenon sweeping soccer (football if you’re in Europe!) isn’t a wonder kid from the back streets of Rio or Rochdale, but there’s no doubt that if it was he would have picked up many of the latest freestyling tricks on his way to stardom.
For as long as the game has been played, soccer players have sought to command ultimate mastery of the ball. Many great players hone their individual skills by practicing alone with a football, spending hour upon hour perfecting a particular trick, making what seem to be almost impossible feats appear simple. In recent years ‘freestyle’ soccer has developed with competitions to find the very best freestylers in the soccer world.
A common definition of the term ‘Freestyle’ is ‘a competition in which the contestant is given more latitude than in related events’. In soccer, freestyling means that anything goes! Routines are characterized by creativity and originality with ultimate emphasis placed on showmanship. Being able to do 20 ‘keepie-uppies’ is no longer a guarantee to stardom, the best freestylers demonstrating awesome ball control, agility and athleticism.
Much of the popularity of the sport can be attributed to the growth of easily accessible new media and the internet. Look on any video sharing site and search ‘soccer’ and you will find countless videos of players demonstrating their mastery of the sport. Common tricks have their own names (check out the chicken wing, the chop stick or the chungy!) and many players have their own signature moves. Competitions are held all over the world and there are a growing number of professional freestylers.
The sport has gained major exposure through the involvement of soccer heroes such as Ronaldinho and David Beckham. Turn on any TV and you are almost as likely to see them displaying their freestyle skills in high profile ads for sports equipment manufacturers such as Nike or Adidas as scoring for FC Barcelona or LA Galaxy! Indeed, Nike’s fabulously successful and highly effective ‘Joga Bonito’ campaign featured many soccer icons displaying their freestyle skills including Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Cannavaro (‘Joga Bonito’ aptly means ‘play beautiful’ in Portuguese!).
So what do you need to start freestyling? Nothing more than a pair of soccer shoes football and lots of time to practice. You don’t even need much space, a small back yard is fine, though many freestylers prefer to train indoors in the gym. There are already a number of freestyle soccer coaching videos and DVD’s and numerous resources on the internet where you can pick up all the latest tips and techniques. Most players start by learning basic ball juggling techniques and progress from there to more complicated moves.
It’s exciting to watch and fun to do, and the future looks bright for freestyle soccer. No longer relegated to a few kids sharing tricks at the local park, the sport now has a governing body and plans are in place to expand media coverage throughout the world. If you’re not feeling quite fit enough to don your soccer cleats and grab a ball yourself, you can even buy freestyle street soccer games for your XBOX or PS2!