Elements of [Free]Style – Football edition

There are always two kinds of players who draw the attention of spectators during

games: on one hand, they’re the scorers, team players, aces – players who are adept at scoring points, winning matches, the like. On the other, the person who shows enough grace, finesse, and flair in his/her moves that leaves an aftertaste of awe and amazement among their viewers.

The latter may not rack up points – it doesn’t even win games for that matter – but hey, it scores more attitude points than its more useful counterpart. Attributing the “for the love of the game” part, winning is merely a by-product for these sort of people who just want to have fun; showing-off their skills and creativity is all that there is to it.

All may have heard the “play ball” bit a little too much. To freestylers though, playing the ball is exactly what they have in mind.

Freestyle – A definition, a philosophy, a practice

By definition, freestyle football is the art of expressing oneself by way of performing tricks with a football.

“It’s all about performing amazing football tricks and moves with style, fluency, and attitude,” according to Colin Nell, a football freestyler/athlete/sports model.

As a sport, it borrows concepts from kemari and gymnastics wherein the focus is on keeping the ball up in the air as stylish as possible by utilizing every part of one’s body except one’s arms or hands, with the exception of ground tricks.

Though it may sound impractical to use this in an actual match, it certainly doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

I’ll just leave this here:

Despite how Ronaldinho makes it look easy, the whole process requires a hefty amount of skill and experience to pull off.

That’s what freestyle is all about: proper movement, skill, and creativity – these are elements which may turn a straightforward game into a far better spectacle.

People may do this for training purposes (improving their skills, ball handling, the like) and as a leisure activity; freestyling with friends can be more fun than the average player may think.

Although it may deviate from the norms of normal game play, freestyling has been a practice that has inspired a lot of people, young and old, to engage and test the capacity of their skills and wit. With a little determination and more practice, a player can develop gain better understanding and synchronicity with both mind and body. Eventually, this may even lead freestylers to land their own trademark moves.

Play Beautiful 

…or Joga Bonito was Nike’s advertising campaign that spurred the resurgence of freestyle football in 2006. The initiative involved top players in the football business (Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Edgar Davids) and amateur football fanatics alike in showcasing their skills. Its popularity, however, skyrocketed when Nike launched a freestyle football competition online shortly after where everyone was encouraged post their own videos on the internet which allowed enthusiasts worldwide to impart feedback.
Since then, freestyle football has been widely accepted as an official sport and spawned notable names in the freestyle football industry: Soufiane Touzani (creator of Touzani Around the World), Kosuke Takahashi (arguably the best freestyler in Japan), Philip Warren Gertsson (a Norwegian-Filipino who recently bagged 1st place in the 2016’s Asian Freestyle Football Championship) among others.

“Freestyle (football) is not just for soccer players; it is for all.” Pro football freestyler Nam Hoai “Nam the Man” Nguyen claims. True enough, even NBA Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash, being a football player and all, delves into the realm of freestyle football. After all, all it takes is a single ball, a wide-space, and a whole lot of free time, to partake in this activity.

Juggles, Stalls, Ground Moves

“Through Freestyle, [this] bring out the creativity in us!

–Nam Hoai “Nam the Man” Nguyen

With the exception of arms and hands, there is a myriad of possibilities on how a freestyler could keep the football up. There’s also the consideration of which body part to use and what moves to take in short bursts are factors one has to choose during a run.

Though it may sound easy in principle, successfully pulling them off is a different story. Even the most basic of moves require constant practice and a whole lot of repetition for a newbie to execute them without looking awkward. After all, we’re talking about grace and finesse here.

With a whole load of moves that one can do, it cannot be done properly without mastering the basics of freestyle football. These includes:

  • Juggling – the process of maintaining the ball in the air by means of kicking, kneeing, shouldering, or heading the ball upwards. This is the most basic move in freestyle football.
  • Stalls – the art of trapping the ball in a certain part of the body. Commonly, the space between the instep and the shins are used (foot stall) to trap the ball in place, as well as on top of the head (head stall) or behind the neck (neck stall).
  • Around the World – commonly mistaken as an advanced move by newbies, Around the World, or ATW, is done by rotating a leg around the ball while it’s airborne and stalling or flicking it before the ball hits the ground with the same leg.
  • Ground moves – this is the easiest aspect of freestyle football; yet also the most dangerous as it could result to sprains, slips, and cuts if not done properly. Ground moves is basically “dancing” with your football – letting the ball roll between your legs as you do a quick spin move, avoiding contact with the ball; using your knees to push the ball forward (“Give Praise”); or basically utilizing your lower part of the body to perform tricks while the ball is on-ground.

The advanced stages of freestyle football involve linking certain successive moves that are synergized without stopping. From juggle to ATW to Neck stall to Head stall to another ATW, and the list goes on.

For visual reference, head over to Freestyle Football Wiki for a relatively comprehensive list of moves for you to try out.

In a world where everything is restricted by rules and law, one is bound to stand out and break free from the confines of the system. And through its likeness will come forth a legion that will go against the grain and transcend from the once shackled world into an unbound realm of possibilities, ideas, and principles, divorcing themselves from the limits of the old.

Maybe freestyle is the same; a practice that delimits the limitations of motion and unbinds the bonds of the traditional.

Freestyle is Motion – Freestyle is cool.

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