Three minutes, two players, one ball…this is Street Style Soccer.
Just over a month before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa, over 50 players from around the globe presented tricks that would make the master Cristiano Ronaldo jealous at the 2010 Street Style Soccer World Finals in Cape Town.
Street Soccer battles take place between two competitors who show off their skills during a three minute bout, with both players having 20 seconds to produce their desired trick before taking a couple of seconds to draw breath, anaylise their opponent and prepare to perform again. Players are judged on control, creativity and style.
The sport has been around for some time, but has recently risen in popularity most notably thanks to the popular Nike freestyle adverts which included high profile proffesional football stars including Ronaldhino and Edgar Davids.
Below is a link to the Nike freestyle football advert:
Great Britain’s representative or a baller as they are known was Andrew Henderson from Cornwall who carried the nation’s hopes into the tournament and it is comforting to know he could not have been knocked out in a way the English are so used to seeing the national team dissapear from major tournaments, on penalties.
Henderson played both rugby and football from an early age, but it was his passion for the latter which made him the free style star he is today. He was inspired to practice tricks after viewing free style adverts on TV and he followed this up by researching clips on the web, which he put into practise.
The teenager qualified for the World Finals in South Africa after firstly winning his regional qualification round in Bristol and then winning the UK Finals with a wide variety of skills including his trademark stepovers at St Michael’s Church, Camden in November last year.
Below is a video of Andrew Hendersons entertaining last-16 battle with Daniel Rooseboom:
His dream of becoming the first British champion came to an abrupt end at the last-16 stage of the competition after a controversal decision from former Dutch international and head judge Edgar Davids.
The decision, which was greeted with a chorus of boos from the audience and fellow ballers, came as a suprise because the Truro born baller made fewer mistakes and seemed to produce the better moves, but Davids disagreed and allowed his Norwegian opponent through to the quarter-final.
Despite his dissapointment, especially after winning all of his qualification battles, the experience in South Africa should stand young Henderson in good stead for the future tournaments and his displays are likely to raise the profile of the game in the UK.
After his last-16 battle he said, “The Sport has changed. The level has improved and you can’t be the best in the world by just being creative, now you have to be technically of a very high level, which a couple of years ago wasn’t important but now you have to have the ability and the technique.
Free Style Soccer is improving. There are a lot more people getting into it and its getting more and more popular really fast so I think in a couple of years it will be quite big. Football is a sport but free style is the art of football, its more beautiful.”
UK qualification took place in London, Newcastle, Nottingham and Bristol. Judges at the final qualification round included 2008 World Champion Shaun Garnier and Soccer Am’s skills expert Rocket Long whose Skills School programme on the saturday morning TV show has helped raise the sport’s profile.
Former AC Milan, Inter Milan and Barcelona midfielder Edgar Davids, who
himself has experimented in performing skills and tricks famously for televised Nike adverts, feels the sport has all the ingredients to grow bigger as the ballers get better.
Speaking at the Red Bull Street Style Soccer finals in Cape Town, he said, “The sport has changed so much since I first got involved. At the beginning many of the players were the same, but now they all have their own style. At first it was all about doing the trick and creating different combinations but now you see other elements, particularly style.
Free Syle Soccer is getting better and better. You see before professional football matches players juggling and practising similar skills so I think it has been understood and is now widely accepted.”
As well as competing at local and national events, ballers often offer themselves for hire and this is the case for Ireland’s representative Hoai-nam Nguyten.
Nicknamed Nam the Man, the 29-year-old markets himself not only as a baller, but an entertainer too and has performed at numerous events across the world, including a set at the opening cermony of the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine.
The Dublin born freestyler, who progressed to the quarter-final stage before losing to eventual winner Anders ‘Azun’ Solum, disagreed with Edgar Davids’ decision to vote against Englishman Andrew Henderson, but echoed his thoughts that the sport has the potential to go far.
“Andrew was my personal favourite to win the competition and had he won that could have made the sport even more popular in the UK.”
He added, “I think that if there is a good business model as well as a developing model with investors, the sport can go through the roof.”
Below is a link to a video of the final between home favourite Kamal ‘Kamalio’ Ranchod and underdog Anders ‘Azun’ Solum from Norway:
Below is a link to a video which shows the best bits of the hugely popular event in Cape Town: