|Highest governing body||World Freestyle Football Association|
Freestyle football is the art of juggling a football using any part of the body, excluding the elbows to the hands. It combines football tricks, dance, acrobatics and music to entertain onlookers and compete with opponents. The official governing body for this sport is known as the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA).
The art of freestyle football can be traced to games of Southeast Asia such as chinlone, jianzi and sepak takraw, which have been practised for 2,000 years. Fundamental freestyle tricks such as the 'Neck Stall' and 'Around The World' were first popularly performed in the West by circus performers, notably including Enrico Rastelli and Francis Brunn.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Argentine footballer Diego Maradona famously brought his freestyle 'Life is Life' warm-up to international attention while playing for SSC Napoli. The ability to freestyle, however, was widely criticized at the time as not having direct relevance to playing the game of football.
At the beginning of the 21st century, several significant events helped elevate freestyle football with broader recognition. Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho starred in Nike advertising campaigns such as 'Joga Bonito' (English: The Beautiful Game), which popularized the ability to practice alone with a ball and develop new moves and tricks.
Inspired by Maradona, South Korean footballer Mr Woo sought to become a football entertainer. He established Guinness world records and performed at the 1988 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and the FIFA World Cups in 1990 and 1994. Soufiane Touzani from the Netherlands introduced a new style of lower tricks, which were popularized through viral videos.[better source needed]
Footballer Sandy Levittas (a.k.a. Bambiball) was among the first women to share videos of her freestyle skills, which inspired more girls to take up the sport. Different styles were then developed such as lowers, uppers, sit-downs, grounds and blocking.
In 2015, Ronaldinho was recognized by the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA) as ambassador for the sport.[timeframe?] Competitions have been organized across the globe and videos have been shared by over 80 million of people on a monthly basis.[failed verification]
In recent years, some of the top football players in the world have credited freestyle and street football cultures for helping to develop their talents. These athletes have included Neymar Jr, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Tricks or moves in freestyle football are categorized into different disciplines or styles:
Within the above disciplines, the following individual moves are among the most popular:
The first major competition for freestyle football was Red Bull Street Style (RBSS) in 2008, which was hosted in São Paulo, Brazil. Séan Garnier won this competition with a style that had not been seen in the public eye before.
Super Ball, the first open world championship (where anyone could compete) catered to freestylers with ranging styles, recognizing the many ways to judge a freestyler. Hosted in the Czech Republic, Super Ball became the premiere annual international event for freestylers.
The following tournaments are recognized by the official governing body of the World Freestyle Football Association:[failed verification]
Typical events in competitive freestyle football include:[further explanation needed]
The WFFA uses results from the official national championships, continental championships, international opens and world open competitions to assign a point ranking to competitors.[failed verification][needs update]
Other key names that brought their own touch to the art of freestyle football over the years include:
In January 2019, freestyle football has received over 80 million video views per month on social media channels. There are over 70 related events every year, the largest being the Red Bull Street Style World Final. The sport is enjoyed mainly by a demographic of 12–25 year-olds, with 85% male.[failed verification]
Major markets in terms of consumption of freestyle football content include the United States, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Spain, Poland, France, the Middle East, China, Japan and South East Asia, with a direct audience of 1.47 billion football fans around the globe.[relevant?]