Let the freestyle union begin
A Few months ago, when Aarish Ansari and his friends learnt that India’s only freestyle football tournament, organised by a popular energy drink copmany, was cancelled, they were disappointed. They had been learning new moves and styles, but suddenly there was no platform to show it.
“It was heartbreaking to know that there would be no freestyle tournament this year,” says Ansari. But as clichéd as it sounds, where there is a will, there’s always a way, and that’s what 21-year-old Ansari, and his three friends Rohit Khanna (21), Akshay Yadav (20), and Chinmaya Bhanvali (21) discovered; they are now organising Street Union 2015, a new National Freestyle Championship, all by themselves.
The four friends approached the Freestyle Football Federation (F3), a world governing body for the sport of freestyle football. This body owns the World Freestyle Football Championships and ranks freestyle footballers across the world based on points earned during national championships (125 points), continental championships (250 points) and the World Freestyle Championship (500 points). After F3’s approval, Street Union 2015 became India’s official National Freestyle Championship.
Challenges before kick-off
The team had just a month to prepare; however, funding was the major challenge. “Our budget was Rs 18,000, but without sponsors even that amount seemed huge. Since most companies had refused, we chipped in some of our savings, and the rest came from the R500 participation fee that every participant paid,” informs Ansari.
Thanks to the efforts of these freestyle footballers, the first edition of the two-day Street Union 2015 begins today. Ikrön David Luikham, a popular name in Indian freestyle football, will judge the event. “We received 35 entries from across India. Most participants are students who will be travelling to Mumbai on their own,” elaborates Ansari. With their tiny budget, Ansari and his team offer accommodation for participants in their own homes or residences of friends. “There are a few adjustments, but it’s been going well,” he admits.
But why go through the trouble, we ask; “Freestyle football is a niche sport. There are limited numbers of freestyle football athletes worldwide, and in India, but we don’t wish for it to die. Those of us who have been practising freestyle football would like to have something to look forward to. Despite the limited following, we believe every one who has played football, has done a bit of freestyle football, and would love to see more of it. Besides, our dream is to see an Indian freestyle footballer on the F3 World Tour next year. Missing the National Championship would mean losing out in the vital 125 points,” Ansari reminds us.
On Today and April 5, 1 pm onwards
At Vanita Hall, Aram Nagar 2, Andheri (West).