Masters of freestyle

Away from the wet playgrounds and parking lots, a group of freestyle footballers have been meeting every week in a dance hall in Dadar to practice their moves. This first generation of Indian freestylers have only one aim in their mind and that is to finish among the top four at the Red Bull Freestyle Football Challenge, scheduled to take place this Sunday at Smaash.

Archis Patil, first runner-up of Red Bull Street Style India 2012, showing his skills at the finale in Kolkata, in 2012. Pic courtesy/ Red bull

With a portable boombox playing Hip-Hop tracks, each freestyler come up with his own routine. They learn tricks while practising or by watching others on YouTube. “I learnt most of my tricks by watching videos on the Web,” says 24-year-old Archis Patel, a professional freestyle footballer. He is one of the few Indian freestyle footballers who have managed to not only establish a name for themselves here, but have also been representing India at international competitions. Apart from practising his own moves, Patel, who was the first runner-up of the Street Style Challenge in 2012, has also been helping freshers.

Young freestyle footballers ahead of the freestyle competition at Wilson College’s annual fest Polaris on Friday. Pics/ Bipin Kokate

“Since, there are no coaches or trainers, we have to help each other,” says Patel, adding, “We get a stereo, see each others’ skills and help improve it. We give each other different combos and share new tricks.” The freestyler has been invited to represent India at the freestyle Superbowl, which will take place in the Czech Republic, in August. “Freestyle Football is like break dance, you need a place where you can move around without any discomfort. And you have to stay motivated all the time,” he says.

Freestyle footballer Akshay Yadav

The motivation is not lacking among youngsters like Roshan Rao (18), who are getting ready to make their presence felt in freestyle football in India. Roshan, a TYBCom student from Bhavan’s College, was placed among the top 16 freestylers in Mumbai last year, and is hoping to show better tricks this year. “I have been working hard for this. Unfortunately because of the monsoon, we couldn’t practise as much as we would have wanted, but we have been meeting every week,” says Rao. Earlier, the group of around 20-30 freestylers from across Mumbai would meet daily — at parking lots, shopping malls, playgrounds, wherever they could find space. But these days they’ve shifted to the hall in Dadar and are hoping to conquer the world of freestyle football.

On July 21, 2 pm onwards
At Smaash, Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel.

National Final
On July 27, 1 pm onwards
At Inorbit Malls, Link Road, Malad (W).

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