Boom. Bang. Scoop. Yo Katsuyama moves the soccer ball around and down his shoulder before launching it in the air, securing a perfect 360-degree turn and landing the ball on the top of his head. His opponent, Ricardo Chahini de Araujo of Brazil, waits for his turn to impress the judges and make the crowd roar.
The Street Style Soccer World Finals were held at the in Miami on November 15th at the RC Cola Plant in Wynwood. Freestyle Football is a creative combination of breakdancing and soccer ball tricks. Some liken the participants to the Globetrotters of soccer.
The sport has been gaining popularity on YouTube thanks to freestylers like Mr. Woo, Ronaldinho and Soufiane Touzani. 11 years ago, Red Bull partnered with the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA). Red Bull saw an opportunity to sponsor an event capitalizing on the talent of individuals mastering the moves of Freestyle Football around the world. This convergence was the birth of the Street Style Games.
The first games were held in Brazil in 2008, and since then has positioned professionals against each other in Italy, South Africa, Japan and France. This year, for the first time ever, the games were hosted in North America. Athletes from over 50 nations will go head-to-head in the World Finals.
According to redbullstyle.com, the rules of freestyle football are simple, “three minutes, two players, one ball, one winner.” It is both a sport and an art form – intertwining the balance, agility and coordination skills with elements of creative expression and personality. With a steady beat and variety of tricks, the possibilities are endless for these athletes.
The venue was drenched in the energy drink’s iconic blue and red logo colors. A swank VIP lounge, equipped with LED signs and coolers stocked with every flavor of the beverage, was set up near the front. In the center, a buzzing crowd clung to the glowing circular stage, waiting for the battles to begin. The music, lights and bar lined the perimeter. The energy was electric.
Major League soccer player Fafa Picault studied the battle from the comfort of the VIP section. Like the rest of the crowd, he jolted his body back at impressive hits and raised his eyebrows in an occasional “wow” in response to the match. It was his first time at the event – and he was in awe.
“These guys are crazy. They’re not normal,” said The Philadelphia Union’s Midfielder. “We can do tricks more than other people, but compared to these guys we’re terrible,” he said.
The judge panel featured Pavel Pardo of Mexico and Luís “Nani” Almeida of Portugal. The panel awarded Ricardo “Ricardinho” Fabiano Chahini de Araújo of Brazil first place. Sebastian “Boyka” Ortiz Hernandez of Colombia took second place, putting Erlend Fagerli of Norway (the 2018 title-winner) in third.
In the Women’s division, France’s Mélody Donchet, with two previous street style wins already in her pocket, took first place.
All and all, the talented collection of people swarmed Wynwood in a historic event Miami will be remembered for hosting.
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