What is Freestyle Football?

Your Essential Guide to Freestyle Football

Watching one-on-one freestyle football battles is enough to make any sports fan want to know more about this fast-growing sport. Also known as freestyle soccer, freestyle football sees participants creatively expressing themselves through tricks. With its combination of juggling, dance, and acrobatics combined, freestyle football is one of the most spectacular sports crazes of the 21st century. Here’s everything you need to know about this fast-growing sport.

Sean Garnier

© Hakim Amrani

Freestyle football is a relatively new sport, but it has its origins in the ancient Southeast Asian games of chinlone, sepak takraw, and jianzi. In the 1800s, circus performers used many of the same ball tricks we see freestyle footballers showcasing today.

Many people credit Diego Maradona’s famous warmups in the 1980s as the birth of freestyle football. Fans loved the Argentinian, who was the first football player to publicly showcase these tricks. However, critics slammed his antics, declaring they had little to do with football. Yet, they lit a spark in freestyle football pioneers like South Korea’s Mr. Woo and Kang Sung Min. Mr. Woo, a former footballer, became the first freestyle footballer performing in Las Vegas. His performances around the world in the 1990s helped freestyle football gain acceptance and popularity in the 21st century.

Simply playing around with a football is one of the best ways to get involved with freestyle football. Juggling is the foundation of many freestyle football tricks, so you should practice that first. Try to keep the ball in motion below your hip. Dedicating an hour or so every day until you can do 100 keep-ups consistently will help you develop your leg speed and ball control skills.

Javi Sanz

Javi Sanz

© Gianfranco Tripodo

Once you’re a confident juggler, you can progress to some of the more complex freestyle football moves. Stalling the ball, where you balance the ball on your foot, is probably the easiest freestyle football trick. Around the World, where you flick the ball up and circle your foot around it before starting juggling, is another simple trick.

Master tricks from all the different freestyle football categories include:
  • Lower body tricks: Standing tricks using the feet or legs.

  • Upper body tricks: Standing tricks using the shoulders, chest, or head.

  • Sitting tricks: Tricks performed in a seated position.

  • Ground move tricks: Standing tricks where the ball moves along the ground.

  • Blocking tricks: Tricks performed by holding the ball with parts of the lower body.

  • Acrobatic tricks: Tricks inspired by gymnasts and circus performers.

  • Transitions: Intermediate moves that connect different tricks.

Once you’re confident in your skills, search for local competitions or freestyle football groups. Participating in competitions and groups will help you hone your freestyle football skills.

Freestyle football is a global sport staging competitions all over the world. These events see participants compete in a range of challenges, including battles, doubles (team battles), routines, doubles routines, and more. Get to know some of the world’s leading competitions.

Pagu during Red Bull Street Style 2021 World Final at Valencia, Spain

Pagu during Red Bull Street Style 2021 World Final at Valencia, Spain

© Gianfranco Tripodo

Red Bull paved the way in 2008 when it launched the world’s first freestyle football competition, Red Bull Street Style. First staged in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the event has also visited South Africa, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, Poland, and the USA. Red Bull stages the Red Bull Street Style competition every one or two years in a different host city. Participants consider the Red Bull competition the world championship of freestyle football.


Super Ball World Open Championship

In 2009, the Czech Freestyle Football Association launched the Super Ball World Open Championship, the first world open freestyle football competition. The annual competition’s open nature encourages freestyle footballers with a range of styles to try their luck. After several years in Liberec, Super Ball is back to its original home of Prague.

In 2013, the annual European Freestyle Football Championship began in Budapest. The event travels to a different European host city each year. Its main competition sees male and female competitors go head-to-head in freestyle football battles. Each participant has three 30-second rounds to impress the judging panel with their tricks, ball control, and originality.

In 2017, the first African Freestyle Football Championship took place. Despite taking the competition online in 2020, it had 152 competitors representing 21 countries, including more women than ever before. While Africa’s freestyle football scene is in its infancy, the sport is growing faster than traditional football across the continent.
In 2019, the world got its first women’s freestyle football competition. While women can compete at other events, an exclusively female competition was a groundbreaking development for the sport. Held in Budapest, Hungary, the Women’s European Freestyle Football Championship saw eight European women battle it out for the title. Organizers are hopeful the competition can grow in the coming years.
Freestyle football is a fairly new sport, but it has already evolved so much over the years. Learn more about that evolution by watching “Pushing Progression,” a Red Bull film that provides an inside look at the history of freestyle football.

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