By KEVIN TAN
TWO years ago, freestyle football enthusiasts Ariff Karim, 21, and Mohd Zaid, 23, met at a freestyle football event in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. They discovered that they worked well together, fast became friends and even came up with original tricks together.
Freestyle football, simply put, is an art of expressing one’s self with a football, done through performing tricks with any part of the body. Famous footballers such Ronaldinho Gaúcho, who is popularly known for playing with flair and performing tricks, have also inspired many to pick up the sport.
Of course, nothing seals a friendship more than a nickname and the duo started to refer to themselves as Twinstyler. Not content with coming up new tricks and keeping them to themselves, the boys decided that it was best to add new members to the family if they wanted to see the sport flourish and gain more followers.
They welcomed local freestyle footballers to join them and eventually changed their name to Kaki Style Crew (KSC).
The group now consists of more than 20 people from all over Malaysia, including east Malaysia. They would hold gatherings at least once a month, or even conduct workshops occasionally.
“We know that there are many more people who are into the sport, and some who are serious about it too, but we don’t know where these people are, so we opened this group to people who are interested,” said Zaid, who started a Facebook page for the group.
This hobby has turned into a potential career when Ariff and Zaid, along with four other KSC members began doing roadshows, performing, and even showcasing their talent in television commercials.
Vietnamese-born professional freestyler from Ireland and general secretary of Asian Freestyle Football Federation (AF3) Hoai-Nam Nguyen, 33, better known as Nam The Man, says freestyle football is related to football, but it’s also a sport of its own.
“Freestyle is not just football, you can do some breakdance move when you freestyle, or just groove to music when you freestyle.
“How many tricks are there? There is no limitation, you’ll never run out of tricks and things to do,” he said.
AF3 is the official governing body for freestyle football in Asia and also a member of the Freestyle Football Federation (F3) alliance, the worldwide governing body of the sport.
Nam, who has toured many countries as a professional freestyler, is currently in Malaysia to help grow the freestyle football sport, said that there are not enough platforms for freestylers to grow, or for people to learn about the sport.
“When I came to Asia, especially in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, I saw that nothing was happening. So I decided to stay here (in Malaysia) to elevate the sport.
“Asia is cooking with freestylers everywhere, but nobody is doing anything,” he said.
Singaporean freestyler and communications manager of AF3 Terry Lee, 28, said that freestylers may be discouraged by the lack of opportunities and avenues for them.
“Young freestylers may think ‘why should I train so hard? There’s nothing to look forward to anyway,’ This will cause them to stop improving or even give up on the sport,” he said
“Freestyle football in Malaysia is still in an infant stage. Malaysians think they are doing enough, but there are many things that the freestylers here still need to learn, such as the ‘attitude’ when it comes to freestyling, the fitness level, and discipline,” said vice president of AF3.
To grow the sport was the very reason why Ariff and Zaid started KSC in the first place, and they hope that there will be more support for freestylers.
“One thing good among freestylers in Asia is that they always seem to in teams; they get together. In western countries like Europe, you’ll only see individuals, not teams,” Nam said.