Freestyle football

Freestyle football is the art of juggling a football using any part of the body, excluding the elbows to the hands. It combines football tricks, dance, acrobatics and music to entertain onlookers and compete with opponents. The official governing body for this sport is known as the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA).[1][2]

Freestyle football
Football freestyle 2013 Masters epee t171023.jpg
Football freestyle demonstration at the 2013 Masters à l'Epée
Highest governing bodyWorld Freestyle Football Association[1]
TypeBall sport


The art of freestyle football can be traced to games of Southeast Asia such as chinlone, jianzi and sepak takraw, which have been practised for 2,000 years. Fundamental freestyle tricks such as the 'Neck Stall' and 'Around The World' were first popularly performed in the West by circus performers, notably including Enrico Rastelli and Francis Brunn.[3][4]

In the 1970s and 1980s, Argentine footballer Diego Maradona famously brought his freestyle 'Life is Life' warm-up to international attention while playing for SSC Napoli. The ability to freestyle, however, was widely criticized at the time as not having direct relevance to playing the game of football.[citation needed]

At the beginning of the 21st century, several significant events helped elevate freestyle football with broader recognition. Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho starred in Nike advertising campaigns such as 'Joga Bonito' (English: The Beautiful Game), which popularized the ability to practice alone with a ball and develop new moves and tricks.[5]

Inspired by Maradona, South Korean footballer Mr Woo sought to become a football entertainer. He established Guinness world records and performed at the 1988 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and the FIFA World Cups in 1990 and 1994.[6] Soufiane Touzani[7] from the Netherlands introduced a new style of lower tricks, which were popularized through viral videos.[7][better source needed]

Footballer Sandy Levittas (a.k.a. Bambiball) was among the first women to share videos of her freestyle skills,[8][9] which inspired more girls to take up the sport.[10][11] Different styles were then developed such as lowers, uppers, sit-downs, grounds and blocking.

In 2015, Ronaldinho was recognized by the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA) as ambassador for the sport.[4][timeframe?] Competitions have been organized across the globe and videos have been shared by over 80 million of people on a monthly basis.[12][failed verification]

In recent years, some of the top football players in the world have credited freestyle and street football cultures for helping to develop their talents. These athletes have included Neymar Jr,[13][14] Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović.[citation needed]


Tricks or moves in freestyle football are categorized into different disciplines or styles:

  • Lower body or air move tricks are performed while standing, and use the feet or legs. (lowers)
  • Upper body tricks are performed with the head, chest and shoulders. (uppers)
  • Sitting tricks are performed while seated, often with the legs elevated. (sit-downs)
  • Ground move tricks are performed while standing with the ball on the floor.[further explanation needed] Skillful players can make the performance of ground moves seem like a choreographed dance.
  • Blocking tricks are performed by holding the ball with various parts of the lower body. It is a style inspired by breakdancing.
  • Acrobatic tricks are inspired by circus skills, breakdancing and gymnastics.
  • Transitions are intermediate moves used to bridge tricks in different styles, ideally in a fluid motion.

Within the above disciplines, the following individual moves are among the most popular:

  • Around the World (ATW), a move in which the freestyler plays the ball off of one foot, which then circles up and over the ball before returning underneath to play the ball again. An inside ATW makes the initial movement toward the opposite leg, while an outside ATW makes the initial movement away from the opposite leg.
  • Crossover, a move in which the ball is kicked into the air with one leg, and the opposite leg goes around the ball while it is in the air.
  • Toe Bounce (TB) a move like a crossover but with the ball bouncing on the foot.[further explanation needed]
  • Hop the World (HTW), a move in which the ball is kicked up with one foot and circled with the opposite foot.[clarification needed]
    • Touzani around the World (TATW), a variation of an outside ATW and a crossover.[further explanation needed] Created by Soufiane Touzani from the Netherlands.[citation needed]
    • Mitchy around the World (MATW), as with the TATW except with an inside ATW. Created by Mitchell James Penn from the UK.[citation needed]
    • Lemmens Around the World (LATW), a double ATW, circling the foot twice around the airborne ball without a middle touch between revolutions.[citation needed]
    • Palle Around the World (PATW), a triple ATW. Created by Rickard "Palle" Sjolander of Sweden.[citation needed]
  • Stalls, moves which involve catching the ball in a stationary position. This is commonly on the back of the neck but also includes balancing on the forehead or wedged between the heel and thigh.
  • Clipper, a move that originated from freestyle footbag in which the freestyler catches the ball midair with the inside of the foot on the side of the body.
  • Combos, moves which directly connect tricks without juggling the ball.
  • No-touch combos, tricks performed in one motion without any intermediate ball touch. For example, the LATW is a two ATW no-touch combo.

Competitive freestyleEdit

The first major competition for freestyle football was Red Bull Street Style (RBSS) in 2008, which was hosted in São Paulo, Brazil.[citation needed] Séan Garnier won this competition with a style that had not been seen in the public eye before.[citation needed]

Super Ball, the first open world championship (where anyone could compete) catered to freestylers with ranging styles, recognizing the many ways to judge a freestyler. Hosted in the Czech Republic, Super Ball became the premiere annual international event for freestylers.[citation needed]


The following tournaments are recognized by the official governing body of the World Freestyle Football Association:[15][failed verification]

  • Red Bull Street Style (RBSS) World Finals
  • World Freestyle Masters
  • Super Ball World Open Championships
  • Panther Ball World Open Championships
  • European Freestyle Football Championships (EFFC)
  • Asia-Pacific Freestyle Football Championships (APFFC)
  • African Freestyle Football Championships (AFFC)
  • Latin American Freestyle Football Championships (LAFFC)
  • North American Freestyle Football Championships (NAFFC)
  • National Championships (all countries)


Typical events in competitive freestyle football include:[further explanation needed][citation needed]

  • Battles
  • Doubles (team battles)
  • Routines
  • Doubles routines
  • Sick 3
  • Challenge
  • Iron man
  • Show flow
  • Kill the beat
  • Max 1
  • 3vs3

Ranked freestylersEdit

The WFFA uses results from the official national championships, continental championships, international opens and world open competitions to assign a point ranking to competitors.[16][failed verification][needs update]

WFFA CommitteeEdit

Other key names that brought their own touch to the art of freestyle football over the years include:


In January 2019, freestyle football has received over 80 million video views per month on social media channels.[citation needed] There are over 70 related events every year, the largest being the Red Bull Street Style World Final. The sport is enjoyed mainly by a demographic of 12–25 year-olds, with 85% male.[59][60][61][failed verification]

Major markets in terms of consumption of freestyle football content include the United States, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Spain, Poland, France, the Middle East, China, Japan and South East Asia, with a direct audience of 1.47 billion football fans around the globe.[62][relevant?]


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External linksEdit