Although freestyle football has a long history, in the 21st century it has grown with an amazing pace. The corporate sector has been investing heavily in the sport and top freestylers from around the world have turned millionaires.
In Pakistan the sport is not that popular but over the years the game has started bewitching the youth and they have begun taking up the sport. The constant holding of national championships for the last few years and involvement of fans have created hope that the sport, which involves amazing tricks with the ball, can grow in Pakistan.
Red Bull has been playing a key role in the sport’s progress and like in the past Pakistan is fielding its highly talented freestyler Jawad Blunt in the Red Bull Street Style World Finals to be held in London from November 7-8.
Son of retired Major Amir Mohammad, the 21-year-old Jawad from Islamabad is all set to exhibit his skills in the world finals in which 40 freesylers from across the globe will be vying for the crown. Pakistan’s previous experience in the event was not good as its athletes failed to impress but this time it is hoped that confident Jawad would do well.
Jawad got the honour of taking part in London’s event after he emerged as champion of the National Championship held in Islamabad recently. Impressed by the Brazilian star Ronaldinho’s tricks with the ball, Jawad is confident that he would impress in London.
“I am pretty confident that I will perform. I have been working hard for the last six years. I have left everything, even education, for achieving my goal as a freestyler. It’s a good opportunity and I will try my best to produce positive results,” Jawad told The News on Sunday (TNS) in an interview.
“In skills I am not less than the others. I have the guts to become world champion and want to do so because it’s my long-cherished dream. But it’s a sort of game in which a few seconds decide your fate. The player who performs on the particular day will win the trophy,” Jawad said.
Jawad belongs to Rajput clan. He calls himself ‘blunt’, and there is logic behind it and Jawad himself explains it: “Blunt means dull. I call myself blunt because it will give me room for more improvement. I am not satisfied with what I am doing and it will provoke me to work more and so it will help me in my career and life.”
Freestyle sport is much harder and an athlete needs to put in extra effort to achieve brilliance and Jawad is making that extra effort.
“Of course it is a tough sport. I practise daily for six to eight hours. I keep myself fit every time. I need 3000 calories and 200 grams protein daily. I eat six times in a day. I spend Rs5000 to Rs6000 per week on my diet. So far my father has been meeting all my expenses. Let’s see what happens ahead,” Jawad said.
“In other sports a little bit of fitness issues can be ignored but a freestyler must be completely fit as it is a sport in which an athlete puts both his soul and body. I try to keep myself away from all worries and do not even watch television,” Jawad said.
“I have adopted the sport because of my love for it. I could also play football but my football coach told me that Pakistan is too low in FIFA’s ranking and it’s very difficult for a footballer to progress. Because I already had interest in freestyle football so the coach’s remarks turned all my attention towards it,” Jawad said.
“Now I am convinced that I made a good decision. The world’s leading freestylers have earned a lot of money and fame,” Jawad added.
In the era of Youtube, a freestyler can learn from others while sitting at his home.
“I don’t need any coach. Youtube is my coach. I watch the feats of world’s top athletes and that helps me,’ Jawad said.
Jawad’s expenses for London tour are being met by Red Bull which is also sponsoring the world finals in Roundhouse in London. And a more encouraging factor for Jawad is that a few days ago Adidas approached him for sponsorship. If he performed well in London it may change his fortune which would promote the sport in Pakistan.
Pakistan Freestyle Football Federation, generally called PF3, has started strengthening its roots in the provinces. It will need a lot of effort to emerge as a full-fledged federation.
Jawad is keen to make his contribution. England’s Andrew Henderson had to defend the world title but Jawad revealed that he has skipped the competitions and if it is correct then all eyes will be on the previous edition’s runner-up Carlos Alberto of Argentina.