Football was dubbed the “the Beautiful Game” by football commentator Stuart Hall back in 1958 and later by Brazilian legend Pelé. Ever since it’s inception, the game has developed and undergone refinement, blossoming into what fans know and love to watch today.
As a sport possessing many faces and facets, the beautiful game has indeed lived up to its name. One aspect of the sport that has gained popularity in the 21st century has been freestyle football.
Originating in the 1990s, freestyle football is essentially an art of self-expression using a football, where an individual performs various tricks and juggling moves with different parts of the body.
With a surge in global football advertising and televised commercials by sports brand giants such as Nike, freestyle football has become more widespread with more and more individuals taking on the form.
Many big-name professional footballers, both past and present, as well as YouTube sensations, have taken freestyle football to new heights, performing remarkable tricks that have astonished fans the world over.
Here are the six best freestyle footballers in the world today.
Andrew Henderson is the current world number one football freestyle champion. The 26-year-old from Cornwall suffered a horrendous leg break back in 2009 but used that to catapult himself to football freestyle greatness. Henderson started doing freestyle tricks to aid his recovery and worked diligently on perfecting his freestyle skills.
He won his first world title in 2011 and went to become 4x world champion and 6x UK champion. Some of his freestyle career highlights include performing at Old Trafford and beating PSG superstar Neymar in a freestyle battle.
He also performed at the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Henderson currently has 246,000 followers on Instagram and 114,415 subscribers on YouTube.
Lisa Zimouche is one of the world’s youngest football freestylers at just 18-years-old. At the tender age of 13 she was competing in the Red Bull Street Style World Final and at 15 she became World Panna Female Champion.
She has a very diverse range of skills and tricks which she can be seen performing regularly on YouTube and Instagram.
One of her famous tricks involves panna challenges with members of the public, where she invariably comes out as the winner. Her Instagram following currently stands at 1m and she also has a YouTube subscription of 26,277.
Sofiane Touzani is a Dutch football freestyler who gained popularity with his first YouTube video which also led to EA games taking notice of him very quickly. Touzani was approached by the gaming company and asked to perform his tricks for FIFA street, and in the second installment of the game was even give his own character.
Big name football stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie have watched his videos and some have even performed his tricks, and the freestyle trick ‘Touzani Around The World’ is named after him.
Touzani also appears in many YouTube videos on his channel TouzaniTV, where he meets and challenges professional players in one-on-one situations. He is deemed by some to be the “pioneer of the modern freestyle football” and he has a Instagram following of 1m and 443,981 YouTube subscribers.
In third place is French football freestyler Séan Garnier. Garnier played football professionally before his career was brought to an end by injury. After his recovery, the Frenchman began developing and honing his skills which led to him becoming a freestyle great. In 2006 he started his own urban freestyle program tutoring budding freestylers.
Garnier also became World Champion at the Red Bull Street Style World Finals in 2008 and won the French Championship in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Garnier’s style is somewhat unique and iconic because he intermingles break dancing moves with football skills when performing routines.
He has performed in front of football legends Pelé and Diego Maradona, has a following of 2.2m on Instagram and over 1.4m subscribers on YouTube.
Another highly rated, famous freestyle duo and arguably the next best thing to the F2, are Swedish sensations Josef and Jakob El-Zein who are identical twin brothers and go by the freestyle name of Skill Twins.
The pair have over 2.2m YouTube subscribers and 1.7m Instagram followers. In addition to freestyling, the twins are also central and attacking midfielders for one of Sweden’s best football academies – VSK.
The duo were the first YouTubers to earn a sponsorship with Adidas and even have their own webshop. They have performed tricks in front of the likes of renowned football boss Pep Guardiola and seen their skills used by world-class players such as Zidane and Neymar.
Comprised of English duo Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch, the F2 Freestylers have taken the freestyle world by storm amassing over 6.2m YouTube subscribers and 4.4m followers on Instagram. They are widely regarded as the world’s best freestyle duo and were created back in 2010, after performing at the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony.
Prior to joining forces, the pair where quite accomplished individuals, with Wingrove having already performed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and being the first football freestyler to be signed by a professional club in Tottenham Hotspur.
Lynch featured in the well known UK documentary “In the Hands of the Gods”, and he was also a finalist on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent back in 2008. Since pairing up, the two have appeared in various clips with big-name football stars such as Neymar, Eden Hazard and Mesut Ozil.