Football players often show off their control of the ball by performing different stunts and tricks with the ball. Some can keep the ball in the air using their head for a very long time, while some can make the ball slither along different parts of their body.
While there were many players in the past who had exceptional control, it was Argentine legend Diego Maradona who turned into an artform with his half-time tricks to entertain stadium audiences.
Inspired by Maradona, South Korean Hee Young Woo broke the Guinness Book of World Records for football head tricks in 1989, heading a ball for 306 minutes.
Yes, you read it right. This sport is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records. This artform took the shape of a professional sport with the formation of the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA) in 2005. WFFA organises different competitive events involving freestyle footballers across the globe.
In Bangladesh, there are only a handful of freestyle footballers. But two of them have really made it big and set records in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Mahmudul Hasan Faisal and Ashraful Islam Jhohan, two Guinness Record breaking freestyle footballers, spoke the the Business Standard about their journey and what they plan to do in the future.
Mahmudul Hasan Faisal: Holder of four Guinness World Records
Hailing from Magura, a district under Khulna division, Mahmudul Hasan Faisal came to freestyle football almost unaware of it. He started with cricket but couldn't make it big there. The 18-year old came across freestyle football by watching some videos on YouTube which inspired him to master this art.
"I didn't follow or idolise someone in particular. I watched some videos on YouTube and told myself that I probably could do this. I was impressed with the tricks freestyle footballers are used to performing and decided to give it a try," said Faisal.
He started preparing after he applied in the Guinness Book of World Records. "There are a lot of people who are well-prepared when they apply. But I learned the trick after I had applied there," Faisal said.
When he applied in the latter part of 2017, he was 15 and not eligible to participate. So he had to wait for a few months and finally he rewrote the record books in August 2018 by doing 134 football arm rolls in one minute. An arm roll is basically a trick where the ball is rolled over your arms clockwise, or anticlockwise. His second world record was doing 144 arm rolls with a basketball in a minute at the beginning of 2019.
"Initially I thought that it would be comparatively easy to perform the trick with a basketball. But when I started practising, I found that it was way more difficult, but eventually I pulled it off," Faisal mentioned.
In that same year he set his third world record by doing a basketball neck catch 34 times in a minute. A neck catch is where you use the back of your neck and head to lift a ball and then catch it again.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognised his fourth record when he threw a football neck catch 66 times in a minute. Faisal set his fourth record by doing that four more times than Ben Nuttal, the then record holder.
"I want to continue freestyle football even if I don't get enough facilities in Bangladesh. I wish to represent Bangladesh a few more times in the Guinness Book of World Records and international competitions in future and hope that youngsters here will be encouraged by me to take up freestyle football and bring Bangladesh more glory," Faisal concluded.
Ashraful Islam Jhohan: Guinness World Record setter in 2018
Ashraful Islam Jhohan, the youngster from Chattogram, came across freestyle football when he met freestyle footballer Syed Muktasid, a South Africa based Youtuber of Bangladeshi descent. "I was unaware of this way of life until I met Super Syed bhaia (Syed Muktasid) when he came to Bangladesh. I had already learned some tricks, which I showed him. He was mesmerized and convinced me to train seriously so that I could participate in Super Ball, a competition held every year in Prague," Jhohan said.
Initially the 20-year old had no idea about the Guinness Book of World Records until he came across a video of Archis Patel, the record holder for the most side headstalls in a minute (101) on Instagram. A side headstall is a trick where you balance the ball on one side of your head and roll the ball over to the other side of your head while keeping balance.
"When I saw his video, I thought that I could do it too. Immediately I set a timer and started stalling the ball. By the end of the minute I stalled the ball 102 times and that's when I realised that I could break his record," he mentioned.
Jhohan went up to Archis Patel and asked him how to apply for the record. Eventually, stalling the ball 104 times in a minute on May 22, 2018, Jhohan broke the record of Archis Patel, who had the previous record of stalling 101 times in a minute.
The youngster from Chattogram wants to participate in international competitions like Super Ball and Red Bull Freestyle as well as break a few more world records.
"As of now, I want to grow more as a freestyle footballer and become the best lower-body freestyler out there. I have plans to participate in the Super Ball in Prague, as I said earlier. I will try to participate in the Red Bull tournament as well. Besides, I want to collaborate with some brands, making some campaigns for them to encourage more people to take up freestyle football and form a community. Also, I want to break some more records in the Guinness Book of World Records," Jhohan mentioned.