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Winning free-styler in training.

Byline: M Mustafa Khan

Seventeen-year-old Wail al Jalandani was declared the champion in the recently concluded Red Bull Street Style Oman Championship, beating 32 contestants in the knockout rounds leading to the final. He is clearly elated to be representing the sultanate at the World Street Style championships to be held in South Africa next month.

Street styling or football freestyling is a common term for describing a range of clever tricks with the football or the incorporation of a football as a prop in break-dancing. As diverse as its parameters, it is also openly cont-ested whether it is an art, a game or a sport, though references to the latter are now generally accepted.

Wail is a boisterous young chap who was drawn to freestyling by its versatility. AoIn freestyling you can entertain people. I was playing football before on the streets but that is something that you enjoy personally and it is not fascinating for spectators,Ao said Wail.

He saw the advert about the Red Bull competition last year and wanted to participate as it would be a good platform to show his skills and meet other freestylers. However, it was late to enter the competition last year but he started practising right away.

AoI used to juggle the ball 100 times or more when I was ten years old; my friends used to like watching me do it and it became a challenge between us as to who could do more,Ao said Wail of his initiation into the sport.

AoSome people suggested that I start doing it for entertainment but it was discouraging after some time because I worked hard to learn tricks and no company asked me to do a show or a campaign for them.Ao The Red Bull competition reignited his enthusiasm, however.

Wail said, AoI needed to practice a lot and learn new tricks. I started watching videos from the Internet and copying them initially and then when I got confident enough, I started developing my own styles and tricks.Ao

For the competition final, Wail attributed his win to football freestyle coupled with dancing and basketball freestyle. AoThese were incorporated to give me an edge Au the dancing and basketball styles I had picked up from the break-dancing groups like the Bboys. It is tough, requiring practice every day for one or two hours. It takes time to bring up the game to a certain level, and I took a year to relearn, create and enhance my tricks.Ao

Wail wants to be a mechanical engineer and he is currently enrolled at the Royal Guard of Oman Technical College. With the rigours of studies, exams and other social commitments, his schedule requires time management. To push his performance further, he does not follow an exercise regime, but is very careful of his diet, avoiding junk food and concentrating on greens and milk.

The reaction of everyone to his hobby has been very different following the competition. AoEveryone is calling me up and congratulating me now, and there is an awareness of what I have achieved,Ao said Wail, who will remain with Red Bull for the next year. In terms of representing Oman in South Africa, he realises the competition is going to be much tougher there.

AoI will be trying to create more styles, train harder and let us see how it turns out. Two months are enough to create new tricks and variations. I have planned a training regime of one-and-a-half hours every day till the competition.Ao He trains every evening with Sultan al Maskary, who was a close runner-up in the competition.

"WailAAEs favourite trick is AaeAround the worldAAE, where he goes round the ball with his leg while juggling the ball, a trick he can do with both legs. He can also do the AaePen and ballAAE trick, which won Sean Garnier the 2008 championships.

Sean judged the Omani leg of the competition on February 17. Wail hopes to add a trick called AaeNinety-nineAAE, which involves doing AaeAround the worldAAE with one leg and kicking off the ball with the other, thereby crossing your legs at an obtuse angle in mid-air.

AoI hope that after this competition more people come to know about this. A lot of young Omanis play football; not everyone shines in it, but they have good ball-handling skills, and this is as much fun and acceptable a game as football. We would also like the Oman Football Association to allow us to perform at halftime in football matches that are held locally.Ao

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Mar 8, 2010
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