Red Bull Street Style World Final

Red Bull Street Style World Final

Nov 16, 2019

By Harvey Fialkov | Aug 30, 2019

Remember when Curly Neal would dribble through five frustrated Washington General players with his dazzling ballhandling skills during those hysterical Harlem Globetrotters exhibition games?

Or when Tiger Woods would juggle a golf ball on the shaft of his club before swatting it down the fairway without every placing the ball on the ground during those cool Nike ads?

Futbol or soccer fans would go crazy when international icons Diego Maradona or Cristiano Ronaldo would go into their pre-game routines, showing off fancy footwork and innovative soccer ball-juggling acts

As Russell Crowe a.k.a. Maximus bellowed in Gladiator: "Are you not entertained?"

If South Florida sports fans want to be entertained by the world’s best soccer freestylers display their sensational dribbling skills while incorporating music, dance, aerobics, juggling and circus-like acrobatics then check out the upcoming Red Bull Street Style Soccer World Finals on November 15th at the renovated Mana Wynwood Convention Center in Miami’s buzzing Wynwood Arts District.

What better venue than the old RC Cola Plant -- an architectural monument that has been revitalized to host musical performances and art festivals -- to house the most prestigious freestyle soccer tournament in the world? This is the first time since Red Bull organized this global tournament in 2008 that it will be held in North America.

"By bringing this growing sport to America for the first time we’re making history," says Steve Elias, executive director of the Toronto-based World Freestyle Football Association. "Miami is amazing and we’re expecting the huge Hispanic market filled with soccer enthusiasts to come out to the RC Cola Plant to see something they’ve never seen before."

"I played soccer all my life and as a kid I got pretty good juggling the ball. Eventually, I’d use my imagination and creativity to do different tricks at the beach or in my backyard. In 1990, I was 18 and some guy offered me $50 to do a five-minute show."

"Soon, Nike began a competition in Europe and what originally began as a way to express myself with a soccer ball, now has evolved into a global sports event 80 times a year involving 114 countries.

Someone said it’s like breakdancing with a ball thrown in, or the Globetrotters of soccer. But this is a serious competition between 50 of the best freestylers in the world battling one-on-one and wanting to kick your butt. It’s far more exciting in person than on YouTube. People will see skills they’ve never seen before set to music with a live DJ."

The rules are simple: Three minutes in the center ring, two players, one ball, one winner.

Reigning champion Agnieszka ‘Aguska’ Mnich of Poland is guaranteed a spot in Friday’s grand finale, while seven other national champions have submitted online 90-second videos for an opportunity to advance to the championship round.

"The level of the Red Bull Street Style World Final is the highest in the world, and you can really show your best," Mnich says. "I feel really strong, and right now I am sure that I will take the title again."

Norway’s Erlend Fagerli, known for his originality and control, took the world champion title in Warsaw, Poland last year and eagerly awaits his 15 competitors.

"Results-wise, it is almost impossible to do better than 2018, but performance-wise there are still many areas for me to improve," Fagerli says. "I feel that I am in my best shape ever at the moment; so I hope to be able to do even better this year."

The individual 3-minute duels take place in a gladiator-type open ring. Each participant will take turns performing three 30-second routines. A panel of illustrious judges -- usually comprised of former freestyle champions and soccer stars such as French legend Sean Garnier or Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos of Real Madrid fame – are looking for a creative combination of floor and standing tricks as well as foot, head and body moves.

Scores are based on the quality of execution and control as well as style, energy and rhythm. Competitors can never use their hands and dropped balls are also frowned upon.

Besides Maradona, another freestyle pioneer is Soufiane Touzani, a Dutch-Moroccan freestyler, who became an international success when he launched his YouTube videos of innovative soccer ball tricks in 2005. 

Most of the world-class freestylers own a signature move such as Wassim Benslimane, who holds a Guinness World record for his globe trick. Then there’s the piledriver, hotstepper, shoulderstall, around the moon neck catch, toe-bounce crossover, rainbow, spinning leg swirls and dislocated knee move.

Reigning U.S. national champions, Patrick Shaw and Caitlyn Schrepfer -- who was featured in the popular Adidas World Cup ‘Creativity is the Answer’ commercial – will vie for Red, White and Blue honors.

While the prize money for the winners is minimal, Elias said that last year’s World Finals drew 250 million "eyeballs," via broadcasts in six languages. He anticipates the allure of Miami as the host city should garner more than 300 million viewers to Red Bull TV.

"The prestige of being crowned world champion opens up a lot of doors with sponsors and the media," Elias said. "The money comes after."

"Our sport inspires healthy, active lifestyles for young people," says Dan Wood, co-founder of the World Freestyle Football Association.

Add the Red Bull Street Style World Final to the ever-growing South Florida sports landscape that will allow the freestylers and their families to take in a Florida Panthers, Miami Heat or Miami Dolphins game while they enjoy Wynwood, the Hampton Inn, the tournament’s host hotel, and the city’s 24-7 nightlife.

The RC Cola Plant is just a 15-minute Lyft-ride from Miami International Airport. Parking is available at the Mana on 318 NW 23rd Street.

Admission to the world-class event is free and Elias is expecting 2,500-3,000 spectators to show up for this unique evening to witness art and sport joining forces. But the only ones using their hands will be the awestruck spectators.

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