Freestyle China

 

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In China, soccer is the most-watched sport in the country. So it’s not surprising to see freestyle soccer, an extension of the sport’s traditional form, beginning to gain devotees around the Middle Kingdom in recent years. Albeit not as widely known and celebrated when compared with other soccer-frenzied countries like Colombia and Brazil, it’s still slowly starting to become recognized as a legitimate sport and a form of self-expression in China. For Chen Yaguang, one of the figureheads of freestyle soccer in the country, his introduction to the sport happened through YouTube prior to the website being blocked in China and he was instantly hooked. But he wasn’t complacent in merely being a spectator on the sidelines, admiring the talents of overseas freestyle soccer players through online videos. Yaguang soon began devoting nearly all of his time to the sport. His dedication to freestyle soccer culminated into him taking first place in China’s Red Bull Street Style competition back in 2014.


足球是中国有最多观众的一项体育运动,所以花式足球这个足球的衍生运动,从这几年开始在中国有越来越多的爱好者,也就不足为奇了。虽不能和哥伦比亚或巴西这些足球强国相比,但是也在中国逐渐地获得了更多认可,也成为了自我表达的一种方式。对于陈亚光来说,这个中国花式足球的领军人物之一,他通过YouTube视频接触到这项运动。偶然间点开了一个花式足球的视频,从此他就对这项运动着迷了。不甘心只做个看客,这个视频也成为他花式足球生涯的一剂催化剂。他也不想只是崇拜国外牛人,亚光开始投身于这项运动。他对于这项运动的热情也在获得了2014年中国红牛花式足球世界杯的冠军时达到了顶峰。

What makes a freestyle soccer player successful involves a mix of few different skills: being able to creatively reimagine the possibilities of basic tricks, pushing the boundaries of said tricks, and having the technical prowess to consistently execute them without error are all aspects of the sport that must be mastered. The ability to cohesively bring all these elements together into a performance is even more important. Chen Yaguang’s capability to balance these crucial facets of the sport, in addition to his unwavering tenacity and passion, has propelled him to become the face of China’s freestyle soccer scene today.


要想成为一名牛逼的花式足球选手需要掌握多种技巧:能够在基本的技巧上勇于创新,保持体能上的高强度和表演时的不出错,这些都是要面面精通的,能把这些技巧融会贯通,然后带到表演中去也至关重要的。陈亚光不仅能够在表演和练习时平衡这些重要元素,再加上他的坚定不移和热情,使他成为了今天中国花式足球的代表性人物。

Of course, passion alone isn’t enough. The hard work and rigorous training that happens behind the scenes shaped his path. His daily practice routine generally takes four to five hours to complete. Besides the physical aspects of training, he considers mentally preparation to be equally important. He often spends a large chunk of time thinking about the mechanics and aesthetics of each maneuvers, figuring out how these tricks can transition or interact with one another. “I take these moves that I’ve thoroughly practiced and feel comfortable with, then turn them into combos,” he says. “Practicing a combo may require maintaining an intense 30 to 40 seconds of physically demanding moves. It can definitely be tiring work.”


当然了,光有热情是不够的,背后辛勤的汗水和严格的训练也成就了他的生涯。他每天的训练过程一般要花四个小时才能完成,除了体能方面的训练,他认为精神上的准备是一样重要的。他经常花很多时间去思考每个动作的美感和动作的原理,琢磨这些招式需要用怎样的动作去过渡才更为流畅,或者每个招式怎么产生互动。“我把一些会一点点或者特别熟练的招,会融合成一个套路,一个套路要求保持高强度体力的招,30-40秒,完全是个体力活。”

President Xi Jinping has repeatedly voiced his ambitious dream of improving the quality of China’s soccer scene for several years. Earlier this year, the president’s big push to turn China into the next soccer superpower led to many reforms in the country, including increasing the public’s accessibility to the sport by constructing more soccer fields and improving soccer-related education in schools. The end goal is to cultivate talented homegrown soccer players and have one of the best soccer teams in the world by 2050. Freestyle soccer would appear to be riding on the momentum of Xi Jinxing’s push, with not only an increased interest from the general public, but also investors and brands who are now willing to put money into freestyle soccer-related institutions.


习大大已经在过去的几年,多次指出他希望中国的足球界能有一个质的提升。年初,他对足球的大力推进中国足球运动,希望中国能够成为一个足球强国,这让中国出现了很多改革,包括了让这项运动更亲民,增建更多的公共足球场和加强学校的足球教育。最终目标就是培养更多本土的优秀球员,能够在2050年前有一支世界级的强队。花式足球也伴随着这股势头,不仅公共对此越来越有兴趣,也吸引了愿意投资花式足球相关机构的投资人和品牌。

“In the beginning, when people saw me practicing they might ask me what kind of sport this was. But nowadays, people recognize that it’s freestyle soccer and the questions have turned into ‘How long have you been practicing?’ or they might ask even more thoughtful questions about the sport,” Yaguang happily told us. “It’s getting better, especially with the government pushing to improve the soccer scene here.” Slowly but surely, freestyle soccer is growing out of its status as being considered a niche sport in China, and with support from the government, talented individuals like Chen Yaguang have been able to turn their passion and skills into a legitimate career.


“最开始的时候,人们看到我练习的时,会问我你这是什么体育项目。但是现在,他们知道这个是花式足球,也会转而问 ’你玩这个多久了?’或者问些关于花式足球更细致的问题。” 亚光开心的对我们讲。“现在好多了,尤其是政府努力地在推广和提升本土的足球产业。” 虽然慢,但是可以肯定的是,伴随着政府的支持,花式足球已经成长为一项正式的运动,像陈亚光这样牛逼的选手,也能够把自己的爱好发展成正当的职业。

Even the conservative mentality attributed to traditional Chinese families seems to be shifting as soccer continues to gain momentum in the country. Not long ago, it might be completely unthinkable for some Chinese families to see their children pursue a nontraditional career path like soccer. “When I first started practicing freestyle soccer, my family wasn’t supportive. But it’s because I was still in school and they thought that it would have a negative effect on my studies,” Yaguang explained. “After graduating, I’ve started making money off of this. My parents actually have a fairly open outlook on things now. Their thinking is that no matter what I do, if I can make a living and live a life of value then they’ll be happy.”


即便是中国家庭中一些传统保守的心态,也在随着中国足球的发展势头发生了改变。几年前,如果某个中国家庭愿意让他们的小孩去把一个非传统的体育项目作为职业,还是一件不可思议的事情。“在我开始玩花式足球的时候,我家里并不支持的。但那时因为我还在上学,怕影响我学习。”亚光解释到。“在我毕业后,已经能够通过花式足球赚钱,父母其实对此还是挺看好的。他们只是觉得无论我做什么,只要能够维持生计,活的有价值,他们就很开心了。”

Contributor & Photographer: David Yen
Videographer: Damien Louise


供稿人与图片摄影师: David Yen
视频摄影师: Damien Louise