Freestyle football champion Anders Solum, of Norway, dazzles young local fans with his ball-juggling skills, writes Lai Ying-kit
Anders Solum may not be a household name, but he is the king of freestyle football. Give him a ball and he'll do tricks that will blow your mind.
The 1.9-metre Solum, also known as 'Azun', showed off his breathtaking skills in Hong Kong last week.
As part of a world tour to promote the sport, the 27-year-old Norwegian taught 80 teenage students from underprivileged families some basic ball-juggling skills at Tuen Mun Plaza.
In a demonstration of 'Around the World' - a common trick among jugglers - Solum's foot continuously circled the ball while keeping it in the air.
The young fans were also dazzled by a series of other difficult tricks, including crossovers, and balancing the ball on the head and the back of the neck.
Solum was crowned champion of freestyle football when he won the 2010 Red Bull Street Style World Final in April.
He beat 59 competitors from around the world in the tournament held in Cape Town, South Africa.
His ability to hold, control and juggle the ball using almost any part of his body won praise from the judges who included former star players, such as Liberian George Weah and Edgar Davids of The Netherlands.
Weah, the former AC Milan striker and 1995 Fifa World Player of the Year, was impressed by Solum's ball skills. 'I don't know a single professional footballer who can do these tricks,' he said.
Solum says he always wanted to promote his 'art' and teach young people how to have fun with the ball.
'Everyone can play beautifully with the ball if you make an effort. Freestyle is about having fun,' he says. 'Different people have different physical conditions, but this doesn't limit you. Tall people can do more combos while shorter people have an advantage in moves that involve sitting.'
Solum started playing football as a child and went on to represent several clubs in Norway.
But he soon found out he gained more satisfaction from his juggling skills than sticking to team tactics and coach instructions.
'Teamwork is the key in football,' he says. 'Sometimes even if you play great, your team can still lose. I guess freestyle suits me more.'
Like many other freestyle football stars, Solum was inspired by videos on the internet. He first saw a freestyle clip in 2006, and decided to take his hobby more seriously. He practised four hours a day, six days a week.
'Freestyle football gives me more freedom. I can create whatever tricks I like to please fans. It is not only a sport - it is an art. It is about how to play [football] beautifully,' he says.