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Updated: June 14, 2013 16:04 IST

Game for challenges

PRINCE FREDERICK
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A NEW GAME BALL: Pradeep Ramesh. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
A NEW GAME BALL: Pradeep Ramesh. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

Pradeep Ramesh is kicked about his national title in freestyle football and wants to net more wins

Two years ago, Pradeep Ramesh adopted freestyle football as a fulltime profession, turning a deaf ear to horrified relatives. Today, the “outrageous career choice” has been justified. He has won the national championship of ‘Red Bull Free Style 2012’, being staged across 50 countries. By virtue of this victory, he will represent India in the world finals.

In the all-India finals, conducted recently at Kolkata, this 22-year-old from Chennai faced winners from Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad (where contestants from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka battled it out).

The finals were enlivened by an engaging theme. “One ball. Three Minutes. Two players.” Playing in a knock-out system, each of the 16 finalists was pitted against one opponent in each round. Three minutes was allotted for each duel, in which the player who went first had 30 seconds to perform a freestyle football trick. In the next 30 seconds, his opponent tried to perform the trick better. The ball would be switched between the two players in this manner until the final buzzer went at three minutes. The judges evaluated the performances for style, variety and control.

“Performing freestyle football at shows is one thing, and at competitions quite another. At a show, the bogey of defeat is absent and there is enough time to get your act together. Competitive freestyle football can tax your nerves like no other, because there is very little time to plan and upstage your opponent,” says Pradeep, who used to play for a senior division football team.

He believes a competitive freestyler is doomed to failure if he neglects intense training. Pradeep puts in six hours of practice daily and follows a strict diet and a punishing fitness regimen.

“When you are out there on your own, waiting for a call from a show organiser, you can’t neglect fitness. You should be able to go, anytime you get the call,” explains Pradeep.

Succeeding at being your own boss and setting your own boundaries calls for immense self-discipline and Pradeep appears to possess enough of it. “I practise for six days and take one day off. When you are self-employed, you are not answerable to anyone for skipping practice or for taking an additional day off. Whenever I notice my enthusiasm flagging, I go and watch inspirational videos. I have watched the training sequence in Rocky countless number of times to get recharged.”

Pradeep also works on the other challenges of being a freestyle football showman. “Success at shows is not about how technical you are, but how innovative and interactive. After my performances, I always give a speech that is aimed at encouraging people to go for their dreams.”

Having pursued his and won, Pradeep must be convincing in these post-performance talks.

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