Self-expression through football

HAILING from a family entrenched in the field of medicine, one would expect Jason Lee to be a carbon copy of his father, a doctor, and mother, a nurse, or at the very least, a splice of the two.

While he hasn’t broken anything at home due to practising football tricks, his family is largely apathetic towards his hobby, as Lee claims, “They (parents) don’t really like what I’m doing. After understanding that it’s a hobby, they have become warmer with it, but they don’t really support me.”

Though the 21-year-old is currently pursuing a degree in pharmacy, Lee has also been actively practising freestyle football over the past four years, taking part in competitions, talent shows, and performances along the way to make his mark as a professional freestyle footballer.

Why didn’t you go into professional football instead?

Ever since I was young, I always wanted to be different than normal people. Freestyle football is not just a sport, it’s an amalgam of sports, music, and art. It has given me the opportunity and platform to express myself, as it’s different compared to traditional football, where I wouldn’t have a chance to express myself.

During performances, I can see the joy, excitement, and happiness the activity brings to my viewers, and it gives me great satisfaction.

What is the kind of training that goes into freestyle football?

It’s divided into three parts. The first part of training is pushing your physical abilities to break all your limitations in doing football tricks. In it, there are three divisions; the upper body’s control over the ball using the head, neck, shoulder; the lower body part, used for juggling the ball, doing tricks with your heels, all while standing; the final part involves tricks done while on the ground.

Basically, I’m trying to break my physical limit and personal records in these different areas. Repetition breeds familiarity.

The second part in training involves the preparation of sets and routines. During a competition or performance, no one likes to see the same tricks over and over again; the audience expects different tricks. What I do is combine tricks and transitions. The last part is the hardest part; designing your own trick. This is important, especially in international competitions.

Have you ever suffered from stage fright?

The first time I started performing, stage fright was commonplace. Luckily I had the encouraging support of friends that I performed with. The first time I was on stage was brief, but it was still nerve-racking. As time progressed, I overcame fears by setting my mind on what I had to, and not on who I wanted to impress.

The confidence boost from performing in front of Amber Chia and other prominent personalities definitely helped. Essentially, I got used to it as adrenaline washed over me.

How do you usually prep yourself before a competition or show?

Two weeks before the date of the event, I’d train solely for the routine so that it would become second nature.
There’s also the usual physical requirements I’ll try to achieve; proper rest, sufficient sleep, appropriate diet, and not overtraining.

Is freestyle football a feasible method of playing in a normal football match?

Definitely. Freestyle football consists of a lot of ground and taunting moves, such as dribbling past opponents, techniques that are shortcuts to get pass opponents. Professional footballers such as Ronaldo and Neymar also practise freestyle football in their training.

How long do you see yourself doing this?

I would keep doing this for as long as my body is physically capable of handling it. I see freestyle football as not just a sport, but also as a form of therapeutic, meditative exercise that helps release stress, allowing me to be calmer. It’s not just a sport, but a lifestyle.

Do you have advice for those who wish to get into freestyle football?

Don’t give up, even though it’ll certainly be disappointing and frustrating at the start, because you’ll be chasing the ball more than practising the tricks. Even when that happens, just keep pushing through the training. When I started juggling the ball at home, I was often scolded by my parents, but it eventually led me to meet the likes of Amber Chia.