Zac Roberts is fifteen years old and already has it more together than you do. After playing soccer for a few years and on a number levels, Zac began to feel disenchanted with the sport. Inspired by YouTube clips of street soccer movements popping up all over the world, Zac had the idea to start his own community. Then he did what most people with a good idea often forget to do—he followed through with it. As if running his own street soccer community isn’t enough, the teen is also a talented freestyle footballer who competes regularly. We caught up with Zac to find out what it’s like to be a fifteen-year-old with a soccer start up and competitively recognised fancy footwork.
Would you like to introduce yourself?
My name’s Zac Roberts, I’m from Gippsland and I’m 15 years old. I do freestyle football and also run my own street soccer group called BOSS (Band of Street Soccer). BOSS is for kids who don’t have a lot of confidence or don’t like to play traditional soccer. It’s kind of giving them the skills so that they can have the confidence to go on and play more full sided forms. It’s all about self-expression and having a good time.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’d seen things on YouTube that inspired me and made me think, “would that be successful in Australia? Could I do that?” and we did. We normally play on the street, in car parks or dead end streets or anywhere really. We set up our own cage and just go for it, three on three. To be able to get kids along and get kids having a good time makes it really good work.
Have you got a good crew of people who come along?
Yeah, we normally play every Friday night, and have about 20 kids aged from 12 to 18, which make quite a few teams. It’s not much of a competition just a time where kids can catch up and muck around.
So it’s mostly about building confidence and then maybe you lead in to more competitive football?
All the kids that we get aren’t exactly amazing soccer players, they just like hanging out with each other, having a good time, and learning some skills to. Not many kids take street football that seriously, we kind of promote more as time to catch up, play music, and hang out in a social environment.
You’re also well known for freestyle football, can you tell us exactly what freestyle football is?
Freestyle football would be described as all of the juggling and tricks with the ball. I kind of see it as it’s own sport, instead of joined with soccer. It’s pretty similar to street soccer but with more of a skill focus. It can open up to become it’s own sport once you get good at it.
They even have competitions for it, don’t they?
Yeah in Australia we have a few competitions, we have the Australian titles and we have the Oceana titles. I came third in that competition last year.
How do the competitions work? Is there a judging panel?
I’ve heard it described more like gymnastics because it’s skill focused and scored by three judges who watch. It’s a cool concept but it’s still got to grow a lot more as a sport and become more popular.
Do you also play traditional soccer?
I used to play a lot of traditional football, played on a lot of representative teams and that. That’s when I got to a level where I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I started getting more in to street soccer and then over the last three years we’ve been developing BOSS. Since then I’ve continued to move away from traditional soccer and more towards street and freestyle.
You’re pretty young—only fifteen; when you play in these freestyle comps are you competing against way older?
In competitions I can go up against anyone from the age of 12 to 40 so it’s pretty wide, but in that sense it doesn’t really matter because it’s one on one and a skill sport. Everyone’s really supportive of each other because the sport’s not that big. No one goes too far and takes it too seriously.
Does the scene being so small make it more competitive or more supportive?
With freestyle football we have a really cool kind of community feel, similar to like a breakdancing scene. It’s kind of about that lifestyle, where it’s more than a competition. All the guys are really supportive; it’s more about the vibe and the community. Maybe one day it’ll change but at the moment while it’s still small I think it’s important to keep it like that.
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