WATCHING one of the best in the world in action — that was what inspired Fenn Russell to take up a new hobby.
Fast forward three years, and the 16-year-old is so good at freestyling — the art of juggling a football with your feet, legs and body — he is ranked among the UK’s best.
The Wales High School pupil, who lives in Kiveton, took up the sport in the summer of 2018 after watching videos of freestyler Philip Warren Gertsson performing tricks on YouTube.
Fenn was no stranger to a football, having played the traditional form of the sport since the age of five.
He still turns out on a regular basis for Worksop Town under-17s, competing in the Sheffield and District Junior League.
But he did not take up freestyling to improve his football skills — he just thought the freestylers at the top of their game looked cool.
“I thought I would love to learn how to do that, and that’s when I started,” he said.
“I started off practising twice a week and now it’s a few hours a day, pretty much every day.
“I wasn’t very good to start with — I could do a few basic tricks.
“It takes hours and hours of practice to be able to do the sort of tricks I can do now.
“Practice has got me to where I am now.”
Sheffield Wednesday fan Fenn put aside his club allegiances in March when he helped to launch the new team kit for the Rotherham United E-sports team.
He showed off his silky skills at the New York Stadium for a promotional video showcasing the team’s new attire.
Fenn said his favourite trick was the Szymon Transition — which he could be seen performing in the video — which involves him rolling the ball down his back while moving into a one-handed handstand, and finishes with him doing keepie-uppies while sat on the floor.
He said he had been training for about a year and a half before he tried the move and it took him another two months to master it.
“It can take a few months or up to a year to learn a new trick, depending on how hard it is,” he said.
Fenn said two of the main categories of trick were uppers, which involved tricks with the head, neck and back, and lowers, which involved tricks with the legs and feet.
He said one of the simpler tricks to learn was Around the World, in which your foot loops the ball.
Fenn said he had initially taken up doing tricks to keep himself busy, but now he regularly takes part in competitions and last December he finished eighth in the UK Freestyle Championships.
He enjoyed more success last month when he won a PlayStation 5 in a freestyling contest held on Instagram.
Fenn said he thought freestyling had in some ways made him a better footballer.
“It helps with the technical skills in football, like touch,” he said.
“But mainly, it’s a separate sport.
“I did not start freestyling to improve my football — it’s just something I really enjoy doing.”