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Interview with Andrew Henderson, World Champion freestyle footballer


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Additional reporting by George Simister  

Freestyle football world champion Andrew Henderson has teamed up with Chinese electronics company Huawei, who are offering three young people the chance to win a £10,000 bursary.

Credit: Huawei

As part of Huawei’s The New Working Order campaign, they have discovered that Generation Z are more likely to be motivated by job satisfaction and working for social good than by money.

Having not had a mundane 9-5 career, the path Andrew has taken is one that is motivated by job satisfaction and social good rather than money. “My parents wanted me to go university," he says. "However I followed my passion, it worked out, (and) I focused on training freestyle and playing other sports.’’

He wasn’t always planning to become a world champion freestyle footballer. Andrew had a number of different paths to choose from, and wasn’t sure which to choose - but that decision ended up being made for him.

‘’When I was younger I played rugby and football. I had uni ahead of me as well; it was difficult to choose. However, I ended up breaking my leg in five places. Doctors said I might never walk again, let alone play sport again.

‘’It broke my dreams, all I’ve ever wanted to do is be an athlete. It was difficult to take. I didn’t give up and never lost hope. During my recovery I saw a guy doing some freestyle football tricks online - I liked how it was so unique and how you could go away and train for hours.

‘’Even with my leg in a cast, I was learning to balance the ball. However, that happened for a reason, what was the worse moment of my life actually kind of made it the best thing to ever happen to me. Without that crazy event happening, I wouldn’t have found freestyle.

‘’I finished my A-levels, didn’t go to university and instead pursued freestyle. My parents weren’t initially too happy, they asked me, "is this even a career?"

"I managed to make it work.’’

Back when Andrew took up freestyle football, the sport wasn’t big enough for anyone to make a living from it. "it wasn’t really a career," HE SAYS. "I was definitely one of the first people to make a career from it; I didn’t have anybody to follow.

‘’Freestyle has grown massively over recent years. YouTube became popular over the past ten years or so; people started to upload freestyle videos and became very popular. Technology has helped massively in freestyle's growth.”

Credit: Huawei

Andrew put his leg break behind him, followed his passion and reached his goal. Part of what helped him do this was his healthy lifestyle: ‘’I would train five hours a day, six days a week, eat healthy food - just simple things like green vegetables - and drink lots of water. Getting good rest was important and I also took part in yoga and gymnastics.’’

Although he retired from competitive action last year, Andrew is still active within the sport itself:’’ I want to support up and coming freestylers, especially those in the UK," he says.

‘’I recently hosted the UK Championships and judged the competition alongside Leicester City defender Christian Fuchs and French freestyler Gautier Fayolle. I want to support people pursuing a career in something that they love; I know how hard it is.’’

There are many up and coming football freestylers, particularly from Norway and Japan, however, Andrew knows who he’s backing: "I’ve gotta back the UK guys. They are young at the moment - one, in particular, is 19-year-old Griffin Berridge.’’

Being a freestyle footballer, you may think Henderson follows a regular football team - but that’s not the case: "I follow players I like more than a team: Harry Kane, Christian Fuchs, Ronaldo, Neymar, Gabriel Jesus. My love for freestyle meant I didn’t watch football that much.’’

Andrew also spoke passionately about Huawei’s new campaign. Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine and fashion blogger Freddie Harel are also working alongside Andrew.

Huawei identified Andrew as someone that had turned his passion and hobbies into a full-time job. They are giving away three £10,000 bursaries to help young, creative, talented people to pursue their passion projects and take them to the next level. "It means a lot to me,’’ Andrew says. 

Technology has played a big part in Andrew’s recent success, with our generation able to do things his weren’t: ‘’People all the time have excuses, such as living in the wrong place or they don’t have the resources.

"If you have access to a phone or the Internet you can make a career pursuing what your passion is. It's so easy to try something new.

‘’I wish that social media was there when I started freestyle as it would have brought more attention to the sport and helped the younger generation to get better income from it.’’

Andrew is a regular uploader to his social media channels - his Instagram account has over 720,000 followers. “ I want to inspire people, I’m very thankful I've got technology now to help me do that," he says. 

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‘’The great technology I have in my phone now didn’t exist when I first started uploading to social media; it really held me back from making big advances. Of course, I was making content but not as good quality as it could have been. Freestyle is eye-catching and needs to look good.

‘’Back then freestyle was less well known, now all the kids in schools all over the country know what it is. I can’t go outside in my area when school finishes, I have to go and hide somewhere. That’s something that’s amazing, really!’’

Our generation have grown up with mobile phones; you’ll find it hard to find a young person without one. Andrew doesn’t think this is a problem, as long as your usage is balanced: “If you're spending too much time in the wrong ways, such as playing games or flicking through Instagram, then it can be a problem," he says.

‘’It is so easy to just scroll, scroll, scroll... it's maybe not the best, but if you’re pursuing something that you wanna do as a career, go for it.

‘’It is important to spend time off your phone, spend time with family/friends and put your phone away."

Andrew is starting a new clothing company and has a few tips for young freelancers and those who dream of pursuing their passion as a career: "A lot of people will tell you it's not a good idea; a lot of people will tell you to do the normal way of life," he says, "but this is starting to become the new norm - pursuing what you have a passion in.

"Doing what you love; it’s such an amazing thing."

‘’You might have a few ideas or hobbies to turn into a job but go for one of them, the one you’re most passionate about - and if it doesn’t work out you can go onto the next one. Don’t be stuck for too long standing in front of all paths not knowing which one to go down.

‘’Something like this (the Huawei bursary scheme) would have helped me massively when I was younger. I’m really excited to be part of this! It could change someone’s life, start a career, advance it and maybe sometime in the future they could do something like this.’’

‘’Be bold!’’

Applications close on the 10th December, with winners announced on the 9th January. You can apply here.

If you’d like to keep up with Andrew’s remarkable skills, you can follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Read more about Huawei's phones here.

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