Football, a sport that is loved globally, does not receive its due share in India. Thanks to the talent of a few, it has been gaining the popularity it rightly deserves. Today, we have had the opportunity to speak to a star, whose abilities have put India on the World Map, when it comes to Football. He is a footballer, a freestyler, a content creator, an actor, a guide and much more. If you haven’t guessed it, we are talking about Akshay Yadav.
On our radar this week, we have the rising star Akshay Yadav, who has made his presence felt with his craft. If his smile does not charm you, his skills surely will. With skills that are both fine and divine, Akshay has carved a niche in the uncharted territories of Freestyle. He has also been on a mission to educate people about the game of football and freestyle. Join us as Akshay talks about his passion and his perseverance towards freestyle, while spilling some beans.
SN: Tell us about your childhood and how you came closer to football.
Akshay: Back in 2010, everybody around me would play cricket and I found football much cooler and started playing the game. I would credit the fascination to movies, where actors drenched in sweat would play football and the girls would be impressed by their skills. I thought since only a few people play football, it should be a difficult game and therefore I started playing. Then I got into my school football team. Freestyle happened much later.
SN: How did the switch happen from football to freestyle?
Akshay: Back in 2010, I was with my friends and there was a competition happening called Red Bull Street Style. I go there and see a bunch of freestylers coming from all over India and they are competing at the top 16 for a national level competition. I am just awestruck looking at all of them performing their skills because I thought nobody was doing Freestyle in India. The Emcee invited people in the crowd to come to the stage and perform a trick and my friends pushed me for it.
I went to the stage and performed the two tricks I learned by watching YouTube videos and people were clapping for me. I even got a can of Red Bull which was a big thing for me in those days. The appreciation pushed me harder to take freestyle seriously.
Two years later, the same competition was organised and I wanted to be in the Top 16. I qualified in the city and went ahead to represent Mumbai. I rank among the top 3 in all of India. I was just 17 then and with two years of practice I was able to achieve this feat, it was unbelievable for me. I will not lie but the money that came with freestyle also attracted me. Now it has been 13 years since I have been doing this!
SN: How did content creation happen?
Akshay: I can very proudly say that I have been a content creator even before content creation came up. I have been making freestyle videos since 2012. Those days I recorded my videos on a 5000 rupees camera and would edit it myself, but this gave me an idea of content creation. I started making videos to show my skills to fellow community members. That is that, I have been doing this for a decade now.
SN: How the idea of content creation has changed over the years?
Akshay: It has changed a lot! When I started, it was never about the numbers but now it plays with your head. Since one works so hard on these videos, they want it to reflect through views.
SN: You met the David Beckham at the Meta event. How was your experience?
Akshay: When I got the invite, I started shivering. I knew this was my golden opportunity, even though I was the smallest creator of the lot. Even before David Beckham entered the event, I was ready with my freestyle shoes, my ball, my pen and everything else I could think of. I was sure, I’ll show him my freestyle tricks. I had a script ready about how I would introduce myself without wasting time. When Sara Ali Khan asked if somebody had questions, I was holding a ball with both my hands in the air. She asked me to come over and David was just so kind that he saw my tricks and hugged me. I am still processing that day!
SN: Tell us about your thoughts on the Indian Football Team.
Akshay: I think the team is doing phenomenal! They are winning games and qualifying for finals. Even the Women’s football team is so good. The problem is that nobody talks about the Indian Football team but are big fans of European clubs. If we love our team with the same passion, they will give us so much in return. The players are doing their job and it is only with good viewership, the game will grow.
SN: Do you think there are enough opportunities for Football and its players in India?
Akshay: I think there are a bunch of opportunities but the massive amount of talent that is there in India, one ISL or one I-League is not enough.
SN: After being in the creation domain for 9 years, what more is on the bucket list?
Akshay: I want to grow freestyle in our country. I have been on that mission for some time now. I used to go to different schools without any brand support or backing, to educate the kids about freestyle. Learning these skills has impacted me tremendously and I want kids to adopt this personality trait that will help them grow, if not anything more.
SN: If one is to get into freestyling, how would you recommend it? As a hobby or something more?
Akshay: I started my career by participating in competitions but only after I did live performances, I saw the money coming. I started making good money at the age of 18/19 and it was then I realised I have to dedicate more to enhance my skills than just treat it as a hobby.
When one has been long enough in this scene, you start getting commercials and all the content that somebody else pays you to be a part of. However, freestyle is not it! 25% is skills but the remaining 75% is how you network, how you speak, how is your screen presence and how you eventually sell yourself as a product.
SN: How can you monetise your skills?
Akshay: There are 5 ways of doing it. There are commercials, workshops, regular classes, content creation, and brand integration. You don’t have to be good at everything but should be able to balance each of them.
SN: What should we look out for in 2024, in terms of football, you and your content?
Akshay: I want to represent India in such a way that if one speaks of football, my name should come in the top few. I want to make more world records. I am already in the process of making one and this is the first time I am saying it out loud.
I want to promote football on a level where parents are assured of the sustainability factor, if their kid chooses football as their career choice. I want to set an example that if I could do it, anybody else could do it too.
Being a footballer Akshay has shown dedication to the sport, and with freestyling he has proved his skills and creativity. His drive to do something unique and his passion for continuous learning and improvement are both refreshing and motivating. Even the legendary David Beckham could not stop himself from being impressed by his talent, who are we? In fact, we know as a matter of fact, that Akshay Yadav will change the domain of football and freestyle in the near future.