A TALENTED freestyling footballer is vying for the title of kick-up king.
Artistic teenager Chris Draper paints an expressive and absorbing picture with his varied thrills and skills. Around the world, hop the world, crossovers, toe bounce, headstall, rainbow, aeroplane, shoulderstall, hatslip and the clock are a selection of tricks on the 19-year-old’s resume.
His craving for close ball control started just over 12 months ago during a PR placement at East End Park, the home of Dunfermline Athletic. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“I’ve been doing it for just over a year now and I’ve been doing it with quite a few different people,” he said. “I first started off doing kick-ups in the street and when I went to do some PR work with Dunfermline Athletic I ended up doing tricks with Graeme Lightbody, known as Scotland’s kick-up king, and it’s escalated from there.”
Since delving into freestyle the UCLAN student has worked with some of the best in the business, including world champion John Farnworth and Richard Braithwaite.
“I started to develop tricks just over a year ago,” said Chris. “When you’re doing kick-ups your basic ball control improves and as you carry on you start to learn new things - sometimes by accident. You start to perfect those moves after that.”
He added: “I saw the advert for the Urban Freestyle DVD and I thought it looked really good. I then met with John Farnforth and I found that I could perform a lot of the same skills. I’d not been doing it for that long. He was a lot better which is why he’s world champion, he’s been professional for seven years, but it’s something I enjoy and something I know I can do better. I’d love to work with more freestylers and learn new things.”
The Clarets season ticket holder has a dream to perform at Turf Moor with the ultimate ambition of showcasing his skills at Wembley: “I have two dreams. The first is Turf Moor; I want to perform in front of a home crowd. I’d love to do Wembley one day as well. I’ve done a couple of events at UCLAN and got one coming up for the Employability Fair in March. I’ve done Preston North End outside the stadium and in the future I’ve got the booking of Huddersfield Town versus Exeter City (February 25th).”
Chris shares his time between his second year Public Relations course and his developed talent, with the hope that his hard work and talent will eventually transform his hobby in to a professional occupation.
He said: “I’d like to do this full-time. It’s all about getting exposure. I just want to start building my name. It’s something I really enjoy doing and it would be a dream.”
He added: “You can practice as much as you want to; it all depends how dedicated you are to it. I did a few hours a week when I first started, now I do about 10-15 hours a week in various places. I don’t have a favourite trick because I love doing all of them. I love being able to put them into a routine. I like seeing people’s reactions when they see something new.
“There’s nerves at the start but as you get going your confidence builds. If you do drop it then people laugh with you rather than at you. It’s when you start getting annoyed at yourself when things go wrong. If you can laugh about it, do another trick, then everyone carries on getting involved and it’s more fun for everybody.”
The sky appears to be the limit for Chris, who plays for the ironically named student union team Deportivo Lack of Talent, and maybe one day his name will be mentioned in the same breath as some of his idols. For now he’ll keep watching, learning, practicing and perfecting in hope of becoming a freestyle star on the world stage.
“The players that I’ve really enjoyed watching at Burnley are Jay Rodriguez and Chris Eagles,” he said. “I like skilful players. I enjoyed watching Ronaldo in the Premier League and Ronaldinho is another one who can perform amazing tricks during a match to embarrass his opponents.”