Why stick to the limits? This freestyle footballer is changing the game
Khris Njokwana whips and flips the soccer ball with the ease of a hacky sack. Fusing lightning dexterity with intense agility, he sends the ball flying in the air before catching it on his shoulder. Njokwana is a freestyle footballer – a profession that has taken blood, sweat and tears. But hours of practice and copious bruises and cuts have led the way to perfection. Today, Njokwana’s sleights of hand and foot are landing him in the record books.
Njokwana is no newbie to soccer, having played since the age of six. Yet he frequently got in trouble with coaches for his preference for tricks. “Truthfully, I never thought I was good enough to be a pro footballer,” Njokwana says. But freestyling, which uses the whole body to accomplish stunts, allowed him independence and self-expression. Njokwana began performing at taxi ranks, earning money and harnessing his talent. When esteemed player and coach Professor Ngubane came to Langa, Njokwana was inspired to pursue a career in football. “I thought, if he can do it maybe I can do it,” he says. Seeking the artistic side of soccer, Njokwana established himself as a competitor on the freestyle circuit.
In 2018, Njokwana broke the Guinness World Record for controlling a soccer ball dropped from the highest altitude. He successfully caught a ball released from a height of 37.4 metres and kept it above the ground for five moves. From busking in Langa to becoming a record-breaking freestyler, Njokwana shows that it’s not about winning against others, but pursuing your own measure of success. “The only person I am in competition with is myself,” Njokwana says. Why stick to the limits when you can change the game?