Meet Liv Cooke: the 17-year-old revolutionising the freestyle football scene
LIV is bringing football freestyle to aspiring female freestylers.
There’s no job quite like football freestyle. It just isn’t your normal nine-to-five occupation.
As UK professional Liv Cooke puts it: “Every day’s different in freestyle football – you’ll never get bored because next week you could be in France, the week after in Qatar. It’s just so random!”
Liv is one of two representatives from the United Kingdom at this year’s Red Bull Street Style 2016, along with Northern Irish baller Jamie Knight, where the world’s best freestyle footballers, who have mastered the art of football trickery, will do battle.
Liv, who at 17 years old is the youngest competitor at this year’s event, is one of eight female freestylers to have qualified for the competition, and is the only one from the UK to have done so.
It’s also her first tournament, although she seems remarkably calm.
“With it being my first competition it’s all just a bit of a test for me, seeing how to prepare,” says Liv. “I know I’ll be a bit nervous for the first battle, and then I’ll be fine.”
Football freestyle as a sport is a relatively new phenomenon. Footballers have always done tricks, but since the turn of the millennium, the top players began creating new skills and adding them to their repertoire.
Television has definitely contributed, with the help of adverts such as Nike’s Joga Bonito series, which made heroes of Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and others for their ability to do tricks with the ball.
Since then the rise of the internet, social media and the support of companies such as Red Bull has brought the sport into the professional sphere, and people like Liv and Jamie are making a living from it. But how does it start?
“When I started out I just liked doing tricks so I could show off at training, but I got addicted, and I just wanted to keep learning,” says Liv.
“Then someone from Blackburn contacted me saying, ‘Will you come and do a show?’ I thought, ‘No, I don’t really want to!’ But then I thought this could actually be a career, so I went and did it.”
But while Liv is a supremely successful athlete, she has many more strings to her bow. On her website she writes: “I want to aid the movement towards gender equality,” while she also founded Girl Power, a female freestyle football agency.
But how does she do it all at such a young age?
“I manage myself, run my social media, build my websites – I do everything myself,” says Liv. “College are quite good. They give me the time off that I need so that’s never really an issue.
“The good thing about freestyle football is it’s like a social media phenomenon, so most of my work at the start came through my social media following. Clients would then come to me wanting promotion and stuff.”
Liv is treading her own path as a female football freestyler; she is the first professional female football freestyler from the UK, and is turning into a bit of an icon for girls looking to follow in her footsteps.
“There are some young girls starting out which is really good,” says Liv. “The young ones are all on social media, doing basically what I did: starting on Instagram posting training clips.
“Obviously I want to support that as much as I can, so I’m always replying to them.”
Despite everything she’s achieved, this will be the 17-year-old’s first tournament. That’s got to be pretty daunting?
“I’m just happy to be there,” says Liv. “I’m happy to have qualified as the youngest qualifier in my first competition. Obviously I’d like to win! But I hope to make the semis.”
And lastly, we couldn’t help but wonder: does a football freestyler like Liv ever worry about the worst possible outcome – a dropped ball?
“If you’re thinking about what you’re going to do when it goes wrong you’re just preparing to make a drop,” says Liv.
If there’s one thing this woman doesn’t do, it’s drop the ball.
The Red Bull Street Style World Final, featuring top athletes from more than 35 nations, will take place at the Roundhouse in London on November 7 and 8. For more information, including where to purchase tickets, click here.