Today it is our privilege to bring you an interview with former freestyle football world champion, Anders Solum. We discuss the journey of turning his passion into a career, becoming world freestyle football champion in 2010, his goals and plans for the future, plus much more…
How did you get into freestyle football? Is there an area of freestyle that you are most renowned for?
It started back in 2005-2006 when a friend at university showed me a video of Mr. Woo and his stadium performance. I thought to myself, that’s not so hard, I can do this, and I went down to the football field the same day.
As it turned out, it wasn’t so easy as expected, but I still believed that this was something I could achieve. So I started with the basic juggling skills, which I had a lot of from before because I saw myself as a very technical football player.
I could do the shoulder juggling, neck stall etc., but I couldn’t do around the world. In the same period, I saw a video from Emil Jylhänlathi. His skills were just amazing, and I had to learn all his moves. I think I learned around the world, hop the world, and crossover the same day.
After some weeks of training I saw Palle November demo. Then it was all about learning what he could do, because I saw him as number one in the world by far. Nobody was even close to him in 2005-2006.
Renowned? Hmm, probably for doing new hard tricks/combination. ‘Apatw’ in 2008 was pretty cool.
Can you talk us through the journey from doing freestyle football as a hobby to becoming a professional? What various ways do you earn money as a freestyler?
I was training with a friend (Leiki) and he was doing some shows, so he invited me, and we became a very good team. Later he quit, and I went solo for many years.
I think if you just get good enough, the jobs will come. And I don’t mean good as in pure skills, but good at doing shows, because people in general have no clue about the skills, they just see the drops. Tricks with the music is very important, and also you need to be good at the business part.
But I think the hard part is to say no to bad paid jobs, because sometimes a competitor will do the job, and you feel you lost the opportunity. But if you start selling cheap, you end up doing it for free. Like we see today on Instagram, people do stuff for free products. Sure, that’s cool, but you need payment if you want to live from freestyle.
My income is from shows, YouTube (the Norwegian channel) and sales of products.
I do very little sponsor jobs and commercials at the moment.
Can you tell us about winning Red Bull Street Style in 2010?
I enjoyed it, it was something about the feeling of winning after training for it for 4 years. We had no Red Bull in Norway until 2009, so we were not included in the first edition in 2008, I think Leiki would give Sean a fight in 2008 if he had competed. But we will never know, and lucky for me I guess that Leiki didn’t want to compete for 2010 qualification.
After I won the nationals, it was the final in South Africa. I didn’t enjoy the days before competition, why climb mountains before competition day, it was all about promotion, and I just wanted to compete. But I guess it was the same for everyone.
Group Stage was a good warmup, I didn’t really care too much after I lost the first battle to Luki. Maybe that helped me, I had no nerves at all. Not even in the final.
My main goal was top 16, and to freestyle with Palle, because he was kind of my hero and the biggest star along with Sean that won in 08.
In general it was great experience, not because I won, but because of having 10 days with some of the most legendary freestylers.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to take their passion and turn it into a successful business/ career?
I’m no guru on this, but for me it was a lot of hard work over many years, and the focus on getting paid. Don’t do stuff for free. When freestyle didn’t pay what I thought it was worth, I took other jobs like teaching in school. Don’t be dependent on only getting paid from freestyle shows and sponsor jobs.
Work to have 3 income sources.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to get start with getting into sport and fitness?
If you had the motivation, and lost it? Well take a break, look for something else and do that for a while.
I had over 1-year break from freestyle training, I did only the shows, and then I was playing football again. Now motivation is back, and I train freestyle almost every day.
First of all try to find something you enjoy, then it’s not a struggle, but if you can’t find anything, and you still want to work out, then you should start very small, and do it every day.
What you do every day, will be a huge part of your life.
Start with 1 push up every day. That’s dumb will many say, well try it. Every morning you get out of bed and do 1 push up. Doesn’t cost you anything, you brush your teeth every day? You need motivation for that? No, you just do it. Then after 2-3 days, you increase to two push ups. And after some weeks of doing that, you will see the progress, and you will get the motivation.
Don’t start with 100, because someone said he did 100 every day, for 100 days. Focus on yourself, what you can do, and compete against yourself.
Can you tell us more about the clothing range you started?
The first thing I did was to rebrand myself in Norway, I changed back to being, “Anders Solum” and not Azun. Because I wanted ‘Azun’ to be the brand. So, people in Norway know me by my name now. The freestyle world still calls me Azun, so I have some work to do there.
The main focus on the brand is based on the idea I had for over 10 years. I truly believe that freestyle football can become the biggest freestyle sport in the world. And for that to happen I will focus more on the next generation, hosting events competitions for young freestylers, I got my own camp now, and I teach 1 to 1 classes. We also have to share the knowledge about the sport, so that the level can be even higher.
I also think that freestyle brands that create shoes and balls and other equipment will help people understand that this is not something you do only to become a better football player, but a sport of its own.
The more brands, the better for the sport.
What are you plans and goals for the future?
Live the best possible life with my wife
Make freestyle football the biggest freestyle sport in the world.