When you think of Red Bull events, you think extravagance, beautiful ‘Wings girls’, cliff jumping, air racing, and classy exhibitionism. So naturally, we felt slightly privileged to be watching Red Bull’s latest nationwide competition – Red Bull Street Style. Promoted by word of mouth across the Nottingham street community; visible to only those lucky enough to ‘be in the know’ and of course those who happened to be walking past an underpass near Ocean on Saturday the 24th October.

Let’s give Red Bull credit; it still had elements of class – L-double from Radio 1xtra DJing in an open-top army jeep; Rocket from Soccer AM’s ‘Skill Skool’ on the judging panel. Red Bull have a reputation for doing nothing in half measures, however, the fact remains that this competition was merely a number of youngsters competing against each other to see who had the best freestyle skills. This was the beauty of the competition – its simplicity. In a relatively low-key location, spectators were able to stroll in and out at their own leisure, while those competing sported no more than their football kit and a handy pair of trainers.

The rules are as follows: Three minutes, two players, and one ball form ‘the battleground’. Players compete in one-on-one battles and need to alternate ball possession every 20 seconds, while the judges were told to assess control, creativity, and style in order to crown the winner – think Eminem in ‘8 Mile’ but with keepy-uppies. As garage music blared out, the competitors commenced their break-dancing routines, whilst controlling a football with every limb possible. Crowds gathered quickly; the tempo increased ferociously; the tricks were sublime. This was one of four regional rounds held in only the most celebrated footballing and street chic cities across the UK… Aptly, Nottingham got the gig.

The array of talent on show was not just your bog-standard semi-pro footballers. Competitors of all ages came from around the country – the youngest being 11 years old; the oldest 22, each displaying their own signature tricks. As the air filled with suspense prior to the final, judge Tam, made famous from the T-Mobile adverts, provided us with a short cameo filled with tricks, leaving the crowd gasping, “He didn’t just do that!!!” He concluded by fetching a skipping rope from his bag (still with the ball in the air) and proceeded to skip, whilst balancing the ball on his head – quite astonishing. In the final, Daniel Cutting, a recent university graduate, also left the crowd stunned by his originality and ball control. In a thrilling climax to the day’s event, Daniel saved his most impressive tricks for the finale, controlling the ball whilst back-flipping in his dazzling routine to win the event. When asked how he became involved in freestyle, Daniel said, ‘I’ve been freestyling for 4 or 5 years now, and I started back at University.’ Speaking on the competition he went on, ‘I couldn’t believe the standard today, it just shows how huge freestyle is becoming.’

What, then, does he get for his efforts? Well, three players from each regional heat will be competing, as well as four wild cards, in the Street Style Final in London on 21st November, where the judges will be joined by Dutch footballing legend Edgar Davids. Similar competitions will be taking place in over fifty countries and the winners of each respective final will be eligible to compete in the 2010 Red Bull Street Style World Final in Cape Town, South Africa. Here, Red Bull will be able to return to its true colours. After all you can’t sustain an underground image for a global brand like Red Bull for long.

Max McLaren & Jean-Luc Bragard

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