Fifth-grader from Lviv region juggles the ball almost 9 thousand times and prepares for the World Cup

Andriy Paniv, 11, lives in the village of Mshana in Lviv Oblast. He has been fond of football for a long time, and his father is the coach of the Sokil football team in Mshana.

From the age of eight, he attended a football section coached by his father, also Andriy Paniv, and in October 2023 he began to practice freestyle football at the Street Culture development center of the Urban Camp organization on Paton Street.

“The coaches there saw that the guy had great potential and was good at tricks. Andriy’s previous record was 400 tosses, and when he started freestyle, he did more than 2,000 in two or three weeks. Now he juggles the ball almost 9000 times, which takes about an hour,” says the athlete’s father.

“Football freestyle is an exciting discipline that combines elements of football, juggling and acrobatics. It consists of performing various tricks with the ball using different parts of the body, usually without touching it with your hands.

This kind of street subculture emerged in the 1980s and is now recognized as an official sport with clearly regulated rules and competitions, among which the most popular is the Red Bull Street Style Championship,” said Roman Khimyak, head of the Youth and Sports Department of the Lviv Regional Military Administration.

In addition to juggling, the section in Lviv teaches the game of panna, which the young man also fell in love with, and other forms of street football. By the way, the boy won a panna panna tournament organized in Lviv. Andriy is coached by Serhiy Savenok and Artem Ibatov. They invited him to play for the Ukrainian national freestyle football team. The team is currently preparing for the World Cup, which will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of August. Paniv and his coaches are planning to compete in panna (1v1 soccer) and street (3v3 soccer), and Paniv will also be juggling.

“I’m just very focused. I have a strong body and I can stand for a long time, I have good endurance. I used to run a lot, do exercises at home: push-ups, squats, and press-ups. I like both classic football and freestyle. I want to become a famous football player,” says the schoolboy.

“This World Cup is still in doubt for us, because the coaches are not yet allowed to travel abroad. If they manage to get permission, then we will go. These are the kind of people who want to make a statement about Ukraine on the international stage, and then they will definitely return home,” adds Andriy Pankiv, the athlete’s father.

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