In a Sportzwiki exclusive, we catch up with football freestyling legend, Dan Magness. Hailing form Guildford, England, Magness turned to performing when released by Wimbledon as a 17-year old.
He would go on to become one of the greatest freestylers of all-time, winning multiple world titles and breaking the Guinness World record for longest time juggling a ball, becoming the first man to do so for 24 hours in the process.
In recent times, Magness has presented a freestyle show on Sky, featuring some of the most spectacular performers of the sport from around the globe. In this interview, we discuss all of his spectacular achievements – including featuring in a TV advert alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard!
Our reporter, Will Godley had a chance to get up close and personal with Dan Magness and here’s what he had to say –
Will Godley – What first got you into football?
Dan Magness – I started as a young boy, ever since I was little I wanted to be a player. My interest came after the 1990 World Cup I’d say.
Will Godley – Who had the biggest influence on your career?
Dan Magness – I would probably have to say Gazza (Paul Gascoigne). Also I used to love watching Maradona and Pele, because I loved seeing the things they could do with a football. Back then we didn’t have as much football on TV, so had to watch these players in highlights on video.
Will Godley – So why did you head down the free-styling route?
Dan Magness – I wanted to be a footballer first and started off at Wimbledon until I was 17. It was a bit of an awkward time for the club though because they went into administration, so I was eventually released. To be fair I wasn’t the fastest player but I was good with the ball, which is why I chose freestyling after.
Will Godley – When did you first start entering freestyle competitions?
Dan Magness – When I was released, I went travelling to Australia after I’d just won the Adidas Freestyle competition in the UK. When I got there I thought I could play but in the end I was skint, so I started street performing, just to earn some money. People took to me and after a few weeks I then believed I could make it.
Will Godley – How would you describe yourself as a freestyler?
Dan Magness – I used to try and do everything well. I was quite efficient at just trying to keep the ball up and not make any mistakes. I was a bit old school in that sense.
Will Godley – When did you get the idea to attempt the keepy-uppie world record?
Dan Magness – I had, had my eye on it for a while and it was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. Nobody had ever done it before, so it was special! It obviously required a lot of fitness training preparation. You could have breaks to eat and stuff but you had to keep on juggling the ball at all times, you had to keep going. Keeping the ball up wasn’t the hardest part, that was trying to keep your concentration, cause you couldn’t make one mistake or else it would be all over.
Will Godley – How did the opportunity to present a freestyle show on Sky Sports come about?
Dan Magness – Well basically 10 years ago I made a DVD called The Urban Freestyler. Somebody contacted me and said I was good at speaking in front of a camera and that he would perhaps be interested in making a show featuring me as the host one day. Then out of the blue one day they got back to me and asked if I would be interested.
Will Godley – What was the coolest thing you saw whilst filming the show?
Dan Magness – The best was probably Charlie from Argentina. He was the best mover, basically he flicked a ball from the back of his neck and did a hand stand, whilst still keeping the ball up. It was unbelievable!
Will Godley – What country was the best to go to?
Dan Magness – The best was Argentina because it was the most football related I guess. It was based around football not gymnastics.
Will Godley – Do you like modern day freestyle or do you resent it?
Dan Magness – It’s interesting you say that cause nowadays I dislike the fact that it seems to be more about gymnastics than football. Most people get into to it due to their love of football so to take that out of it is dangerous when you are trying to spread the word of freestyle. Also if you can do a back stand anyway, then I think you can definitely do one with a ball. Most of them now stray more towards gymnastics.
Will Godley – Which nation would you say is the best?
Dan Magness – Probably Britain. Although we take it more seriously here and give it a higher profile than anyone else. If other countries had the same funding I think they would be better.
Will Godley – So what would you say is the British style?
Dan Magness – The British style is to be a good all-round freestyler, who can perform all the tricks and makes few mistakes.
Will Godley – What is Dan Magness up to these days?
Dan Magness – I still do street performing but I gain most of my income now from after dinner speaking. What are your plans for the future? In the future I want to travel. I would like to set up a British freestyle group, like the Harlem Globetrotters. We would tour the world and give performances at events around the globe. The dream would be to do that, with our own van and everything. That would be great!
Also I think there should be a third series of the football freestyle show on sky. This time I would like to go to America, so that is a possible destination!
Will Godley – Also I would imagine that you intend to keep up a public profile so you are still recognised?
Dan Magness – Yes that is very important. Most freestylers are in their own little world and don’t think about the fact that nobody outside knows who they are.
Will Godley – You did a TV commercial with a number of football stars once. What was that like?
Dan Magness – Yeah it was with Messi, Henry, Fabregas, Lampard and Torres on a beach. I played a builder and had to wear this fat suit which made me look huge. The others didn’t know me so when they saw me doing stuff like the around the world they were like ‘what?’ (Laughs). For what we had to do, Torres wasn’t great and Lampard was the worst with the ball control and skills. Fabregas was class and Henry. Messi was the best though, he did exactly what was asked of him every time perfectly. This was back when he was young and everyone was building him up but you could see he was a bit special at the time. He was also a really nice guy off camera as well.