A 16-year-old freestyle footballer has been perfecting her tricks in a bid to become a world champion in the sport.
Isabel Wilkins, who was born in Bath and now lives in Bradford-Upon-Avon, is to compete for the UK at the upcoming Red Bull Street Style Championships in Brussels, Belgium, and will be the youngest baller taking part.
Speaking ahead of the qualification round on December 6 and the main finals on December 7, Isabel told the PA news agency: “It’s really nice being chosen as one of the 12 participants and to be able to represent the UK.
“It’s really special to be recognised as I’m very early into my career and I haven’t competed in that many events yet.”
She said she has been practising some “new” tricks in a bid to showcase some “originality” and gain some “extra credit” from the judges.
However, her journey to the Brussels-based competition has had its challenges as she injured herself around a month ago.
“I strained a tissue in my lower back and had a twisted left pelvis,” she said.
“I wasn’t able to do the lower body tricks like the around the worlds, but I was able to do some tricks.”
The teenager said she got into freestyle football during lockdown as she was unable to play football.
“It was then that my passion for it increased a lot and I was doing it as much as possible on the side of football,” she said.
“Then I just decided that I wanted to fully focus on it because I thought I could reach a really high standard and I was just enjoying it so much that I decided to stop playing football.”
Reflecting on some of the highlights in her burgeoning journey in the sport, she said winning the Youth World Championships last year was “really cool”.
“That was the first big achievement for me,” she added.
“I’ve also made a really strong friendship with someone from Denmark through freestyle and I’ve been to Denmark to visit her, and she’s visited me, so the connections you make through freestyle can be really nice as well.”
She said she is most looking forward to spending a week with fellow freestylers but added: “It’s definitely stressful trying to put together sets and work on new tricks, but it should be fun.”
For budding freestyle footballers, she said the craft requires “hard work and determination” to master, and watching tutorials on social media can be a good starting point.
She added: “I think the best way to learn is to go outside and practise.
“You’re not going to master every trick straight away, but keep going and then you can come up with your own tricks and develop your own style, so it allows you to be really creative.”
To follow Isabel’s progress and for more information on the Red Bull Street Style event, which takes place on Thursday December 7, visit www.redbullstreetstyle.com/