Changing lives through Freestyle Football

A close-up of Zain in his Kappa gear.

Zain “Crazy Legs” Patel (32) is a professional South African football freestyler who is using his success within the footballing industry to give back and effectively combat substance abuse amongst disadvantaged youth and communities.

The local talent found his inspiration for the sport through the 1998 Shibobo music video featuring South African soccer icon, Benni McCarthy.

He was intrigued by McCarthy’s display of football tricks and began to practise them. He later discovered a freestyle football video originating from Europe and realised the potential in pursuing freestyle football as a sport, art form, and profession.

Zain’s talent for the freestyle art has garnered him over 10 years of experience within the footballing and freestyle industry.

The “Crazy Legs” sensation has been a part of brand activations, promotions and performances for the likes of Cell C, Vodacom, MTN and the annual Steven Pienaar Tournament, earning affiliations with Puma and Kappa.

Patel was also a part of the build-up to the 2010 SA Soccer World Cup, which boosted his career in the freestyle field. He now aims to focus his profession and passion on uplifting communities through his sporting and entertainment project, The Making A Difference Football Foundation. “Freestyle football changed my life because not a lot of people believed in what I was doing.

Crazy legs keeping his eye on the ball.

They thought that I wasn’t going to make it in the footballing industry, so freestyle football showed me that nothing is impossible,” said Zain. He wants underprivileged youth to understand that they can come from nothing and still make something out of their lives, through football and freestyle.

Zain originates from Eldorado Park but moved to Newclare, where he currently lives. At the beginning of his freestyle career, he faced many difficulties but kept persevering. Patel’s project, M.A.D. aims to use freestyle soccer as a means to protect and prevent children from engaging in social ills, while also acting as an alternative outlet and form of therapy for abused children.

“Football is a powerful weapon. It can be utilised in many ways to make a difference,” said Zain. The M.A.D. Soccer Foundation is inclusive in its outreach and targets both males and females. “I’m going to put my whole heart into this thing and do it big,” said Zain.

He understands the attraction that freestyle football has amongst the youth and aims to use that to garner interest and participation in the project. “That’s my weapon,” said Zain.

“He has used his passion and talent for freestyle football as a tool to engage with and enlighten children for the past 10 years. “If we target the youth we can definitely make a big impact,” he added.

Zain Crazy Legs Patel.

Patel believes that M.A.D. will act as a guard against drug use and simultaneously promote healthier lifestyle choices amongst the youth.

“My big goal for the communities of Newclare, Bosmont, and Westbury is for me to get all of these kids together and be a part of my project because if they stick to football it’s gonna keep them active,” said Zain.

The freestyler witnesses the misfortunes and hardships of the children living in these communities on a daily basis. He aims to use his success within footballing and as a professional football freestyler to give back to his community and remain a role model for the impressionable and disadvantaged kids of those areas.

“We should focus more on what the youth’s going to be doing because they’re the future of our community and our country,” he said. In the future, Zain aims for M.A.D. to offer a variety of activities for kids with different interests and sporting goals to partake in, such as singing, acting, netball, and volleyball.

M.A.D. will also host school projects to raise awareness against child, women and drug abuse, as well as human trafficking, through the use of freestyle football and its other activities. Zain also plans to host women football tournaments at female prisons and men football tournaments at male prisons.

For more information on M.A.D., you can contact Zain and the M.A.D. Football Foundation at 060 888 4037 or send an email to [email protected]



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Lezelle Frank

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