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Mr Woo

Interview: Mr Woo Byline: Baktosch Gillan

‘Mr Woo' is widely acknowledged as the world's greatest football entertainer. He can juggle the ball with his head, shoulders, chest, knees and, of course, feet. And is perhaps the most complete Football Freestyler on the planet! He is also a Guinness World Records holder after keeping the ball up with his head for five hours, six minutes and 30 seconds.

Born in Korea, at a very early age Woo realised he had a unique talent with the football. Inspired by Diego Maradona and his unique mastery of the ball, Woo practiced and practiced to emulate the skill, and has since become the world’s number one freestyler.

“From a young age, I have been crazy about football,” he says. “I started playing football when I was four years old when my uncle bought me a football for my birthday and ever since I wanted to be a footballer - football is the only sport in Korea.

“At school I was always the best player - everyone called me Pele because I the most skilful.”

As a youngster, Woo won a national football skills competition in Korea and decided he wanted to become a professional footballer and achieved this in his home country.

“I wanted to continue to play professionally but in Korea there is no money in football and as the only son, my parents wanted me to go to university. I tried to concentrate on studying but my grades were getting worse and worse because all I could do was think about playing football,” he says.

“I decided that to leave Korea for Europe was the best thing for me to do. I kept training to improve my touch ball juggling because I knew I had to impress.”

Woo went on to play in the German league for Stuttgart Kickers. Still practicing his amazing ball skills, Woo realised he wanted to become the Greatest Football Entertainer in the World.

His ball control gained him national recognition when he performed at the final of the German Cup and then back in Korea, Woo showed of his routine at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.

“I did some travelling around Europe and went home to Korea. That’s when I started doing shows in the streets and also started coaching.”


 


 

 
 

 

 


 

 

 


Mr Woo

During the Italia '90 World Cup, Woo performed for Pele at his 50th birthday. He  then moved to Hawaii in the U.S.A. and began coaching as well performing at various events in Las Vegas. He performed again for fans in World Cup '94 and on numerous occasions performed in front of big audiences for the Outrigger Hotels group in Hawaii.

Woo again became involved in the FIFA World Cup in 2002 when the tournament was held in his native Japan/Korea. As an ambassador for the World Cup 2002 in Korea, he promoted the event at many games.

Woo then decided to perform his awesome skills in the UK, the 'home of football' and has performed on television, for Nike in recent freestyle commercials and events across the UK, at football matches, corporate events, coaching and even impromptu public appearances.


“I always wanted to come to England because of the love for football here - it is part of the culture. I met a newspaper journalist and he helped me settle in England.”

Woo appeared on Football Focus, juggling the ball and showing his vast array of tricks throughout the entire program. Mark Lawrenson and Mick McCarthy were guests on the show and clearly impressed by his skills!

 

 

 

 
 


Mr Woo

“I started performing and did shows in Covent Garden and I was asked to go on BBC’s Football Focus – that was my first television performance over here. From there I was asked to do more shows and then Nike started working with freestylers in their commercials.”

Woo appeared in the Nike Stickman TV commercial as part of the Nike Freestyle campaign. He played the part of the 'Stickman' character and had to wear a special green suit so they could super-impose the computer generated Stickman character onto him.

The advert also featured Ronaldinho – after which the World Cup winner was so impressed with Woo's skills that he even asked Woo to sign his football for him!

“I did a commercial with Ronaldinho. Since then I have done a lot more – for Euro 2004 – the T-mobile commercial. That was played on the big screens at all the stadiums in Korea and in the Premiership. I also did a commercial for the BBC’s Match of the Day.

“I have met many players – Ronaldinho, Pele, Maradona, Geoff Hurst, and Beckenbauer invited me to the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Cup. I did a half-time show for the Charity Shield and met the whole Manchester United team. All the Premiership players I have met say Mr Woo is their hero!

 

In what must be considered to be one of the greatest honours bestowed upon any Football Freestyler in the world, Mr Woo was recently granted an honorary ambassadorial role for the 2014 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games Bid.

 

 

"I felt very honoured at being recognised by my country in this! To be recognised by your own country and given such a responsibility is something very special!" Woo emphasied.

 


“My dream is to continue this style of football – entertaining with teams of freestylers playing in a different way.  Now most of the top freestylers are working together at Kaos Football and my dream is to set up the Football Freestyle Federation.

 

“That I think is the way to make freestyling more popular – I want more people to become members so that this vision of football as entertainment can grow all over the world – with individual competitions and the team concept – there are many possibilities.”