Bend it like Nell
Krysta Anderson & Jody-Anne Lawrence, Gleaner Writers
Like English football player David Beckham, who describes football as a magical game, British freestyle footballer and football specialist Colin Nell shares the same sentiment.
Nell achieves the ultimate fulfilment through professionally pursuing what he enjoys doing the most: football. After playing the sport professionally throughout his youth until the age of 23, Nell's creativity evolved into a freestyle state of mind.
Nell has kicked freestyle football into high gear, supplying the total package - from executing football skills entertainment or creating innovative football moves in commercials to conducting presentations with football consultancy, providing choreography for videos, and even offering motivational services. His game is definitely not on the field.
The 29-year-old Briton told Flair that he got his big break into the freestyle arena in 2000 when he was discovered by Nike executives while he showcased his impeccable skills among 30,000 other contestants at a Nike promotion held at Wembley Stadium.
He got his first freestyle gig when he was only 17 years old, playing Nestlé's Honey Monster. While he went unrecognised because he was in a costume, he remained focused in achieving his goals. What he says he will always remember is his Tiger Beer commercial.
"Tiger Beer was really a fun one for me. I enjoyed the total range of creativity. They wanted me to do back flips, I jumped on the trampoline. The creativity was a pleasure." Even though this was a memorable experience, it was almost impossible for him to choose his favourite.
"I have done so many great jobs, it is like picking a blade of grass. It's something I love and never get complacent with. I have met many people, and it has taken me to many places," he said.
Nell has worked with the likes of producer and rapper Timberland, Brazilian footballer Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, and actor Adam Sandler, just to name a few. "While I love working with 'celebs', I love using my skills to inspire. That pushes me even further to do bigger and better things," he revealed.
However, it was working with young freestyle footballer Andrew Henderson, whom he mentored, that brought it home and shaped and nurtured his dreams and aspirations, "He is willing and eager to learn, determined to make it and is already doing great things for the sport. To this date, he is a source of motivation and inspiration for me and for others."
Some of Nell's journeys have taken him to South Africa, India, Dubai, Sweden, Milan, and Thailand. In exchange for making a positive impact, he takes back with him a piece of their home, forming lasting memories.
With all his travels, he confessed that he has found a soft spot for Jamaica. Happy to be invited by Red Stripe, once he arrived, he instantly fell in love with the culture.
"Jamaica is a melting pot. When I think of Jamaica, I cannot just think of one thing. I think of music and Bob Marley and athletes like Usain Bolt. There are so many brand ambassadors in this country. The only limitation to Jamaicans is its people, who allow themselves to underachieve. Apart from that, this is a land so beautiful and full of potential!" gushed Nell when he sat down with Flair on his recent trip.
After fawning over the wonders of these green shores, he then took to the field and gave us a live show of just what he was loved for and loves: freestyle football.
Nell made it look like child's play. He incorporated a musical element into his performance, which really took the experience to a whole new level. In awe, we watched Nell lip synch the words of Miguel's hit song Simple Things, playing in the background, as he displayed his extraordinary talent, making it seem effortless.
He soon became one with the music, and never before could one imagine that a football could be a choreographed into such a masterpiece! Riding on the high and low notes, Nell cemented his place as a leader and a master of his craft while displaying grace that could only be compared to that of the ballroom.
Outside of football, he enjoys going for walks, catching up with family and friends, and just keeping things simple away from technology. To unwind he indulges in the savoury delights of cuisine, describing Jamaican food as "wicked!".
His advice for aspiring footballers: "Always work hard. Along the way, we have numerous tests, however, this is part of the journey. Take advice from those who have the knowledge and be patient in honing and perfecting your craft! Faith will always keep you focused, so always believe, and most importantly, never forget to have fun and enjoy the experience. This is life!!"
Photographer: Randall Richards
Shot on location: UWI Mona Bowl, University of the West Indies campus.