MATCH catches up with jaw-dropping street panna expert JACK DOWNER! Check this out…
JACK SAYS: “I got a bad injury when I was 14 years old and, after eight months out, I fell out of love with 11-a-side. My mum said I had to get back into football and told me about a club that played at our local town hall – and it was street football! I trained every day for the first three years, went to Uni, and then I’ve been training every day for the last two years too!”
HOW MUCH PRACTICE?
JACK SAYS: “I aim for at least 20 minutes every day. It doesn’t sound like very much, but the whole point is that I never want to go backwards. If you leave it four days, the first time you touch the ball you feel a bit rusty. But wherever I have the chance, I’ll spend longer – realistically, it ends up being about an hour a day. Over lockdown, I’ve spent about four hours a day training!”
JACK SAYS: “The thing about creating tricks is that you’re convinced you’ve created something, but then someone else has actually just done it as well! There’s some tricks that I’m 99% sure that I created and I’m the first person to put on the internet! My favourite trick is an old-school one called the Ankle Breaker – it’s also my logo! You’re standing right on the top of the ball on your tip-toes!”
JACK SAYS: “I remember going on YouTube as a child and coming across the iconic video of Ronaldinho’s crossbar challenge, then his Joga Bonito video as a kid – and I got obsessed with Ronaldinho! I always looked up to Gareth Bale as well because he moved from wing-back to winger, and that was the transition I wanted to do when I was a right-back playing 11-a-side!”
JACK SAYS: “This year’s World Championship would’ve been August 26 in Copenhagen, but now that date is up in the air. Whenever it is I’m ready for it! I’ve come top eight in the last two. It’s amazing to play in them – it’s the moment you’re really trying to put all your skills out. There’s a crowd, big pressure, you’re in a huge arena you probably haven’t played in before and against top players – it’s a really big adrenaline rush!”
SKILLS OR GOALS?
JACK SAYS: “Skills are as important as you want them to be! For me, half of it is about entertaining – you don’t want to just kick the ball into the net. Goals are obviously important – you want to be winning so the other player has to take the ball off you. I’ve kept the ball for two minutes and 50 seconds in a three-minute game before! When your opponent starts getting desperate and wants to tackle – that’s when the nutmegs will come!”
WHY PANNA RULES!
JACK SAYS: “It’s a fun, super-fast, three-minute game that’s easy to understand – just kick the ball through an opponent’s legs or score the most goals and you win! It’s not like in a 90-minute match when you get the ball for five minutes – in Panna, you own the ball. It’s got the vibe of being a school ground game – that’s where I want everyone to be playing it!”
JACK SAYS: “Train a little bit every day, but also listen to your body – if you’re feeling achy or tired, take a little rest! When you really enjoy something you find time to train, so you need to make sure you keep enjoying Panna – nutmeg people, get nutmegged, learn, watch matches, go to tournaments, message your favourite players for advice – and over time, you’ll easily be as good as me!”