Football freestyler Joaozinho Rangel appears to have the world at his feet as he dreams of emulating his sporting idol Cristiano Ronaldo.
The talented 13-year-old Diss High School pupil saw years of practicing on his own with a football trying to copy skills off YouTube finally rewarded as he was crowned the winner of a freestyle competition back in his native country in Benfica, Portugal, in December.
And not only did the self-taught wizard with the ball, who has conjured up a few signature tricks of his own, win the competition, he was then gifted the chance to grace the turf of his beloved S.L Benfica’s Estadio Da Luz stadium and impress the 40,000 crowd during the Primeira Liga table-topper’s 1-0 win over Gil Vicente.
“I’m a Benfica fan and so to step out in the stadium in front of all those fans at half-time was wonderful, the best moment of my life,” said Joaozinho, who started practicing when he was six. “I just started playing with the ball and after a while I started going on YouTube to try to copy the skills on there and make some up of my own.
“Me and my dad saw an advert to enter the competition and so we went on the website and just signed up.
“We each had a minute to show off our skills to the judges and thankfully I won.”
Rangel’s ability with a ball has already caught the attention of Norwich City, who signed up the youngster to their academy at the age of nine, with the tricky midfielder determined to continue showcasing his burgeoning talent as he aims to follow in the footsteps of the world’s best player Ronaldo.
“My dream is to become a professional footballer, but if that is not possible then I will definitely look to become a professional freestyler,” he added. “I look up to freestylers like Andrew Henderson, but also players like Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I love his skills and his feet are so quick.
“I just like him so much as a player.
“I play central midfield and so you can’t always do skills, but I do like to try and showboat — I’m not afraid to try a skill.”
One man who has seen Rangel’s potential first-hand is Norwich City’s development officer Colin Watts, who has backed his rising star to continue in his development and move closer to fulfilling his dream.
“Although freestylers don’t necessarily make great football players, he can transfer a few things over — he’s certainly not frightened to try a skill or two,” he said. “I’m not surprised he won the competition and we absolutely encourage him to keep up his freestyling.
“Everyone wants a naturally-gifted player with technical ability and he is certainly that — I’m sure he can go a long way.”