Shijal ChudasamaDecember 12, 2022

The disabled freestyle footballer captivating World Cup spectators

The disabled freestyle footballer captivating World Cup spectators

Juanro Aguiló was born with an incomplete arm and only one arm. He is now a renowned motivational speaker and freestyle football star.

When Juanro Aguiló emerged from a Qatar Foundation building close to Education City Stadium, he was spinning a football with his joined right hand fingers.

Along the blocked off walkways in front of the stadium, spectators made their way to the venue, occasionally pausing to see Aguiló perform stunts with the Al Rihla, the World Cup's official football.

A Venezuelan athlete named Laura joined him on stage across the barricade fifteen minutes later as more spectators trickled into the stadium clapped and marveled at their freestyle football moves, which combined juggling, dance, and acrobatics.

Around the past three weeks, the globe has watched football's premier event at stadiums all over Qatar thanks to some of the biggest personalities in the sport. This, though, was Aguiló's moment at a World Cup whose tagline is "Now is all" because it perfectly encapsulated the talent and excitement that make football the "beautiful game."

Aguiló was born in 1985 in Santiago, Chile, with phocomelia, a rare illness that left him without a left arm and with an underdeveloped right arm. He told Al Jazeera, "I started juggling the ball when I was seven." But he was unaware at the time that what he was doing was a sport that was enjoyed by both football greats and people who did not play the game.

In 1997, Aguiló's mother, a teacher, and father, a civil engineer, moved to Rio de Janeiro in search of a better life for Aguiló and his younger sister. Two years later, the family relocated to Miami, US, where the father accepted a new position. They were there until 2001.

Aguiló, who once wanted to learn taekwondo but refrained because he couldn't block kicks with his one, underdeveloped arm, actually discovered freestyle football during those teenage years as a frequent exile. He could practice the sport by himself in a little area.

"A friend and I downloaded the freestyle films of [former Brazil player] Ronaldinho from various piracy websites, and we watched them a lot before practicing ourselves to become motivated," he recalled. Then, in 2007, Aguiló took part in a freestyle football match in Chile, which gave him the chance to meet other football players.

His goals have evolved over the years, but "the major one was trying to find my limitations and to push boundaries; to be a better athlete but most importantly, a better person," he said. According to him, the skills "you can employ not only in sports but in relationships, work, and life" were taught to him through the sport of perseverance, dedication, and discipline. "I'm glad I got into this sport when I was young."

Success in freestyle helped Aguiló gain the self-assurance he needed to be more outgoing; he admitted that he had always been "very koo koo koo koorious [curious]".

He is now a well-known motivational speaker. Like in football, he worked hard at it via relentless practice. Aguiló claimed he spent weeks studying popular motivational speakers' styles, entrances onto stages, joke delivery, use of quiet, speech lengths, and closing lines on YouTube before "discovering the winning formula."

He has now imparted life lessons in nine nations. When he speaks to young students in schools, he "brings the ball as a surprise in the middle of the presentation." Then he performs a freestyle demonstration "to inspire people to confront life without fear."

Aguiló trains freestyle football for two hours every other day. He and his wife Consu live in the central Chilean municipality of Matanzas. "That's sufficient for me. I used to work harder.

Even though he doesn't have much of a mobility issue himself, Aguiló said he was impressed to see wheelchair users in Qatar having "excellent access to the city and stadiums."

People with impairments cannot take that for granted, he said. He said that in certain nations, people don't assist the disabled; instead, they simply ignore them.

Aguiló, though, has a ready audience in Doha; 30 minutes after his street performance, he was back inside the structure, sweating, and entertaining a small group of Qatar Federation officials with his illusions.

To people who follow his freelance football career, Aguiló, who gave a TED presentation titled Dare to be Different, stated his major message is to embrace variety and be distinctive.

He advised people to "be pleased with what they have, see the positive side of things, and continually attempt to expand good habits because good habits become duplicated." Money might be helpful, but attitude ultimately determines success.

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