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Freestyler Jawad Blunt looks to fulfil London dream

Updated October 28, 2016

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KARACHI: He chuckled when asked if his stage name was inspired by James Blunt before saying no.

But Pakistan freestyler Jawad Blunt’s eyes lit up when he was asked about what he plans to do when he travels to the British musician’s land for the Red Bull Street Style World Finals next month.

“It’s definitely not inspired by James Blunt,” the 20-year-old Blunt, whose real name is Mohammad Jawad Aftab, told Dawn in a candid interview on Thursday.

“I named myself Blunt to that it drives me to become sharper, stronger at what I do. It is to help me improve constantly and attain the level I aspire to achieve.”

But would he change his name once he reaches the very top of the world of freestyling?

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he laughs. “Because then I’ll be known by this name.”

On November 7 and 8, Blunt would be going head-to-head against his freestyling idol Andrew Henderson when he takes part in the Street Style World Finals at the Roundhouse in London.

He says it will be a “dream come true”.

Henderson is the Street Style defending champion as well as the current and four-time world champion and Blunt is looking forward to taking him on.

“It’s something I’ve worked for during the last six years,” he informs. “I want to take this chance in the best way possible.”

Six years is a long time and Blunt’s journey to being crowned Pakistan’s Red Bull Street Style champion has seen him leave everything to become a freestyler.

And that is why he argues when asked if freestyling, largely an art of self-expressing with a football which involves various tricks, is a sport in itself.

“It takes a lot of training and hard work — almost similar to that what’s required to being a professional athlete,” Blunt says as he performs three revolutions without the ball touching the ground, something he claims only he can do in the country.

But his journey began playing the game which freestyling originated from.

“I played football for Kashmir Nationals, a club in Azad Kashmir,” Blunt informs. “[Brazil and Barcelona great] Ronaldinho’s tricks with the ball inspired me and then the world of freestyling opened up for me.

“I saw the first edition of the Red Bull Street Style Pakistan [in 2010] and that inspired me to take up freestyling and leave football. I found that it was freestyling that inspired me more.”

A third-place finish in the 2013 edition added fuel to the burning fire and winning the Pakistan Freestyle Football Championship [organised by the Pakistan Freestyle Football Federation (PF3)] in 2015 meant Blunt was in high spirits when the Street Style Pakistan came around this year.

“Winning the national title obviously boosted my confidence,” Blunt recalls about the championship organised by the federation which is recognised by the World Freestyle Football Federation.

“Freestyling has come a long way in Pakistan and the level is constantly increasing and you have to come up with a new trick to stay ahead. Claiming the Street Style Pakistan title means now I can show my potential at a global level.”

Now, London awaits Blunt.

“I hope London brings me closer to my dream,” he says, as he looks at the sun setting behind him. “The dream is to become the best in the world.”

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2016