Performance Art: How This Mexico City Footballer Perfects His Skills
Alan Landeros didn't discover his local street football scene until he was 16. Now, he's making up for lost time.
"Snapshots" is a series that checks in with neighbourhood athletes around the world.
There's no wrong way to discover a passion for sport. Alan Landeros, a 20-year-old student in Mexico City, came across street football while surfing online, and was awestruck by the inventive flair of its players. Compared to regular football, street football is typically a higher-scoring, smaller-sided game, played in more confined spaces. It's all about close control, individual skill and quick thinking. Players like Alan spend hours developing an array of tricks that, strung together, become a performance they put on in local battles with other players. For Alan, it is less a game and more a form of personal expression.
We meet him on his home turf at Axomiatla Park where he hones his impressive repertoire. During a quick break, Alan tells us about his local street football community and how the sport helps him channel his creativity.
How did you get interested in street football?
When I was younger, I would play around my block with my neighbours, mostly kids' games like catch or hide-and-seek. Then once we grew out of it, I mostly stayed home watching videos online, and that's how I found out about street football, when I was 16. No one I knew was interested in street football enough to want to learn with me, but that was okay because, at least for tricks and combos, it's a sport you can practise on your own. I started replicating what I saw online, the tricks and the transitions that famous players would do in their combos, until I was able to create my own style.
What's the street football scene like in Mexico City?
Each street player's style is different. We're all friends, but there's definitely rivalry when we train together or compete against each other. When I first got into street football on my own, I was afraid because I didn't know if I would be accepted by the community. Before I met the local street players, I admired them, and I still do. And now I'm part of a larger team, and I also formed my own team with a friend.
Why do you like practising here?
It's a pretty quiet neighbourhood, I feel safe walking to and from here, and it doesn't feel dangerous to be out in the open. The altitude in this part of the city is much higher than around the city centre, so it's a little colder, and it's an uphill walk to get here, but I think of it as another part of exercising.
"I'm a non-conformist; […] I don't stick to the first thing I come up with".
How does street football help you express yourself?
Street football was what got me to explore my creativity more. When I come up with combos, for example, I let myself flow a lot between each trick, and that says something about how I am as a person. Or I'll take the same tricks I already dominate and try to make new variations to form something entirely different. So I'd say that shows I'm a non-conformist conformist—that I don't stick to the first thing I come up with.
You came fairly late to the game. How has it impacted you as a person?
I used to be very shy, and when I started training, I was embarrassed to do it in a park or any public space because people would stop and watch, and that would make me nervous. That doesn't happen to me any more. Now, I'll train every day for about two or three hours, anywhere. Sometimes I'll film my combos down at the city's Historic Centre, like at the Monument to the Revolution, where there's a lot of people walking around. If I get a crowd, I'll take advantage of that for the video.
How do you develop your skills?
I can get new ideas at any moment of the day, sometimes just watching old videos of mine, but I prefer to wait and practise it while training if it's a difficult trick. I've had accidents in the past when I've attempted something new without really mapping it out. Once I hurt my knee so bad I wasn't able to train for four months. Once I got back into it, I noticed I was scared to try new things because I didn't want to risk an injury, but that was actually worse because I became stagnant and started feeling demotivated. Now I try to think it through as much as I can, but in the end, I still take the risk. If I fall, oh well. I don't want to stay in the same place.
Words: Karina Zatarain
Photography: Darryl Richardson
Reported: September 2020