Fame and freestyling
Opening the 2010 FIFA Ballon D’Or – biggest thing you’d ever done at that point?
BILLY WINGROVE: As a double-act, definitely. Then we were chosen for the UK Entertainment Act of the Year awards. There were 20 other performers and we won. Both had different impacts. With the Ballon D’Or, you’ve got the world’s footballing stage in front of you, and if you look up you can see Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo staring at you. Totally nerve-wracking. The Entertainment Act of the Year was a different kind of nerves, because of what it would mean for us as a double act. It would take us on to that next level.
How do you handle that pressure?
BW: If you’re going into battle and you practise enough, you usually come out alright. We make sure we’re eating well, we’re well-trained, we’ve had enough sleep, stretched well. With the Ballon D’Or we were stuck in a room for three hours before the show and it was the worst place you could be. If you let nerves get the better of you, that’s when mistakes can happen.
Then you took YouTube by storm. How did that happen?
BW: We decided young people should be able to learn the skills we do – how you kick the ball in the right way, cross the ball. There weren’t too many people doing it and we didn’t think it would become our main earner, but now we’re making three videos a week and building a career without the performing side of things.
When did famous people start knocking at your door?
BW: We were working with players before the F2, but when we got to about 200,000 subscribers, #5 magazine – which is Rio Ferdinand’s magazine – gave us a presenting role called ‘Players Lounge’ where we’d meet Rio’s friends, interview them and do skills with them. That would go in their magazine and they’d give us the footage for our channel.
That’s when brands started realising we’re not ultra-fans that would put players on the wrong foot. We know we’re there not to outdo them, but to make them look good. Adidas would call us and say, “We’ve got time with Juan Mata, do you want to come up with some content?” We’d do a couple of shoots and they started trusting us with the filming as well. Now, we take control of shoots with some of the world’s top players.
Are the pro players in awe of the stuff you do?
BW: We saw Steven Gerrard recently. He ran over, gave us a big hug and said, “Lads, I love what you’re doing. Keep it up, it’s amazing.” We’d never met him before, so he’s obviously following us and has full trust that our video is going to make him look as good as he should – which is amazing.
How do you guys compare on the pitch against them?
BW: That’s a tough question because we haven’t been put in the same position – on the pitch and at our fittest. Maybe we’ll make a little documentary about us playing a decent level of football and see how we would do playing a professional set-up.
Have you’ve brought more freestyle to the game?
BW: The most successful series on our channel is called “Can you do this? Match- play skills”. We create skills for the next generation of football players, so we might not see them in the Premier League now, but the 14- and 15-year-olds that are watching and practising week-in, week-out, and can do these skills – there’s no reason why, when they grow up and play at a decent standard, they can’t utilise the skills in a match. In terms of freestyle, it’s slightly different. I wouldn’t say freestyle’s being brought into the game.
What’s the hardest move you do?
JEREMY LYNCH: We created a move called ‘The Spesh’ where Billy hoists me up and I do kick-ups on the soles of my feet. That’s a tough one. But even harder is just being an all-rounder. If you notice, footballers are good at football but they don’t do tricks, and freestylers are good at freestyle but they don’t really go near football. We’ve got to be able to do freestyle, we’ve got to be able to do free kicks, to make sure our touch is on-point, our shooting’s there. The most unique thing about the F2 is that people see us as two of the best all-rounders on the internet.
So, does the freestyling impress the ladies?
JL: I wouldn’t say so. If you went up to a girl and started doing freestyle moves, you’re not going to get her number. Look at most of the freestylers in the world, they’re not exactly drawing girls left, right and centre, are they? So, no.
You’ve appeared on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube. Has freestyling earn you a meal cooked by Jamie?
JL: It has! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to eat it. I brought it home and I thought, “Who has this? A bit of food in their house that Jamie Oliver hand-cooked for them. That’s not normal.” I ate three-quarters and left a bit. Then it got a bit mouldy and I put it in the bin.
What was it?
JL: It was this protein bread stuff. Like Superman bread. I don’t know what he put in it, I can’t remember. There was Marmite in there.
Think you’ll be doing this at 60?
BW: It would be interesting if we’re still impacting people. I would never stop until that dies off. I’d carry on as long as I possibly could.
JL: I think the F2 will be F1 by then. [Laughs] I’ll be on the beach somewhere and Bill will be cracking on. I’m only joking. You never know what the future holds. One thing I will say, we’d like to think the F2 legacy will live on. We’re not sure how, but even if it’s not us kicking the ball around, we’d like to think that the F2, the brand that we’ve created, will carry on.