On the continent, keepy-uppy is the staple of the star player signing ceremony and there’s a reason for that. Usually, a player will be ushered on to the pitch, maybe into the centre circle, where they’ll spend a few minutes effortlessly tapping the ball up in the air, making it look like it is as easy as breathing.
This isn’t just a player idly killing time, it’s a message to the fans: here is a big player with big skills who is going to have a big impact. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in that moment, anybody who has tried to do kick-ups knows what this nonchalant display means.
Find a video of Neymar’s keepy-uppy skills. The Brazilian superstar is famous for his tricks and flicks, and he makes kick-ups look like the easiest thing in the world. The same goes for his one-time Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi. Doing keepy-uppies is a badge of honour.
Neymar and Messi are good but who is the best? Who is the granddaddy of kick-ups? It has to be Argentinian legend Diego Maradona. There is footage of him showing off incredible kick-up skills not just with a football but with a tennis ball and a golf ball. Now that is outrageous skill. How could he do it? Well, as a child, he ran errands doing keepy-uppy with an orange. It’s all about practice.
It’s a tricky skill, but getting pretty good at kick-ups is something you can achieve. Practice makes perfect. Or at least much better.
So, how do you get your keepy-uppy game on? Here are three basic steps to get you started:
1. Using your stronger foot, kick a ball so that it comes up to your waist and catch it. Repeat until you get a good, accurate motion going.
2. Repeat step 1 with your weaker foot. Try to get the ball to come to the same height at your waist. Repeat until the motion is consistent and accurate. Mix up the action using both feet.
3. Next, try using both feet, one after the other, and then catching the ball. Once you’re comfortable doing it with both feet (two kick-ups), try it with three. And then four, five, six, etc.
Keep practising - a keepy-uppy net is useful to have - and soon you’ll be rolling out the keepy-uppies like a pro. As you practice, you can try controlling the ball with other parts of your body. Start with your thighs because that’s the easiest.
Why should you learn to do kick-ups with a football?
It’s a good question because you don’t really see players doing keepy-uppies in games. But what you do see is them using the close control ball skills that doing kick-ups teaches you. And these skills are very important.
Also, doing kick-ups is good exercise – you’ll get a sweat on. Playing football as a whole is really good exercise – a great workout for your whole body. You get the cardiovascular exercise, you work on your quads, hamstrings and calves and, because you use your arms a lot, you tone your upper body.
But it’s not just about the exercise. When you get the kick-ups right, and get a good flow going, it makes you feel like a pro. A fleeting moment of wonder when you feel like you’ve got it, that you’re up there with the best of them, shoulder to shoulder (and foot to foot) with Neymar, Messi, Kane, Sterling et al.
And this feeling is golden. The kick-up: it’s a joy of football, right there.