Roller football, sometimes known as roller soccer, was designed in 1995 by American Zack Phillips in California for inline skates. Originally known as “kick n roll,” the sport was popular in Golden Gate Park.
Phillips’ overseas business visits with American giant General Electrics in the 1990s helped develop the sport. By 1998, Phillips had quit his job to devote his entire time to the sport.
Taking inspiration from this, Ogunade founded Belgium’s first roller football club, which came fourth in the roller football world cup in 2007. Initially, team members worked part-time jobs to support their participation in international contests.
“We had to save to buy our plane tickets. We worked, did student jobs. After the world cup in the US, we said that we needed to create a structure to promote the sport and to help finance our travel,” the founder explained.
Ogunade now controls the Shinobis Riders, Belgium’s first and largest roller football team. The group is inspired by their two passions: roller skating and Asian culture.
“When we first started our club, everyone nicknamed us the Chinese since we were obsessed with Asian culture, thus the club’s name,” Ogunade added.
Last weekend’s Made in Asia festival, an Anime and pop-culture conference hosted in the Brussels Expo Centre, was the perfect venue to promote the sport, with hundreds of observers watching in an inflatable football arena.
“The sport attracts a completely varied audience,” Ogunade said, “we have football fans who come to us, who aren’t so strong at skating, but who make good passes. And on the other hand, we have others who skate, but don’t manage passes so well at all.”
Roller football adheres to the same regulations as football, but it avoids physical contact and, more significantly, it is entirely inclusive. The sport has no male and female leagues, with both sexes participating together.
Matches are often played on a tiny surface with each side consisting of 5 players. According to the Shinobis Riders, it is terrific workout and helps newbies hone their skating abilities.
There are presently around 20 teams competing in the world cup on a regular basis across the world. There are more in Africa and Asia, but Ogunade says they frequently struggle to obtain visas to attend events in Europe.
According to the chairman, a competent roller football player must have both speed and the ability to make effective passes. The sport is fast-paced and favours those with a good sense of balance and agility.