AK is a twenty-eight-year-old Chinese man who gave up a highly paid, highly respected job as a banker so that he could have more time to work on his football tricks. I want to say that while I watch him juggle the ball on his shins, it’s hard for me to imagine him wearing a business suit and sitting at a desk, but that’s not true—I can easily imagine him wearing a suit and sitting at a desk. Maybe he could see it too—like us, he’s at that age where things start funneling in directions you’re not even sure you want to go—and maybe that’s part of what led him to tell a disbelieving father that his grown up son wanted to become a street soccer player.
Several years ago, AK saw a youtube video of various street players. He enjoyed watching them so much that he started trying tricks himself. Everyday he spent hours mastering the moves he saw on the computer screen and then inventing his own, until he became arguably the best streetballer in China. Nowadays he has a small following of guys who meet him in public squares and attempt to replicate his tricks. They play outside the metro station, in the center of People’s Square, in front of a Mao statue at East China Normal University—anywhere they think people will see.