He started freestyle at the age of 13, and today he is one of the best of the best and the reigning German champion: Samuel Weller. What seems almost impossible for many is apparently a piece of cake for the 22-year-old from Munich. High concentration, touching the ball with feeling, he sets off. One contact, a second - and shortly afterwards he kicks the ball slightly upwards to catch it again, balancing on the sole of his shoe in a handstand. Elegantly, light-footedly and, as it seems, completely effortlessly, he then continues his dance with the soccer. It is a foretaste of what the spectators will see at the beach volleyball finals of the European Championships.
There, at Königsplatz, where the athletes are competing for the medals, he will perform - and "entertain," as he emphasizes in conversation. "I am very happy that I can perform on Saturday and Sunday before the finals in front of a large and probably full stage," he says. "Excited" he is then already - especially when he hears the people in the audience. "But I find that a little nervousness helps to deliver a top performance," he puts into perspective. "In the meantime, though, I've been able to gain a lot of experience, so I can handle that quite well, too," Weller adds.
Last but not least, the freestyler performed at the 2021 European Football Championships in Munich. A highlight for the 22-year-old, who is studying at the Technical University of Munich. "We worked with Philipp Lahm, who was an ambassador for the European Championship." At the games, however, he then performed in the lounges rather than on the pitch - due to the Corona pandemic. The atmosphere there was cool, "because you saw and met a lot of people you usually only know from TV and the newspapers," he looks back.
Also in 2021, Weller appeared at "King of the Court," a beach volleyball event in Hamburg. Around a year later, another beach volleyball tournament will now also become his stage. This is no coincidence. For one thing, the Powerbar brand is a sponsor of both Weller and the European Championships. For another, the same people as last year were sitting on the management team at "King of the Court," he reveals. "They had the idea that I could be part of it again."
The 22-year-old taught himself all his freestyle tricks. "I used to watch videos of the first freestylers who did it independently of soccer. Because freestyle doesn't really have anything to do with soccer these days. It has become a sport all of its own with influences from gymnastics - that is, acrobatic elements or breakdancing, for example," he explains.
Originally active in a soccer club himself, he eventually hung up his soccer shoes because of freestyle. "At some point, the two sports in parallel just became too much, then I had to make a decision." Some time later, he started again with a team sport. Through friends, he then came to volleyball. Today, Weller plays with ASV Dachau in the second-highest league.
"The volleyball season doesn't start until October," he looks ahead. That's why he has plenty of time in the summer to do freestyle shows on the weekends, he says. Volleyball training four times a week in preparation, studies at the Technical University of Munich and "a bit of soccer" are on the agenda. "That's already relatively stressful. In the past, I definitely focused on freestyle and then trained for two hours a day for that. In the meantime, the freestyle training is no longer as intense," he gives an insight. Now, he says, the focus in freestyle is more on "maintaining the level" and concentrating on shows and the German Championships. "The challenge and the challenge with yourself" are what drive him and what fascinate him so much about freestyle, he says. "It's just a constant striving for improvement and better ball control," he says. That these are not just empty words becomes clear at the latest when you watch Weller perform. It's not for nothing that the 22-year-old has already racked up precious metal at the German Championships.
Text: Michelle Brey
Interview: Lina Lässer & Michelle Brey
Photo: Samuel Weller private