Eight Players Selected for Every Street United Street Soccer Tournament in Rio

The “Every Street United” competition is about to heat up! After a global search to uncover the best street soccer players from around the world, eight players from Argentina, Brazil, England, Ghana, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain and the United States have been selected by legendary footballers Thierry Henry and Edgar Davids to represent their countries in the game of their lives in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Though they come from different backgrounds and cultures, the players are all united by one passion: street soccer. To get ready for this Sunday’s episode, get to know each of the players through their bios below. Find out where they come from, what drives them and what they’ve overcome to follow their dream.

Then this Sunday, in episode three, Henry and Davids will shift from talent scouts to mentors, splitting the players into two teams and beginning their training for the 4v4 street game in Rio. Make sure to tune in to learn more about each player and see their skills in action. You can also catch up on past episodes and check out interactive features in the “Every Street United” app.

The “Every Street United” players include: 

Photograph by Marieke van der Velden

Nabil Akaazoun
Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Age: 22
  • Position: Left/Right Striker
  • Player Style: Nabil is a triple threat players with his knowledge of street, freestyle and field soccer. He has earned respect in all three areas and now wants to show the world that he is ready to go pro. He even created his own trick, called the Akaazoun.
  • Background: Nabil was raised in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Amsterdam. His dad gave Nabil his first soccer ball when he was only four years old. When he was 10, he started playing soccer in the streets, holding his own against grown men. He was spotted by Edward van Gils, one of the pioneers of street soccer, and by 13, Nabil was performing alongside Edward in shows and competitions around Holland. At 14, he made the decision to not purse field soccer, as he felt that field soccer players risked too much injury. A couple of years ago, Nabil’s dad got sick and he started performing in freestyle shows to support his family. He quickly rose to the top of the freestyle arena performing shows and teaching soccer clinics around the world. Now at 22, Nabil wants to return to his first love of field soccer.
  • Soccer Status: Nabil is well-known throughout the street soccer world but has no professional affiliations.

Richard Apetor
Accra, Ghana

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Attacking Midfield/Striker
  • Player Style: At 6’3, Richard makes good use of his height and strength. He is a player who loves to hold the ball because he is very strong and doesn’t lose it to his opponent.
  • Background: Richard grew up very poor in a compound that didn’t have gates, running water or toilets. Richard would often wander around the neighborhood to find houses so he could sneak in and use their bathrooms, and would walk many miles across highways and railways to fetch water. Soccer is everything to him. He wakes up at 4:50 am for team training, and when there is no team training, he goes to the beach to train with other soccer players. He gave up his schooling to pursue his dream, but feels that no one thinks he will make it as a soccer player because he is from Ghana.
  • Soccer Status: Richard is part of the One World Academy and trains kids who go to the most expensive school in Ghana.

Ben Jackson
London, United Kingdom

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Right Wing/Right Back
  • Player Style: Ben grew up with no advantages in life and has fought every day for his dream of playing soccer on a professional level. He has a great center of gravity and confidence on both feet.
  • Background: Ben grew up in South London, known for its high crime and drug scene, and he credits soccer for keeping him alive. At the age of eight, he was kicked out of Millwall FC for attitude and anger problems. He struggled in school due to undiagnosed dyslexia, which wasn’t discovered until the age of 14. At 16, he went to David Beckham’s Academy and broke onto his first team. Three months later, he signed with Charlton Athletic on a scholarship. When Ben was 18 he had just signed his first major contract with Chesham FC when he found out that his 17-year-old girlfriend was pregnant. At the same time, his father went to prison. Faced with the decision to pursue his dream or have the baby, he walked away from his dream to return to London and be there for his family. He now has two children with his girlfriend, a two year old and a three week old. They all share one bedroom at his girlfriend’s parents’ house.
  • Soccer Status: Ben is currently looking for a team to play for.

Seung Min Lee
Seoul, South Korea

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Left Wing/Right Wing/Center Midfield
  • Player Style: Seung Min is a fast player with great footwork and a strong center of gravity. Free-kicks are one of his specialties.
  • Background: Seung Min first picked up soccer at the age of 10, and from that moment on, his life became soccer. Despite his father’s financial struggles, he enrolled Seung Min in a soccer program in 4th grade, where he was quickly labeled Most Valuable Player. In his second year of middle school, he was chosen to represent Korea at an international competition in Japan, where his team took third place, and which earned him a spot as captain of his middle school team. With this recognition, Seung Min gained entry, on a full scholarship, to a soccer high school. Despite his love of the sport, he had problems with the coach and decided to quit the team his senior year. He enrolled in a traditional high school, but because he didn’t play his senior year, he wasn’t able to land a spot on a good college team.
  • Soccer Status: Seung Min is currently considering a scholarship to play for a local 2-year college.

Jordan Mariani
Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Left Wing
  • Player Style: On the field, Jordan is called “Pitbull” because of his strength and drive.
  • Background: Jordan’s family played a soccer match when he was born to determine what team he’d end up being a fan of. His uncle won, so he became a fan of Atlanta. By the time he was 17, Jordan made it onto the Atlanta team. Jordan has played for a variety of teams in Buenos Aires, starting to play seriously in 2005, when he joined Excursionistas, a third division club. He trained there for five years, then he made it to Club Atlanta in a higher division, and won the championship. After three years, he returned to Excursionistas and was moved to first team. Jordan dreams of playing abroad, even spending a whole year working at McDonald’s in order to save up enough money to try out for the San Antonio Scorpions in the United States. Unfortunately, 80 people tried out and nobody was accepted. Jordan returned to Buenos Aires to finish his studies and continue to search for his break.
  • Soccer Status: Jordan is currently training with a free agent soccer group.

Miguel Calero Montiel
Madrid, Spain

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Center Forward
  • Player Style: Miguel is a humble fighter who believes you can overcome any obstacle in life or on the field if you put your mind to it.
  • Background: Miguel grew up in Parla, a quiet blue collar neighborhood where everything revolves around soccer. He began playing indoor football when he was five years old, moved on to full football fields when he was 14, and has dominated ever since. He played for Parla Escuela when he was 16 years old, right before he was injured. He suffered several injuries, which taught him a new level of humility while he spent two years recovering from a torn meniscus.
  • Soccer Status: Miguel plays for Atletico Pinto in the 3rd division.

Sergio Leandro Oliveira Jr.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Left Midfield
  • Player Style: Sergio’s nickname in Rio is “liso,” which means smooth in Portuguese. He was given this name for his ability to get across the field dribbling the ball smoothly around all the players, “like soap that slides on the floor.”
  • Background: Sergio grew up on the beach in Rio. As a kid, he would follow his father to work and play beach soccer every day. He started playing club soccer at the age of 12. At 15, Sergio was recruited to play on the junior league of one of the big clubs in town, which took second place in the 2010 state finals in Rio. Since then, he’s had multiple opportunities to travel and play for teams in other states in Brazil and in Mexico. A pushy and overzealous manager, who was trying to get too much money for Sergio, ended up driving a wedge between Sergio and the team in Mexico. He came back to Rio and he started trialing for different junior teams.
  • Soccer Status: Sergio is now playing with a Sao Cristovao Junior team but he has yet to sign a contract. Sergio is also in in the middle of filming a movie about Pele’s childhood and recently finished filming a Coca Cola commercial that will air during the World Cup.

Photograph by Thomas Alleman

Jose Perez
Long Beach, CA, USA

  • Age: 22
  • Position: Center/Left Midfield
  • Player Style: Jose Perez is otherwise known as “Chickawalla Bang Bang,” for his killer shot and A-game.
  • Background: Jose speaks to his father only twice a year, and even though his mother lives with him, she has never seen him play. He grew up relying on the encouragement of coaches and mentors, who have served as his true support system. He was introduced to the sport by his cousins at a young age, but didn’t start taking soccer seriously until he was 16, when he met one of his coaches and mentors, Hector Polo. Hector showed Jose a new style of soccer; a way to “breakdance with the ball” that completely changed his perspective on the sport. Soccer kept Jose out of gangs, and has been his driving force, but he recently had put his dreams on hold to work seven days a week to make money to support his mom and new daughter.
  • Soccer Status: Jose plays street soccer with “Concrete Royalty” and field soccer in the “Ghetto League.” He and his team won a street soccer tournament last year.

Make sure to tune in to the latest episode of “Every Street United” this Sunday on Xbox. Watch virtually anywhere on Xbox Video, or download the “Every Street United” app on Xbox One and Xbox 360 to access the interactive features, only on Xbox. An Xbox Live Gold membership is not required.

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