Football skills master John Farnworth has claimed the first title of the new season … 48 hours before it even kicked off.
Freestyle expert John smashed the existing Guinness World Record for the Maradona 7, named after one of the biggest icons in the game, completing 10 sets of super-fast tricks in an incredible 29.33 seconds.
And his remarkable feat was made even more special because it happened on a scaled-down pitch at the home of football gaming, The Football Pools headquarters in Liverpool.
John kept a cool head – and feet – making the attempt live, in front of a socially-distanced audience of football legends including Blues goal hero Graeme Sharp, former Reds boss Roy Evans and ex-Reds star Alan Kennedy, as well as Pools Panel stalwarts Ian Callaghan and Tony Green.
The 34-year-old from Preston, who is known around the globe for his amazing soccer wizardry and already holds four other world records, was determined to add the Maradona 7 to his total after having it taken from him nearly three years ago.
Teenager Tommy Boyd set a new world best of 29.78 seconds on December 9 2017, but in a long-awaited replay John was more than a match for his young rival, knocking 0.45 seconds off his time.
The Maradona 7 involves kicking up the ball on one foot then transferring it to the other, from there onto each knee, then both shoulders, onto his head and back down to his foot.
It takes a phenomenal amount of skill and concentration just to achieve one set, so John was thrilled to complete the 10 in under 30 seconds, with commentator Steve Hothersall on the mic and an official from Guinness World Records keeping a count of every second.
He said: “I’ve always believed that the Maradona 7 shows ultimate control of the ball so for me, it wasn’t only about gaining the world record, it was a huge personal test too.
“To break this record here at The Football Pools headquarters, and to have former players who are real heroes of the game watching me do it, was really a very special moment in my career.”
The Football Pools marketing director John Stevens said hosting a new world record was an exciting way to kick off the new season.
He added: “As the world’s oldest and best-loved football gaming company, we obviously really look forward to the start of every new season just like the fans do.
“Having a Guinness World Record set here, on our home ground, has been the perfect way to kick things off. Everyone who watched him was completely mesmerized by John’s skills so The Football Pools team would like to congratulate him on gaining the record and wish him many more wins to come.”