Football freestyler Liv Cooke performs pitch side prior to a match Credit: Getty Images
It takes a lot to make the talented 22-year-old nervous - but the thought of lacing up her boots to team up with Man Utd legends like Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville just might do it.
Liv, who lives in central Manchester, is taking part in Soccer Aid 2021 at the Etihad next weekend (Saturday 4 September) - and she is excited to be in the all-star squad after missing out on pitch time at the 2020 charity event at Old Trafford due to an injury.
“I remember last year walking into the changing room and seeing Wayne Rooney just there,” she says. “It felt so normal at the time, which was weird. It was only when I got home afterwards that I was like ‘Oh my God...that was Wayne Rooney!’
“Rumour has it this time around if I am playing in my position I will be marking Patrice Evra which is pretty crazy - I feel like I’m not going to get the ball! But I am looking forward to it - seeing these people up close will be insane.
“I’m a Man Utd fan so it’s the best city for football but also I like Manchester - it’s got the liveliness of London but the northern friendliness. It feels like home.”
Thousands of fans are expected at the Etihad to cheer on the England team as they take on a World side which includes Usain Bolt, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos, and Soccer Aid, which raises money for Unicef, will also be screened live on ITV1.
That won’t phase Liv, who has been used to performing in front of crowds since she made her name on the freestyle football global scene as a teenager - rising to become women’s world champion and the holder of five world records. She’s also amassed an enormous multi-million-strong following on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, where she regularly posts videos of some of her latest, jaw-dropping freestyle tricks.
Liv still practices up to five hours a day to perfect her craft - but she’s also keen to show her online fans clips of when things don’t go to plan too, as she’s conscious of her status as a role model to young fans.
“Freestyle is a lifestyle - it’s not something you do part-time,” she emphasises.
“(Tricks) that are easy for me now are only because I have done this for hours a day every day for seven years.
“So when I am posting these new tricks in videos I like to follow up with a video that shows how many times I’ve failed, how I’ve got frustrated…
“Then (fans) can see how I’ve tried and failed til I’ve got it. Things like that are really important to me. When I say to them you can achieve your dreams, it resonates a bit more if I have achieved my dreams and I’m happy.
“It’s one thing saying to people (on social media), ‘look at this, look at how great I am’ - I don’t really want that. When I am sat in my Lamborghini, I want them to know that they can have it too because I came from nothing, from a small town with a normal family. If I can do it so can they. Anything I can achieve, they can achieve too.”
Liv is also a savvy businesswoman who has written a book and presented various TV shows. Lockdown in the pandemic put the brakes on the usual international travel with her role as an UEFA ambassador - but she didn’t rest on her laurels, instead using her free time to set up two property businesses. The next thing on her horizon is to bag a sixth world record in her sport.
“I always need a crazy project to be dedicated to,” she laughs. “I live for this, I love learning.
“People say ‘you work too much’. I don’t work too much: I love what I do. I thrive off it and I am going to keep pushing.”
- For more on Soccer Aid including ticket information, click here.