Culture

Concrete ideas

Rocky Hehakaija is the street football star keeping a close eye on the Women’s Champions League – as well as the cultural pulse of the men’s game

WORDS Dan Poole

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Rocky is similarly positive about women’s football, and its upward trajectory. “Women’s football is the love of my life, so to see its emergence is something that I can’t sometimes believe, because it’s just a dream.” The 38-year-old has also had the chance to get closer to the action, having become one of the hosts on The Football Podcast, by UEFA and WePlayStrong. 

“When they asked me to do this I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, really?’ It was my first time ever as a podcaster.” She’s got into the swing of things now though, joining Shanice van de Sanden and Nadia Nadim to talk exclusively about the women’s game, with guests having included Pernille Harder and Lucy Bronze. 

“One of the episodes that has really stuck with me is the one about mental health and online trolling,” says Rocky. “It was a good example of how
the women’s football community is so much more open than the men’s; it’s all about being able to show your vulnerability.”

Rocky acknowledges that on a personal level, she’s also needed to be resolute. “I’ve definitely had to deal with a lot of sexism and other ignorant stuff as a woman in football,” she says. “It’s been on a level that you can’t even imagine, where you’re like, ‘What are you… how could that even…?’ But it’s definitely improving. You have some dinosaurs still active, of course, but they’ll go extinct. I think also, these people tend to scream even harder because they feel like, ‘Oh shit, this train is coming and we can’t stop it.’ And I’m like, ‘Haha!’”

Another string to Rocky’s bow was her inclusion in FIFA 20’s Volta mode, in which gamers can try their hand at a digital version of street football. “Yeah, it was really weird,” says Rocky of her involvement. “I don’t have a PlayStation, I’ve never played FIFA, so to me it was like, ‘OK...’ When I realised it was a thing was when it hit the internet, and I couldn’t tell you how many new followers I got in one day.”

And how does she reflect on it now? “Well, I still suck at FIFA. I remember getting all these invites: ‘Hey, do you want to come and do this FIFA tournament?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know how to play so no, I’m not playing.’ But it’s something that I’m very proud of; it’s kind of the same as getting a statue, you know?” 

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

Concrete ideas
Culture

Concrete ideas

Rocky Hehakaija is the street football star keeping a close eye on the Women’s Champions League – as well as the cultural pulse of the men’s game

WORDS Dan Poole

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Rocky is similarly positive about women’s football, and its upward trajectory. “Women’s football is the love of my life, so to see its emergence is something that I can’t sometimes believe, because it’s just a dream.” The 38-year-old has also had the chance to get closer to the action, having become one of the hosts on The Football Podcast, by UEFA and WePlayStrong. 

“When they asked me to do this I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, really?’ It was my first time ever as a podcaster.” She’s got into the swing of things now though, joining Shanice van de Sanden and Nadia Nadim to talk exclusively about the women’s game, with guests having included Pernille Harder and Lucy Bronze. 

“One of the episodes that has really stuck with me is the one about mental health and online trolling,” says Rocky. “It was a good example of how
the women’s football community is so much more open than the men’s; it’s all about being able to show your vulnerability.”

Rocky acknowledges that on a personal level, she’s also needed to be resolute. “I’ve definitely had to deal with a lot of sexism and other ignorant stuff as a woman in football,” she says. “It’s been on a level that you can’t even imagine, where you’re like, ‘What are you… how could that even…?’ But it’s definitely improving. You have some dinosaurs still active, of course, but they’ll go extinct. I think also, these people tend to scream even harder because they feel like, ‘Oh shit, this train is coming and we can’t stop it.’ And I’m like, ‘Haha!’”

Another string to Rocky’s bow was her inclusion in FIFA 20’s Volta mode, in which gamers can try their hand at a digital version of street football. “Yeah, it was really weird,” says Rocky of her involvement. “I don’t have a PlayStation, I’ve never played FIFA, so to me it was like, ‘OK...’ When I realised it was a thing was when it hit the internet, and I couldn’t tell you how many new followers I got in one day.”

And how does she reflect on it now? “Well, I still suck at FIFA. I remember getting all these invites: ‘Hey, do you want to come and do this FIFA tournament?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know how to play so no, I’m not playing.’ But it’s something that I’m very proud of; it’s kind of the same as getting a statue, you know?” 

“What I really love about the street football scene is that it’s about creativity,” says Roxanne Hehakaija, better known as Rocky. “Football on the field is very official; street football, very unofficial. You make the rules while you play.”

Rocky has made a career out of doing things her way. After a knee injury ended her chances of professional employment on the pitch, she went ahead and made a name for herself in street football instead. She became the first – and, thus far, only – female member of Edgar Davids’ team Street Legends, as well as playing for the Dutch national street football team. Playing a version of the sport that she’d first discovered growing up on the outskirts of Amsterdam, she found her calling. 

Rocky Hehakaija grew up playing street football – and has been able to turn that passion into a career

And Rocky credits street football with having an influence on a wider scale – including the Champions League. “If you look at Neymar – the way he wears his hair, the colour of his boots – that started with Brazilian Ronaldo,” she says. “He was the first one to have his own boots, combined with that Brazilian style of play. And that came from the streets. It is part of that culture of hip-hop, of dancing, of style – how you present yourself.”

It was off the back of a trip to Rio de Janeiro that Rocky was inspired to extend street football’s reach even further, in the form of her own NGO (she even got a degree in advertising, marketing and communication to make it happen). The Favela Street Foundation followed, which improves the confidence and prospects of children around the world, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Sudan and the Netherlands. 

“When I get to go to these places and play football, I discover that these people are just human like you and me, trying to make the best out of life. In places where people deal with a lot of negativity on a daily base, this simple game – this beautiful game – can bring a lot of hope, joy and perspective.”

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

To access this article, as well as all CJ+ content and competitions, you will need a subscription to Champions Journal.
Already a subscriber? Sign in
close
Special Offers
christmas offer
Christmas CHEER
Up to 40% off
Start shopping
50% off
game night flash sale!!!
Don't miss out
00
Hours
:
00
minutes
:
00
Seconds
Valid on selected products only. subscriptions not included
close