Andrés Ramirez Henao: “I always use Ahmed Rakaba’s story to motivate friends, colleagues and kids”

Andrés Ramirez Henao is a name that’s not generally known in the street football scene yet, but many will recognize his focused face. Andrés is a one of the top referees in Panna Knock Out and part of the team to lead the World Finals. Time to get to know Andrés a little bit better!

Andrés, can you introduce yourself?

Gentleman, thanks for this invite! I must honestly say I was surprised when you asked me, but it’s an honor. My name is Andrés Ramirez Henao and I work for Panna Knock Out. My job is to lead the matches and make sure everything goes well in all the age categories. Born in Medellín Colombia, ‘build’ in 1985. I already live for 30 years in The Netherlands now so you can just call me ‘Jan-Klaas’ (A traditional Dutch name) But one with a classical Southern-American attitude. On a daily base I work as an educator specialised in different parenting styles. I mostly work with kids aged 4 to 12. The most interesting thing about my daily job is culture and and environment because it’s nearly indescribable how much influence it has within a childhood. The same goes for sports.

I always had the ambition for the urban/street culture and social work. In my opinion a culture that suffers from a lot of criticism from other generations. That’s the reason why I grabbed the chance to become a referee for Panna Knock Out. You can always criticize something but if you want to make a change; step in the ring and show yourself.

What is it about street football that attracts you?

That moment when you fish a paving stone out of the ground, place it in one place and immediately claim a number as the name of your favorite football player: ‘number 11 – Faustino Hernán Asprilla Hinestroza (!!)’. Then defend that piece of stone as if your life depends on it. And finally, fight for the respect you receive, turn over a tile, collapse and break… beautiful!
For me, street football is the foundation of the largest and most famous sport in the world. The gross motor movements that take a lot of time to achieve ideal mobility. The abrasions and irritations that pile up. Followed by experience of success. And then the signature. Your own brand. Making your motor skills personal that will be developed at a later stage to the focus of every viewer in the street. It takes a lot of discipline, but also so much fun.

What is it that you love about being a referee?

Trust. You don’t build respect without trust. In my opinion that remains the unwritten rule on the street; respect is not something you force, but you work towards it and you earn it.
The girls and boys who step into the ring rely on me to objectively judge and guide every match in precision. And I trust that they are all coming for one goal: momentum.

What is your best experience with Panna Knock Out so far?

Phew, difficult. There is one every day. So really naming the most beautiful experience is hardly an option.
The tension before entering the ring, the silence before the whistle blows, the eagerness to put the emphasis on the game, the speed, the art of both players, the emotion, concentration, tactical play, the unexpected Panna and the complete discharge… all this within (most of the times) three minutes in a different context, describes why it is almost impossible to name the most beautiful experience. But,
I now experience the developments so far with Panna Knock Out nationally and internationally as the best.

Which street player has impressed you the most and why is that?

Haha, I do use this gentleman that I am going to mention every month in motivating friends, colleagues and children: Ahmed Rakaba. Short version of a story:
the period of World of Street Football (WSF) 2019. I am in the car with our great Turkish organizer Hasan Boran and we have to pick up three guys. During our meeting with them we have to wait a long time for reasons that are unclear. We’re running out of time. A flight has to be made and the stress starts to kick in nicely. Except for the person who has to catch the plane. You can already guess who that is, but his arguments and relaxation showed that this man had lived quite a life.
The fact that you leave your own country with everything you love, start a new adventure, not knowing where you will end up or if you will succeed. Then you are a big one to me. You don’t even have to succeed, because you already have: at least you made a choice and you stand behind it 100% to this day. What fascinates that flight and its consequences?! (LOL)
Do you know the book by Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist? Read it, I promise you this one will not disappoint! Only then will you understand my choice why a player like Don Rakaba impresses me.

Who or what inspires you?

Damn, quite a personal question man. I can tell you that it is three people. I’ll spare you the details.
But one has lived on the street, the other has had to flee and the last one saved my life. All still stand (gracias a Gaia) upright, unbreakable they are! What they had to go through to let go of their happiness to continue living in the now… indescribable. I am blessed that they are still with me every day! I draw so much energy and inspiration from these that they have made me tireless.

Where do you hope we’ll be with Panna Knock Out in the next 5 years?

World Finals in 25 countries, very popular among people and media… followed by the first talks to propose it as an Olympic discipline. Too ambitious? Is it worth it?
See bollards, surfing and skateboarding as a motivating point.

What would you like to say to the youth?

You know, I always carry a special coin with me from someone who looks down on me from the stars. I sometimes use this coin with a toss, because that’s how I see life:
one moment you have to work hard and fight for your goals with all the consequences that entails. The next moment you can rest hard and enjoy. And sometimes, very occasionally… this coin falls on its side and doesn’t take sides. These are the indescribable moments in life.
Anyway, learn and start to accept such different moments in life. Cherish them because life is beautiful bro. Life is Beautiful!


To the kids? (I’m going to get in trouble for this, but I mean it)
Always listen and speak(!) with your mother and father. It’s not about the rules, but about the agreements you make within the family. Play as much as you can. Always do what makes you happy. Learn to know emotions – recognize and acknowledge them. Don’t do homework even if they oblige you. School is school, home is home: so clearly indicate your limits. Always treat others as you love yourself. And don’t start a mobile, put it off as long as possible. It is no different from an electronic collar.

For the youngsters?
Start doing your homework! Yes seriously, its purpose is not to stress, but to learn to be proficient in planning and execution. As a (young) adult you will really need it, especially if you want to live in a system with (material) ambitions. So start using your precious time wisely. And for the rest: do what makes you happy, without hurting just one person!

Finally, for the general reader (moral of this advice):
you always (!) have at least two choices in life. Pick one, grab the moment, max it out, live the moment and be responsible – it’s an art, game ON.