The Man Who’ll Build The Next Messi
Plus, what it’s like to impersonate—and coach—pro soccer players
Tekkers Guru (AKA 28-year-old Hussein Isa) is a former professional soccer (football) player and current stand-in (in commercials, video games, and more) for the likes of Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard, Sergio Agüero, and David Silva. He’s also a coach to rising professional football stars. In his hometown of London, he runs his coaching academy. (Check out @TekkersGuru, where he frequently posts videos of his inspiring young protégées, for more info.) Here, he talks about retiring early for injury, body doubling, happy hormones, and more. If you’re feeling inspired to get in the game yourself, check out this soccer workout.
Was there a moment where you realized that you had this crazy talent in football?
At the age of seven I was selected for an academy, a young professional team, and that gave me great confidence. I knew I had a talent and it was just about working hard and making that come more to fruition.
What made you want to train others?
After retiring early from professional football due to injury, I wanted to stay in the game I love. I had a natural ability to speak to others and still demonstrate with technical skill some of the points I want to coach.
What’s it like coming up as a young professional today?
Football, now, has moved to a completely new level. There's young kids starting at the age of four and five. Academies are introducing them to strict regimes of training. I think the honesty of it is that unless you commit yourself and become obsessed with being a professional footballer, you don't really have any chance. It's quite serious.
What makes up an excellent player?
You need to have technical ability and be comfortable with the ball under pressure. Psychologically, you must be very strong-minded. The game now is a lot quicker than it used to be, so you need athleticism, speed, and strength.
How did you first get into body doubling?
A friend in this line of work asked me to come to a casting [for a Messi commercial]. We had a joke about me being Messi's body double. He said, "You move like him, you've got the same body, you run like him, and you've got left foots." A week later, I had a call from a client in Barcelona and I was on a plane. I've never looked back. I've stood in many times for Messi, Hazard, Aguero, and David Silva. So, all the small, tanned, technical players.
What’s it like being on a job?
When you're on set and the director is asking you to perform some skills, you have to take on the role as the player for it to be the best it can be. I watch the players and study their movements. If you're a good football player, you can adapt and change your techniques to match specific players.
Working so closely with world stars, I can draw from their mannerisms, and how they are technically, and I can give back to the kids I coach. The kids respect me since I’ve worked with the best players.
Has there been a defining moment in your career?
I like to try and create ‘wow’ moments. One thing I did which wowed me was score a hat-trick of free kicks within one game. When I walked off the pitch I was, of course, very, very happy, but also, I was like, "How did I do that? How did I achieve that?" It gave me a hunger and an appetite to score more, or assist more, or win more trophies. I think that's one of the main reasons I love football so much: it continues to push me to be better with everything I do.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I would like to be known as the leading technical specialist coach. I think with my attributes and my experiences, I'm on my way. I just have to work a lot harder, and affect a lot more players within the game.
What are your thoughts on El Clásico?
El Clásico is the biggest derby in world football, and I think it's great that they're going over to the US. The game over there is growing, and that will only help that growth.
What do you think about the U.S. soccer culture compared to how it is in the UK and Europe?
In England, it's a culture, and from a young age kids are introduced to football as the main sport. It’s a bit more advanced here, but I would say with the potential America has, it will grow and soon. Football is a game that the whole of Europe embraces as the number one sport, so I think in no time it will be that big in the U.S.