It might be hard for people to understand why someone who has spent most of the last 20 years writing about sport should suddenly be programming one of the world’s great jazz festivals. For me, it’s simple. Jazz and sport share a defining characteristic: when the music or the match begin, no one knows what the result is going to be.

I love the cinema, too, but a year as a film critic made me miserable. Some of the films were great; many of them were terrible. But the worst thing was the feeling that the outcome was, in every case, predetermined. It was a closed loop in which chance and inspiration could no longer play an active role. Of course, you could say the same about a Shakespeare play. But I missed the feeling of going into a jazz club or a football stadium and knowing that no one, including the musicians or the footballers, knew for certain what was going to happen in the next couple of hours.

My favourite players have always been the ones capable of unpredictable strokes of genius. Most of the footballers answering that description wore the No 10 shirt, usually given to the team’s playmaker. From Ferenc Puskás through Pelé, Gianni Rivera, Günter Netzer, Diego Maradona and Zinédine Zidane to Lionel Messi, they are the ones who, as the phrase goes, invent the game. They’re the creators; sometimes the goalscorers, too, but not always. They shape the match and make us gasp with astonishment when they see an opening invisible to anyone else – even their own team mates.

Jazz has its playmakers, too, although not in such an obvious way. It has players whose instincts take them into places beyond our imaginations. Sometimes their sheer originality changes the way the game is played, which was the case with Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman.

Alexander Hawkins at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 2015 © Edu Hawkins Music Photography

I would often go to a football match just to watch a good No 10. I feel the same way about creative musicians, and not always the famous ones. For example, I’d have gone to see the great Danish alto saxophonist John Tchicai in any circumstances before his death three years ago because I knew that whoever he was playing with, he would provide his fellow musicians with a special level of wisdom and inspiration. Today I feel the same about the young English pianist Alexander Hawkins, who will be appearing at festival with the quartet of the South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. To whatever team he’s in, he’ll bring something special. There are many more – all players who are specialists in the act of spontaneous creativity, of seeing patterns beyond the vision of the rest of us, of inventing the music.

The Jazzfest Berlin 2015 takes place from 5 to 8 November 2015. On 16 October 2015, 19:00 the Artistic Director Richard Williams will present the festival programme in a public talk, accompanied by music by Julia Kadel and Alexander Hawkins. Admission is free.