We all know footballers like to indulge. The cars, the women, the boozy nights out. None more so than in the off-season.
For years and years, we’ve seen players climb out of their Range Rovers at the training ground having looked as though they’d enjoyed plenty of fine dining over the summer. This year was no different.
Paddy Kenny turned up to pre-season training at Thorp Arch – home of Leeds United – looking like he’d enjoyed one or two World Cup buffet’s throughout June, but does it really affect performance come kick-off just a month or so later?
Of course in Paddy’s case he needs to worry more about his unlucky birthdate which has seen Italian owner axe him from the side because he was born on 17 May, but elsewhere is the additional weight a problem for the footballing world?
It’s common knowledge that generally speaking a footballer will have less than 10% body fat, in fact at most clubs it’s a necessity. Clubs will put their players through stringent fitness tests prior to beginning training, with body fat, height, weight, blood pressure, and everything else measured to see what has changed since the back end of the season.
The likes of his namesake Cristiano have to stay fit all year round. Dave Hembrough, who works with both Sheffield clubs in the UK and as a Sport Science Officer at Sheffield Hallam University believes the way a player comes back into training is more important than ever before.
“The issues that the clubs face is that fitness is arguably the most important tool of success and in the modern game fitness is very high.”
There’s no doubt that this is correct. You’re unlikely to see the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, and Robin Van Persie on the town smoking and drinking on a Saturday evening after a game, yet in the pubs of Manchester 50 years ago when you’d half expect to see the greats such as Mike Summerbee, Denis Law, and Georgie Best with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Today’s footballer is a finely tuned athlete, and even a slightly changed diet during the summer can change the way a player comes back.
Hatem_Ben_Arfa caused controversy upon returning to St James Park 1.5 kilograms heavier, and was fined £1,580 for his off-season diet. And it will put him at a disadvantage come the start of the season.
You see, he’ll have to shed that to find the fitness the club want his levels to be at. And it’s a lot more difficult for the nutritionists to set the Frenchman a good diet.
Generally gaining weight is caused by trans fatty acids, which are much more difficult to shift, meaning it could take him more than a few extra miles on the treadmill or cutting calories at lunch for him to shift it. Which is detrimental to him, and the football club, who pay him to be in peak physical condition and win football matches. And if you don’t win them – you’re in trouble.