Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, with nearly 3.5 billion fans worldwide.
This popular sport attracts players with real star power – from David Beckham’s prolific crosses to Cristiano Ronaldo’s sheer brilliance, there have been some fantastic players in the game. Even better – many of those players are just as entertaining off the soccer field.
From a player that rescues chickens to Beckham’s cooking skills, we unwrap the secret and funny habits of professional soccer players below.
Gerard Pique’s Poker Prowess
International soccer player Gerard Pique is one of the greatest defenders of all time, and he’s played for many world-class soccer teams, such as Manchester United and Barcelona. Though he officially hung up his cleats for international play in 2018, he’s kept up his mental acuity in a way that isn’t so rough on his knees. Pique is a fantastic poker player and can read a card table like an offensive line. According to Global Poker, he’s earned more than $500,000 at the table: “international soccer superstar Gerard Pique is no stranger to poker tables… he has played in the World Series of Poker, the European Poker Tour and a PokerStars Championship, earning a total of $667,103.” One thing is for sure – whether you’re playing poker or soccer, you don’t want to see Gerard Pique on the other side of the field.
Joe Allen’s Chickens
Joe Allen is a midfielder for Stoke City and Wales, but the most exciting thing about him isn’t his soccer career. According to the Stoke Sentinel, Allen rescues chickens as a hobby and has featured as a cover model on a past issue of Chicken & Egg Magazine. The chicken rescuing decision wasn’t Allen’s entirely: “[my partner] Lacey was behind the decision. We both have an interest in animal welfare, but she came up with the idea to save hens, and I agreed it was something that would be great to do. We didn’t have any hens growing up but wanted to help chickens after they finished their commercial lives.” In 2016, Allen had a flock of 14 hens that sport fantastic names: Meg, Leg, Silkie Steve, Kate, Silkie Steve Junior, Giblets, Snowy, Nugget, Kiev, Dora, Holly, Shimmer, Shine, and Chickaletta. Their brood also has two roosters named Bruce and Rodney.
David Beckham’s Culinary Skills
David Beckham is one of the most well-known soccer players of all time, playing for some of the most famous teams worldwide, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy. He led many of these teams to victory in national and international tournaments and is known for his sublime long-range passes and shots. After hanging up his soccer cleats in 2013, Beckham took up cooking, and according to Hello Magazine, he’s a prolific chef. Italian food is his favorite, and the soccer star now makes fresh pasta (carbonara is one of his specialities) and risotto. According to the Hello Magazine article, his cooking prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed – Gordon Ramsay has even complimented Beckham on his skills.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Crazy Sleep Schedule
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of modern soccer’s greats and, like Beckham and Pique, has played for prestigious teams such as Manchester United and Real Madrid. The Portuguese player even helped his home country win the European Championship in 2016. While Ronaldo is known for his strict grooming schedule and his commitment to appearance, nothing is quite strange as his sleeping habits. According to Sportscaster, Ronaldo takes five 90-minute naps per day. He works with a sleep expert, Nick Littlehales, “whose method bypasses a regular sleeping schedule and instead relies on several naps each day.” Littlehales spoke to Sportscaster, explaining: “It’s not a nap… it’s not for old people watching the TV. It’s not for snoozers and losers. It’s a way to sleep less, to improve your recovery from it. Don’t waste valuable time doing it, but zone out at the right time doing it, and you can get a real handle on it.” This sleep schedule keeps Ronaldo’s body alert but rested, so that he can remain in top form.
Pele’s ‘Lucky Shirt’
Pele is one of the greatest soccer players of all time – for many people, he is the most outstanding player. He’s known for his bullet of a bicycle kick that led the Brazilian national soccer team to World Cup victory three times. However, Pele was a very superstitious player – and this superstition got him into trouble. According to Dream Team FC, he gave his shirt to a fan after a spate of wins. However, he quickly stopped winning after he lost his jersey. Pele asked his friend to find the fan and get his shirt back. The crazy thing? Once Pele got his shirt back, he began to play well again. Superstition does pay off – but what an awkward encounter with one of soccer’s greats.
Harry Kane’s Football Obsession
Harry Kane is another present-day great. He’s a striker for Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur, and he’s captained the English national side through two of its most successful runs on the international stage at the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 European Championship. However, soccer isn’t Kane’s only sporting interest. An interesting secret hobby is his interest in American football. According to a 2018 article in The Guardian, “…since being introduced to the sport by his fiancee’s brother, Kane has become fascinated by American football [and Tom Brady specifically]. ‘He reminded me of me,’ Kane said. ‘Brady believed in himself so much – and he just kept working and working, almost obsessively, in order to get better.’ His dream is to become an NFL placekicker when he hangs up his soccer boots. ‘It depends on how my career goes and injuries and how I age,’ he said, ‘but I’d love to’.” Will we ever see Harry Kane kick a field goal? Only time will tell but, in the meantime, it’s fascinating that this soccer great has his eyes set on another type of goalpost.
It’s fascinating what these top-level players enjoy aside from their love of soccer. It just goes to show – while you might have to focus on your main calling 90 per cent of the time, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a side passion in the remaining 10 per cent.