Football and alcohol – a complex relationship

12 August 2019 | Sports

Football and alcohol have a very deep relationship. Both are addictions. One is very beneficial when practised in correct circumstances and the other tends to be an inevitable consequence enjoyed by many modern players.

As much as this might sound strange, there is a more complex relationship between football and alcohol than is usually acknowledged.

These two worlds collide, with some of the finest players having fallen victim to the 'glass too many syndrome'.

Which brings me to the question – do players need a glass to relax before a match? Or should they consume as much as they can before a match so long as they are on the pitch?

I ask this because during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, England manager Fabio Capello famously abandoned the dictatorial regime he'd imposed on the players during their two lacklustre draws against the US and Algeria.

Instead, before their crucial match against Slovenia he allowed the team a beer to calm their nerves.

Capello was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “they were allowed to drink beer before the game, you can ask them. It's true. I changed something and used my imagination.”

The result was a 1-0 English victory that saw them advance past the group stages - each with a beer in hand.

Should coaches then implement the drink before a match rule to relax players or scrap it all together?

I'm not totally sure of this but I have seen footballers, both male and female, and their drinking patterns before and after matches.

This I have seen in the local leagues, as well as local social leagues, or boozer leagues rather.

It seems as though the social leagues and weekend football matches are used as a benchmark to take in a lot of alcoholic drinks.

It has become a drinking spree. To each their own, but there are many consequences associated with excessive drinking, especially if you are involved in a game like football.

Prior alcohol consumption appears to increase the risk of sports-related injury; concussions or even death on the field. Drinking before playing a match can result in muscle cramps, dehydration, reduced stamina, decreased absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.

Even worse, you can collide with another player on the field and injure yourself badly.

Many social leagues do not have medics at hand. It is therefore advised to at least consume after the match, and not use beer as a hydrating agent.

There are those who genuinely participate in these football rendezvous in order to get fit or improve on their skills, but the rest are a serious hazard.

It is true that binge drinking is commonly found in football, and the culture of the game is such that many players will abstain from alcohol in training but will drink copious amounts after a game. How safe is this – and how conducive is it?

Brazil had a player by the name of Garrincha. He was a brilliant goal scoring winger for Rio's Botafogo team, easily the most skilled dribbler the game has ever seen.

On the debit side he was a heavy drinker, evidently downing a bottle each day of his adult life. In retirement his drinking adversely affected his health, and he died from alcoholic cirrhosis in 1983 aged just 49.

So, based on all the evidence should alcohol be banished from every player's diet and treated like a performance decaying tonic? Or is it a secret elixir that can be used to encourage team bonding, reduce nerves and allow players to play with the utmost freedom?

You decide.

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