The stereotype of footballers as dim, inarticulate and boring has proved a persistent and damaging one over the years. Unsurprisingly, this charge has often emanated from commentators with little knowledge of footballers themselves and has been fuelled my media micro-management of players resulting in guarded, repetitive interviews. Despite recent forays into commentary and tv punditry by some ex-players, such as Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, challenging this generalisation through thought-provoking and articulate analysis, the mud continues to stick. It is in this context that football agents and management companies, such as Chris Nathaniel of NVA Entertainment, are attempting to improve footballer’s representation through, “Taking talent and making that talent multifaceted. Rio (Ferdinand) is so open to doing lots of different things”. To shed light on this more complex side of their natures, we have been inspired to delve deeper into the personal lives of other players to uncover more about their hobbies and hidden talents outside of the game.
Kicking off the list is the former Juventus and Italy midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo has recently retired from the game and can now be found testing the produce from the Vineyard he owns in Italy. Having grown up helping to gather the grape harvest on his Grandmother’s vineyard, wine really does run in the blood for Pirlo and this high-class player will no doubt enjoy a vintage retirement.
One of the more controversial personalities on this list, it is no surprise to hear that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is involved in a variety of hobbies and projects outside of football. Perhaps most notably, ‘Ibra’ is a Black Belt in Taekwondo, a fact which goes along way to explaining the big Swede’s extraordinary dexterity (and occasional violent outbursts) on the pitch.
Another former great who has developed an interesting talent outside of the game is the Manchester United and France legend, Eric Cantona. Since retiring, Cantona has been able to devote more of his time to his passion for photography and has even expressed his desire to photograph dictators, proclaiming, ‘I don’t like them, but I’m interested in them’.
The final inclusion on this list must go to former Fulham and USA forward-turned-rapper, Clint Dempsey, AKA ‘Deuce’. Whilst it would be a stretch to say that Dempsey’s performance rapping for a NIKE advert constituted a talent, he still undoubtedly gave the role his all and proudly represented his hometown of Houston, Texas.