Cheese, Horse Placenta and Viagra – Football’s Strangest Methods

The world of football certainly knows how to do strange. With stories of beach-ball assisted goals, chickens invading the pitch and the infamous Anfield cat, it’s a wonder that any football gets played at all. Strangeness doesn’t seem to just be contained to the pitch though, with odd strategies and unorthodox methods often being reported by players and coaches alike.

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Image courtesy of Nick

Just this month, for example, a story describing ex-Fulham manager Felix Magath’s messages caught the eye. Reportedly (and later confirmed by the man himself), when ex-Fulham captain Brede Hangeland was struck down with a leg injury, Magath instructed the ex-Norway International (who has 91 caps to his name) to find a block of cheese and rub it into the affected area, while also keeping it there overnight with a bandage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hangeland declined the advice. This recent story prompted The Student to learn a little more about other slightly unorthodox methods.

One such example will be familiar to many football fans. The use of Horse Placenta is well documented in the game, with stars such as Robin van Persie and Frank Lampard having had the treatment. According to specialists, and Mr Van Persie, the act of rubbing the placenta onto an affected muscle area speeds up the healing process, and with each session reportedly costing anywhere between £2000 to £5000, you’d like to think that there was some basis to the claim, although I sincerely doubt you’ll be seeing it offered down in your nearest NHS hospital anytime soon.

Another example of strange medical procedures is the removal of wisdom teeth. Again Robin van Persie (who seems to be gaining quite the reputation for strange medical procedures) and ex-Chelsea man Florent Malouda have reportedly had several wisdom teeth removed in the hope that it would lessen the likelihood of injuries and also improve form and fitness. In Malouda’s case, this was apparently a great success, with the player attributing much of his positive early Chelsea form to the procedure. What a shame he didn’t have a mouthful to get rid of.

Perhaps the most famous odd football drug is the use of Viagra. Now this is not to suggest that any of the world’s top footballers need any help in the downstairs department, but it is in fact well documented that the use of Viagra at high altitudes increases blood-flow, making it easier for muscles to use oxygen and therefore allowing players to operate at a higher level, both in terms of height and performance. This method is used almost exclusively by teams in South America, especially those who are required to travel to countries like Peru and Chile where games are often played at extremely high altitude, which is quite a contrast to a 3pm kick-off down in Plymouth.

Image Courtesy of Mark Landells

Image Courtesy of Mark Landells

Football’s odd methods aren’t just constrained to the medical room though, according to Gary Neville’s autobiography ‘Red’, during England’s ill-fated 1998 World Cup campaign, one of Glenn Hoddle’s masseurs told the players that ”Glenn had asked the staff to walk around the pitch anti-clockwise during the game against Argentina to create positive energy.” A tactic that evidently didn’t help the team who were promptly dumped out of the competition partly thanks to a David Beckham red-card.

It is not, however, the place of The Student to comment on if/how these methods work, what we will say however is that next time we’re down in the Meadows playing football and one of collapses with pain, we’ll have a dentist on speed dial and a spare horse placenta in a rucksack. But these methods beg the question, what on earth happened to the good old magic sponge?

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