In most instances, today’s footballers are finely-honed athletes with body fat levels that make the average man cry into their scarves on a Saturday afternoon.
The game has certainly changed since the eighties when rounded footballers were often seen pulling on their club colours. The Danish master, Jan Molby, was always known for carrying a few extra pounds, and even into the nineties, Tomas Brolin raised eyebrows as he turned out for Leeds and Crystal Palace.
You do still see well-built footballers – the lower leagues are littered with them. However, even the really heavy players, such as Adebayo Akinfenwa, were in good shape. He was a mass of muscle and aggression, rather than someone who spent the afternoon after training in the local boozer.
However, some modern players were either big during their careers or got big afterwards. They might have been chuckled at when they were out of shape, but three, in particular, have gone on a weight loss journey that can inspire all you Sunday League heroes to do the same.
Here are three former fat footballers who have turned their body shape around and how they did it.
Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock was always big when he played for Liverpool, Spurs, and Southampton, among others, but when his time as a professional finished, he ballooned in weight. Like many of us, he found lockdown hard going and ended up in a cycle of overeating. It led to serious health complications – his resting heartbeat rose to 130 bpm, with the average man somewhere between 60 and 100.
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He sought help for his weight loss journey, inspired by reality TV star James Argent, who dropped 13 stone in a year. “I bumped into Arg, a beautiful man, at a charity football game, and he told me his story, and that was it.”
Having a weight loss partner is a great way to help anyone along on the journey. By bouncing off someone, finding motivation in low moments and even challenging each other, it can become much easier to stay on track. Razor is now in tremendous shape.
Dean Ashton was a promising and prolific striker who made a name for himself at Crewe before a move to West Ham. He bagged early into his West Ham career and earned an England call-up, but the battle of the bulge came before. Before the career-ending injury sustained at just 26, England boss Fabio Capello told Ashton he needed to drop some weight.
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“If the England manager tells you to lose weight then that’s what you do, you do whatever it takes,” he said at the time. “I’ve adjusted my diet and lost a bit of weight – exactly how much is for me to know. I feel good for it. Pizza will always be my favourite food, but it’s a case of not eating it all the time.”
Diet is the key to weight loss, and Ashton makes a great point about pizza. A good weight loss plan will allow you to eat your favourite foods some of the time, but mix them with a more balanced and nutritional approach. Ashton enjoyed pizza and kept it in his diet, mixing it with other foods, which helped him drop enough to represent the Three Lions. Sadly, he was forced to retire following the effects of a tackle he received whilst on England duty.
The Egyptian striker Mido appeared for Ajax, Marseille, Roma, Spurs, and Middlesbrough during a nomadic career. After an explosive start, winning an African Cup, African Young Player of the Year award, and Dutch title, honours were tough to come by.
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On retiring, he piled on the pounds. He weighed 150kg, and by his own admission, he struggled to walk thirty yards without getting out of breath. From playing 51 times for his country, he struggled to walk 300 yards across a beach and had to sit down. That was the trigger for him – he sought medical advice and changed his lifestyle.
“I do general training – swimming, playing squash, playing football, some easy weightlifting,” he said. “But if I’m putting it in a percentage, it’s 70% what you eat and 30% workouts. If you want to lose weight, it’s what you put in your mouth.”
Mido’s approach balanced both diet and exercise. Indeed, diet is a huge part of maintaining weight and fitness, but you have to do enough to move those extra pounds. In the Egyptian’s case, that’s squash, swimming, and football.