Like track and field, soccer requires stamina and endurance, determination, and focus. Because both sports increase cardiovascular health and aerobic capacity by working similar muscle groups, such as quads and core, it’s no surprise that many professional soccer players have similar skill sets as sprinters and high jumpers. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the world’s most talented soccer players who could have also launched respectable careers in track and field. We will also briefly explore the sport’s popularity in the modern world.
Soccer In The Commercial Mainstream
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with around 3.5 billion fans worldwide. Like track – especially long-distance events like the 1500 meters, soccer requires high levels of stamina to perform for long periods of time. Around the world, soccer has incredible reach, bringing communities together in countries like Brazil and England. Soccer is also well immersed in popular culture, more than track and field. For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed person in the world on Instagram, beating makeup mogul Kylie Jenner.
Like social media, sports betting has also become cemented in the commercial mainstream, and soccer is one of the main sports to wager on via online sports betting sites. For perspective, the English Premier League brings in an audience of 4.7 billion every year. According to this independent review site, the rise of sports betting comes as these platforms become more mobile-focused, reliable, and safe, and as the total market value of online sports gambling grows even higher. For example, in India alone, the total market value is around $150 million per year. Wherever you look in the mainstream, soccer has some sort of presence.
And like the sport, the athletes dominating soccer are also popular in the commercial mainstream, with many entering into sponsorships and partnerships with retail giants like Nike, Hugo Boss, and Adidas. Many soccer players are also versatile athletes with skills that could have been applied to other sports like track and field.
Cristiano Ronaldo (High Jump)
One of the first names that come to mind is Cristiano Ronaldo, whose unbelievable ability to head the ball in the air could have seen him become a top contender in the high jump. In 2019, the Portuguese superstar scored an incredible header for Juventus against Sampdoria, jumping 8 feet 4 inches. Impressively, this beats the men’s high jump world record of eight feet, set by retired Cuban track and field athlete Javier Sotomayor in 1993.
Cristiano Ronaldo reached 8’4 feet height before scoring that header against Sampdoria 🤯
No way this guy is human 🤷 pic.twitter.com/Clv5GrwrgS
— 433 (@433) December 19, 2019
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son (Relay)
Whether it’s the 4×100 or 4×400, running in a relay race requires teamwork, and no two athletes understand the importance of working together for a common goal more than Harry Kane and Heung-min Son. In February 2022, the two Tottenham players set a new Premier League record for combined goals (37), beating the likes of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. Kane and Son are constantly assisting each other, and the way Kane looks for Son on the pitch before giving him the ball is equivalent to a good relay runner giving their teammate a clean hand-off during the race.
Kyle Walker (100-Meters)
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker is one of the fastest players in the English Premier League. The right-back has a maximum speed of 21.9 mph, and he’s often seen turning on his wheels down the right flank of the pitch. This ability to have such an intense burst of speed means Walker could have easily doubled as a 100-meter sprinter. All sprinters, especially 100-meter runners, need power bursts when they leave the blocks and as they cross the finish line.
Alireza Beiranvand (Shot Put)
In 2016, Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand broke the Guinness World Record for the longest throw ever recorded in a soccer game. Beiranvand achieved this record by throwing the soccer ball a distance of around 200 feet, making the 29-year-old a potential substitute for Shot Put on Iran’s national track and field team. For perspective, the record for Shot Put is just under 75 feet.
The similarities between soccer and track and field are bountiful. Both sports are cardiovascular-focused but require as many days in the gym strength training as on the soccer field and track. To no surprise, many of the top soccer players in the world have impressive skill sets, from running to jumping, that could have seen them double as track and field athletes. Maybe one day, they will make the switch.