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Does sex before matches affect a player’s performance?

Diego Maradona — he had no problems with players having sex before matches, according to Eric.
Diego Maradona — he had no problems with players having sex before matches, according to Eric.
Diego Maradona — he had no problems with players having sex before matches, according to Eric.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Club against country rows in Europe

Before leaving for Germany to take part in the 1974 World Cup, the Brazilian national team squad spent a month in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro, isolated from their families and friends and pretty much cut off from the outside world. Occasional visiting hours were open to journalists to which centre-back Luis Pereira complained: “This is supposed to make us world champions. Of what? Masturbation?”

This neatly sums up soccer’s problem with sex. When teams are travelling or taking part in lengthy tournaments, just what are those super-fit young men supposed to do without sex? Should the wives and girl friends travel with the team? If not, should players be allowed to bring girls back to the hotel or training camps? If none of that is permissible, will the authorities in charge of a team be willing to turn a blind eye to ‘escapes’ by players from the camp or hotel and the subsequent curfew violations? Questions, questions, questions...

Things have changed since 1974 and in that same World Cup the Netherlands surprised everyone by allowing wives into their camp. A good idea? Who knows? They lost the final to West Germany who were far more stiffer about the idea of women being around the team.

Behind all this lies the suspicion that sexual activity affects athletic performance. But it is nothing more than suspicion because there seems to be no convincing evidence to prove this. Yet the suspicions live on, even after years of arguments and even scientific research which has led us to believe, more or less, that sex is good for you (but does not mention athletic performances and whether they are affected by it).

The old notion that having sex somehow drains the body of strength (and it therefore being not good for athletic performance) is still around. The theories of Galen, the Greek-born Roman physician who lived around 200 AD, have dominated the medical scene for an incredible 1,000-year period. According to some, he has claim to be the first sports doctor as many of his patients were gladiators. But the biggest problem with athletes, said Galen, was that they did the opposite of what Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) had advocated for a healthy life back in 400BC — moderation in all things, work, food, drink... and sex. That would not do for athletes today — Romario, for example, said: “Good attackers score more goals when they have made love on the eve of the match.”

When Carlos Alberto Parreira, who had complained about the strict “no sex” rules during the 1974 World Cup, returned as coach of the national team for the 2006 World Cup, he brought a more relaxed approach to the national team... and Brazil were knocked out in the quarter-finals. Englishman Roy Hodgson did announce a sex ban for his Switzerland team for the 1994 World Cup, but when they got to the United States the order had to be relaxed. Even Germany’s Berti Vogts, known as a hard man, had liberal views on the matter. “The players can get up to whatever they like. The only occasion I draw the line is to have no sex at half-time,” he said.

Argentina’s coach at the 2010 World Cup, Diego Maradona, had no problem with his players having sex as often as they liked as long as they were in a stable relationship. As a player, he was reported to have sex every day. Otherwise, he claimed, he would suffer headaches. He believed that regular sex can help performances.

So have we got a firm answer to the matter?

CLUBS OR NATIONAL TEAMS?

German Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored 45 goals in 95 internationals for West Germany before retiring in 1989. He was very soon back at his old club, Bayern Munich, which was being run by some of its old club heroes. Uli Hoeness became general manager and then chairman, while Rummenigge rose to become the club’s chief executive.

Rummenigge also joined the European Club Association, a union of the strongest clubs in Europe who, at one time, wanted to form a European Super League (they realised in time it had no future). But he has attacked both FIFA, UEFA and the European Union for the lack of organisation of the current international calendar which does not suit clubs which, after all, supply the players for internationals.

The question is: should clubs go it alone? There is now more interest in soccer between clubs than between national teams; clubs should get more income out from the European Champions League; to save their players from the risk of injury and fatigue after having to fly off on sometimes long journeys once a month to answer national team call-ups; to organise soccer in a commercially transparent manner that is spared the diktats of sport “politicians” with personal agendas.

And why should clubs not go it alone? National teams, as represented by the World Cup, are the pinnacle of soccer attainment; players increase in value to their clubs through their achievements in the national team. (what Rummenigge did not mention was that they would also drive a harder bargain when they have to renew their contracts); outside FIFA and consequently also UEFA, the clubs could be cast out of their local championships if not indirectly affiliated to the aforementioned entities; the big crowds and commercial money would follow on the clubs at or near the top of the table.

TWO-COUNTRY GOLF SHOT

Terry Penrose celebrated an international hole-in-one at the Llanymynech Golf Club. He teed off in England and the ball travelled 343 yards to drop into the cup in Wales. How was that? The golf course is on the border of England and Wales and part of it lies in Wales. It’s a good job you do not need visas to travel between these countries to be able to retrieve your ball.

THIS HAPPENED IN SOCCER

Here are two anecdotes involving the famous Dutch player Johan Cruyff and Argentine players.

Cruyff played together with Argentine Juan Carlos “Milonguita” Herdia at Barcelona. In one particularly hard training session the players ran and ran while Cruyff stayed in the middle of the field speaking to the coach. Córdoba-born Heredia looked for an excuse and went to Cruyff to say to him: “Why don’t you stop talking to the coach and come to run with us?‘ Cruyff’s answer was: “I buy the paper and read that I am the number one. When you are the number one, you will have the right to converse with the coach.”

Alavés was playing a great match in the Spanish League against Barcelona once. Suddenly Cruyff “invented” a foul in the penalty area and fell down. The referee gave a penalty from which the Dutchman scored. Argentine player Jorge Valdano ran to him to incriminate him and accuse him of inventing the foul. Cruyff put his finger to his mouth, a universal language and said: “Shhh... when talking to Cruyff you call him ‘Sir’.”

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