Today, we want to talk about fans that often say things like “I could do better than Ronaldo!” or “This goalie is so bad, I would have saved that when I was a schoolboy!” Such statements surely sound like a joke when related to players like Messi or Ibrahimović. However, many people tend to say it pretty seriously when discussing performances of lesser known players.
Yes, some players may underperform from time to time. Some players may underperform constantly. However, it doesn’t mean that an observer can just jump in the action and start playing better than an average or even below average football player. This is beyond impossible. Besides cases when it is Ronaldo who is the observer.
So let’s talk about what would happen, if a fan would swap places with a professional footballer. Before we describe such an incident, we need to talk about the routine that every professional soccer player knows better than anything. Is it really that simple to become a pro?
The amount of time one needs to dedicate to football (or any other sport) to become a pro is immense. A person who wants to become a footballer who makes a living by playing his favorite game needs quite a few defined merits including talent, perseverance, and physical potential. A combination of these factors and a bit of luck make a good professional. There are millions of boys who play soccer every day, but only a handful become solid professionals.
The amount of time spend training only varies from club to club. On average, football players train 4-6 hours and spend about 2-3 hours playing the game. Daily routine is a long run (about 7-8 miles), a plethora of fitness exercises, and individual technical training. Additionally, most of football players have to work out in gyms daily. A normal week is 5-6 days of hard work outs. Just think about it, one can easily spend about 170 hours per month training only. This is surely a lot of time.
Take Lionel Messi as an example. He has to train daily to keep up his physical form. Besides focusing on dribbling, shooting, and tactical analysis, he also has to do two types of work outs every single day. Firstly, he focuses on thrusting, accelerating, and maintaining linear speed. Second work out is more about quick direction switching. These two work out types have to be done every single day and take about 1-2 hours.
On top of physical training, players have to spend a lot of time learning about the football game and its tactical aspects. Just playing out various schemes and patterns is not enough to master the strategy of football. One need to deeply understand the theory of football, study how other players behave, and vivisect other teams and their strategy. This is a very important part of training and preparation that also consumes dozens of hours per week.
You have to start early
Path to professional career is oftentimes longer than the carrier itself. Some football players started showing their talent very early when they were not even ready to go to a pre-school. These are exceptions mostly. The vast majority of professional players started in school, then joining local youth teams, and then were noticed by professional scouts. However, even this path takes some time.
It is not easy to be noticed. You have to be better than your peers, you need to have enough play time to shine, and scouts should simply be informed that you are a possible pick up. Not everyone gets their chance immediately, some have to be patient and try multiple times before a professional team notices them and invites to sign a contract.
Unlike many university students, wannabe footballers spend their free time working out, running, watching professional games, and preparing themselves for even harder training. If you have not been doing this in your childhood and youth, chances are you won’t last long on the field.
The vast majority of non-sportsmen cannot really brag about their physical condition. Most of us are fatter than we should be, some smoke, some drink too much, and some have soft muscles that have never seen real work. However, physical potential is not only working out. Some people are genetically not suited to be good at spots and cannot develop their physique beyond certain limits. Yes, you may be genetically not good enough to represent Barcelona.
For example, running. Imagine that you can finish a 1 km distance in 3 minutes 40 seconds. That is a good result. It is a result that can yield you a sports degree. However, it is not enough to be a professional football. Try finishing this distance in 2.40 instead. This is way harder.
Another important factor to consider is improvement rate. While some people may improve drastically over a couple of years full of intense training, others struggle to show any kind of improvements in the same period of time. There are physically well developed sportsmen who will show significant increase in their performance. At the same time, lots of sportsmen cannot reach new milestones despite all their efforts.
Physical capabilities are not only the result of hard work. You simply need specific genetics and a properly designed training regime. Only a robust mold of these factors will allow you to be a better sportsman.
Every single professional football player spends lots of time learning the theory of football. It is more than just important to focus on tactical aspects of the game. Good dribblers do not penetrate the defenses alone, they need a team of supporting players who will help to spread out the defensive lines and soften them before the best dribblers can even start thinking about entering danger zones.
Knowing how various role-players interact with each other and what their goals are is a great way to improve one’s awareness. Those who know the theory faster find weak spots in enemy defense lines, know how to counter-act sudden attacks, and clearly see the most optimal way of delivering the ball from one point of the field to another.
Without tactical awareness a football player turns into a dummy who runs without aimlessly and doesn’t know how to contribute to the general strategy of his team. Next time you see a player who cannot perform up to the level of expectations, think about his purpose in this particular game. For example, an offensive wing midfielder can be forcefully moved to the center of the field to bolster the defense. This will make the player fell less comfortable, but his purpose is not to outperform himself, but rather contribute to the grand scheme of things.
Redundant tasks, constant training, intense studying – all these things make the routine of a professional player boring. However, their mundane life does not consist of only small inconveniencies. There are other factors that make their life hard. For example, food.
Eating healthy is pivotal for a sportsman. This means following strict diets and never allowing yourself anything exceeding the limits of your diet plan. Messi never eats wheat-related products and avoid sugar at all costs. His menu consists of fruits, vegetables, eggs. This dieting starts for him 10 days before the match. After the match, he can allow himself to eat something that is not on his ban list.
Scheduling as a whole is also a huge cornerstone in the life of a professional football player. Professionals live a systemized life and their actions, hobbies, free time, and many other things are subjects to scheduling. They do not enjoy the free life that many of us do. Going out for a drink is often not an option, having a picnic with your family can easily go against your schedule, and every time you move from one place to another, you have to experience jetlag.
Can you live such life?
If you, as a fan, think that you must take place of a professional footballer and can perform better than they do, just think about their lifestyle. Can you really endure the hard pressure of being a professional? Can you give up your free time, your lifestyle, your food preferences, and many other things just to live like a professional footballer? This is a question that one must answer before putting his foot on the field.
Let’s be fair. If you are to take all the profits of being a professional footballer, you are to take all downsides of this profession. Football stars do not just enjoy their life; they work hard in order to earn their place in the spotlight. While you may think that players underperform once and should be removed (or that you can do better than them), each of them deserved their spot through hard work and enormous dedication. Their coaches know that these players are hardworking individuals and believe they can get out of their slump and thus give them chance after chance.
Are you a person that fits the description?
So what would happen if a fan would swap places with a professional footballer?
Imagine a roaring crowd in a stadium. They demand goals, they demand action, and they are merciless! You make a step forward and feel the grass of the stadium beneath your feet. The whistle blows and the match is on. You start running towards the ball and forget about a striker hiding behind your back. Your teammates start yelling at you, but it’s too late. The ball goes to the forward that you’ve carelessly left without any supervision and he thrusts towards your goalie. In the next second, he scores.
You start feeling the pressure. Your tactical mistake just cost your team a goal. Your teammates start looking at you strangely, and the stadium looks and sounds angrier. You decide to stick to the enemy forwards and protect your side of the field at all costs. Now, you play more conservatively, you make less mistakes, and everything looks fine so far.
However, after 15 minutes of running, you feel weakness. You have never tried to keep up your top speed for longer than a couple of minutes. Your seldom endurance workouts never lasted longer than a half hour. Your legs become heavier, you stop focusing on the game, you just want this to end as soon as possible. You again stop paying attention to the forwards and, honestly, you simply cannot keep up anymore.
After another goal, your coach announces that a substitute will finish the match instead of you. Everyone sees that you are a bad player and that your stamina and physical condition are less than lackluster.
To be honest, this was a very generous portrayal of an imaginary case when a football fan takes place of a professional. In reality, an average football fan would unlikely last longer than a couple of minutes and will cause more harm by simply staying on the field.