Chewing gum is thought to boost brain activity with increases blood flow, resulting in improved alertness and productivity.
Footballers are famous for various habits and behaviours, which many followers try to emulate. But one of such behaviours is the habit of chewing gum or constantly spitting while playing.
Some managers are not left out when it comes to chewing gum. One of the most famous football managers renowned for chewing gum is Sir Alex Ferguson, who has a ritual of chewing gum when he is managing a football match.
In this article, FootballOrbit explains why footballers chew gum and spit severally whilst on the pitch.
Why footballers chew gum
Footballers are constantly running throughout a match. They run around 6-7 miles per game.
The mouth becomes very dry without regular water breaks, as the player becomes dehydrated from running around. Anyone can feel something similar during an intense workout.
When we chew something, the receptors in our mouth that sense taste and pressure from the jaw movements start firing and sending electrical signals to the brain. These electrical nervous system signals move to the brain, which works to understand these signals. This added brain activity places the mind in a more alert state, which is why focus and concentration are improved.
When you chew gum, your mouth produces saliva. It is the body’s natural response, as saliva contains enzymes that help break down food.
Saliva is 99% water, so it helps to keep the mouth moist and stops dry mouth. This also helps the players keep their thirst levels in check on the field.
Furthermore, chewing gum is thought to boost brain activity with increases blood flow, resulting in improved alertness and productivity.
Additionally, increased brain activity means more energy for those mental metabolic processes, so blood flow to the brain also increases while chewing. The greater blood demand from the brain makes the heart beat quicker so it can supply what is needed.
Chewing gum is also reported to decrease stress and anxiety levels, which helps improve focus.
During a football game, the little differences matter. Players will do anything that can give them an edge over their opponents.
This is why many professional footballers chew gum. They think faster and it speeds up their actions and reflexes.
Why footballers regularly spit while playing
Dehydration causes the evaporation of water, which in turn makes saliva thicker, harder to swallow, and made up of more protein than when hydrated and relaxed.
Several studies have shown that exercise increases the amount of protein secreted into the saliva, with a particular type of music, known as MUC5B, being produced.
This mucus makes the saliva much thicker, which in turn makes swallowing more difficult.
During a football match, when players have no time to grab some water, spitting is the only option.
Why footballers spit their drinks?
Sometimes players are seen swigging their water, only to immediately spit it back out, which isn’t a helpful method of re-hydrating.
In such instances, they may be trying to clear their mouth of saliva.
Spitting at opponents
Spitting at an opponent is regarded as one of the most disgusting actions in football.
While players can on occasion lose their cool and swing a fist or an elbow at an opponent, this is not regarded with the same disdain the act of spitting on a fellow professional is.
Seen as a show of gross disrespect, it is considered one of the most despicable actions possible on the pitch.
Famous players caught spitting at an opponent
One of the most famous spitting incident in football came during a between Germany and the Netherlands at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.
Frank Rijkaard of Netherlands spitted at his German opponent, Rudi Voller, on TWO SEPARATE occasions.
Ex-Liverpool forward El Hadji Diouf was notorious for spitting at opposition players and fans.
The Senegal international was caught spitting at a Celtic fan during a 2003 UEFA Cup quarter-final, which the Scottish team won over two legs.
A year later, Diouf was caught for repeating the incident towards Portsmouth’s Arjan de Zeeuw.
While playing for Arsenal in a derby clash against West Ham, Patrick Vieira reacted to a red card by spitting at Neil Ruddock, an action that earned him a six-match ban and a £30,000 fine.
Fabien Barthez was banned for three months after spitting at a referee while playing for Marseille in a friendly match against WAC Casablanca.
Cristiano Ronaldo lost his cool while playing for Manchester United. The Portuguese clashed regularly with Derby’s Robbie Savage in a 2009 FA Cup tie that United won 4-1.
That did not stop Ronaldo, who scored one and had another disallowed, apparently aiming spit at the Welshman after being left grounded for the umpteenth time.
Lionel Messi was also guilty of such an offence. Back in 2008, he was spotted aiming spit at the back of the jersey of Malaga winger Duda, having spent much of the evening being kicked by his direct opponent.