Why Do Footballers Spit So Much On The Field?

Let us be real. Why do football players spit so much when active? In the electrifying world of football, the sight of players spitting on the field has become almost as common as the roar of the crowd. But why do footballers spit so frequently during games? 

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Why do football players spit so much when active

As with everything else in the world, one particular reason for a phenomenon like this has to be scientific. Our bodies work in unique ways and when you have fine-tuned your body the way a professional footballer has, there will be certain differences compared to everyday people.

Ready to get scientific?

According to BBC Science Focus, exercise increases the amount of protein that is secreted into the saliva, specifically a kind of mucus called MUC5B. This mucus is responsible for making the saliva thicker, thus making it harder to swallow, so the natural response is to spit it out. Gross, we know, but a clear reason as to the question we have posed today given footballers are constantly doing intense physical activities for 90 minutes. 

Why do football players spit so much when active

Another strong theory is related to places such as England and the Premier League given that it involves cold weather. When running outside in cooler temperatures, one’s nose must warm and humidify the air you breathe before it reaches your lungs. This action produces mucus in your nose and throat, and the mucus acts as a humidifier to condition the air before it reaches your lungs. The buildup of saliva and mucus will cause you to spit more often. Bad news for those living in places like Manchester given how rarely they get to see sunlight.

Footballers often tend to take plenty of test-safe medication that helps them in various aspects of life. Some of these medicines can cause increased saliva production, which might become exacerbated when running thus causing someone to spit even more than usual. Some of the medications with this side effect include aripiprazole, clozapine and pilocarpine. Hopefully some of your doctor friends can help make sense of them. Strangely enough, spitting can also display signs of an obsessive-compulsive disorder from players or may just be done as a display of masculinity. Take your pick.

Outside of these scientific theories, there is the case of players spitting out whatever liquid they drink on the sideline. It is apparent in almost every game these days. The activity is actually known as carb rinsing and provides footballers, and athletes in general, with performance boosts in a game. Let us explain. The idea behind Carb-Rinsing is to fill your mouth with a sugar and salt-heavy sports drink to trick your brain. It makes the brain believe extra energy might be on the way thus stopping it from thinking that the body is fatigued and providing the athletes with a performance boost.

A study published in the “International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism” discovered that 12 professional male athletes experienced less fatigue after carb rinsing during their event. Crazy to think that we can trick our brains that way. Now the next time you see players spitting out their drinks, you know why.

Spitting doesn’t happen for only these reasons though as there have been plenty of times where the act has been used as a disrespectful act towards another player. Undoubtedly the most famous spitting incident in football came during a World Cup match between Germany and the Netherlands at Italia 90. Fixtures between the nations were always charged affairs, yet this knockout match was particularly fractious, and particularly so after Frank Rijkaard initially aimed his spit at Rudi Voller after a crunching tackle.

However, it wasn’t until later in the match that the pair were dismissed for a subsequent incident which ensured Rijkaard fell even further into football infamy. He again aimed spit at his opponent, which nestled in the German’s neatly coiffured mullet. Talk about using your spit as a weapon.

There have been other instances though such as those involving El Hadji Diouf who may have just been the one who used this technique as a weapon most. Numerous unproven allegations were made against him but the ones that stuck were when he was caught on camera spitting at a Celtic fan in 2003 in the UEFA Cup quarter-final. A year later he was also caught repeating the same offense towards Portsmouth’s Arjan de Zeeuw. Diouf defended himself by claiming that spitting was not thought of as being so reprehensible in his homeland. We don’t think anyone bought that excuse.

Even the truly big hitters of the modern game have been caught committing the act. Back in 2009 during his first spell in Manchester, Cristiano Ronaldo lost his temper at Derby’s Robbie Savage in an 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 too has been guilty of the offense as back in 2008, he was spotted doing the same at the back of the jersey of Malaga winger Duda, having spent much of the evening being kicked by him.

Lastly we have two of the most fiery players the game has ever seen as in a Madrid derby back in 2012, Sergio Ramos was seen aiming spit at Diego Costa after an altercation. The story doesn’t end there though as Costa attempted to retaliate with the same trick twice afterwards. Making it more disgusting was that in one of those instances, Costa spit into his hand and threw it at the defender to try and mask his actions. Honestly, what else would you expect from these two.

And there you have it, that is the long and storied history of spitting in the beautiful game.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Keep reading: Footballers Held Back by Their Country

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