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5 Well-Known Footballers Who Also Practice Martial Arts

by Nate Roberts

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Some footballers (soccer players) may surprise you when it comes to their backgrounds and what they like to do in their spare time. While some opt for owning racehorses or regularly visiting the golf range, some prefer to practice martial arts to keep them fit and occupied. 

Though there might be some assumptions that athletes have a tendency to opt for combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), you’d be interested to know that some actually chose to train in more traditional disciplines such as Judo and Karate. Here, I’m sharing with you a list of five soccer players who happen to also be capable martial artists:


1. John Fashanu


John Fashanu in action


If you’re a younger football fan, you may not know of the great John Fashanu. But if you aren’t, you’ll already know what a top player he was for Wimbledon as well as Norwich and Aston Villa! Fashanu was not only a quality player who earned two caps for England back in the late 90’s but he was also keen on Karate training and even earned himself a black belt. This means that ultimately, no other player on the pitch fancied messing with him on the field and off the field.


2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic


Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a Taekwondo blackbelt


There’s nothing Zlatan isn’t capable of. When he puts his mind to something it becomes a success and that was obvious when he earned himself a black belt in Taekwondo as a 17-year-old. The bloke’s a genius both on and off the pitch and it’s clear his off-pitch antics in Taekwondo have enabled him to score some of the most unbelievable goals ever witnessed. If you look at the overhead kick he scored against England you’ll notice that no other man that walks these lands is capable of anything similar, but with a Taekwondo black belt and a superstar mentality, it was only Zlatan that could come up with the goods.

It’s looking unlikely Zlatan will continue to play football with Manchester United now after the injury he obtained, but if he does, he looks like a sure bet to bounce back and help United to a 21st Premier League title next season. Will Zlatan bounce back quickly? Have a look at the online betting offers for football & horse racing on Freebets.com to see if there are any offers you can take advantage of. 


3. Bixente Lizarazu


Bixente Lizarazu in the field


Bixente was a French football international who also had successful careers with Bordeaux and Bayern Munich. It’s safe to say that the 47-year-old wasn’t just a success with France when they won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Cup in 2000. What you may not know is that he also excelled on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training and was able to earn his black belt thanks to the help of Yannick Beven.  


4. Boudewijn (Bolo) Zenden


Boudewijn Zenden is practices Judo


The Limburg international who used to ply his footballing trade with the likes of Sunderland is a Judo fanatic. When he wasn’t running around the pitch like a ‘headless chicken’, he was probably winding down and relieving stress through the practice of Judo. You’d be interested to know that Bolo obtained his black belt long before he became a professional footballer. This former left winger or attacking midfielder was even a three times Judo champion in his home country of the Netherlands.


5. Chris Smalling


Chris Smalling was a youth Judo champion


When Chris Smalling isn’t battling for headers as the centre-half with his Manchester United teammate Phil Jones, he can usually be found at home playing on the Xbox or showing his love for Judo. Though Smalling no longer makes time for judo practice these days, his love for this lethal martial arts discipline certainly hasn’t died as he still visits Judo Championships as a way to stay in the game. Chris was a champion for his age group when he did practice it, which just goes to show he could have taken it to a whole new level if he wasn’t so dedicated to his football training.


Interested in starting your martial arts journey without breaking the bank? At BookMartialArts.com, you’ll find plenty of affordable martial arts training camps that will help you to step closer to becoming the great martial artist you’ve always dreamed of!

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