The most bizarre bit of sporting news to hit the headlines this week has to involve Cricket’s Ashes hero Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s decision to pursue a career in boxing. He apparently has a devastating punch and regarding he receives his boxing license he will fight his first pro bout in Manchester this November.
Rugby players such as Danny Cipriani or Argentine Juan Martin Hernandez, who was on the books at Boca Juniors, could have been football players. Even tennis pros have given up football to pursue their dreams.
But which professional footballers could have been successful in other sports if things had worked out differently.
Phil Neville – Cricket
Before becoming a ‘Fergie fledgling’ Phil Neville was an outstanding young cricketer. In fact he played with Andrew Flintoff himself in Lancashire’s under-19 side and captained England’s Under-15s. His father Neville Neville was a league cricketer in the 1980’s and Phil originally aspired to guard his wickets rather then the nearpost. To this day he is still the youngest ever player to represent Lancashire’s second XI.
He is not alone in the cricketing boast however as former Manchester United and Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram and current England number 1 Joe Hart could have given cricket a go. Whilst Gary Lineker thought a career with cricket was more likely than an eventual sterling football career.
Hugo Lloris- Tennis
That’s right Tottenham’s new French goalkeeper was a very gifted Tennis junior. He played the sport up until he was 13 when football took over but was one of the top ranked players in his age group. International team-mate Yoann Gourcuff was also a talented tennis junior in the same age group before turning his attention to his obvious talents with a football.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Taekwondo
We have all seen some of the amazing technical ability this boy has with his feet whilst aerial and that may be due in large part to excelling at taekwondo as a teenager earning a black belt in Malmo as a 17 year old. He continues to practice the martial art today earning an Italian blackbelt in 2010 and if football was not a distraction who knows where the talent could have taken him.
Here he is treating Christian Wilhelmsson, Rodney Strasser, Marco Materazzi, Robinho and Antonio Cassano to his bizarre friendship ritual...
Nedum Onouha – 100 metres
We all know of Denmark’s Dennis Rommedahl and his lightning pace over 200 metres and even Thierry Henry’s 400 metre prodigy but Nedum Onouha is seriously quick over this distance. In 2001 he clocked 11.09secs as a 14 year old at the Schools Junior championships; beating European indoor silver medallist Craig Pickering in the process. Theo Walcott can also reportedly run the 100metres in an Olympic standard 10.03secs.
Joseph Barton – Rugby League
Not boxing , but rugby league is where Barton’s athletic promise first manifested. Despite Ricky Hatton saying the Marseille loanee is also pretty tasty in the ring he was a highly talented Rugby League player as a youngster. Still an avid follower of the sport his obvious natural aggression must have helped.
James Beattie was a massive Swimming prodigy before a shoulder injury and remember when Bolo Zenden squared up to Duncan Ferguson and we all thought he was mad; well maybe not the former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder was a talented Judo youngster … although I don’t think Big Dunc knows or abides to the rules of Judo so maybe approach the ex-Toffee with caution if you are a judo enthusiast who fancies it.
Which other footballers, or sportsmen can you think of that could have etched a career in a different athletic field if the stars had aligned slightly different?
image: © y.caradec