Footballers who also tried other sports at a professional level

Gareth Bale playing Golf

We all know how tough a footballer’s life is.

The sport is highly competitive with the chance of one injury or an off-field incident truly ruining a player’s career once and for all.

However, there have been some players who not only managed to overcome their issues in the game, but also tried or excelled at other sports apart from just football either before or after their careers in the beautiful game.
Best of Bets brings you a list of some of these players!

Footballers who tried other sports at a professional level

  1. Gareth Bale:
    The greatest Welsh footballer in history, Gareth Bale turned his attention to playing Golf at a professional level ever since retiring from the beautiful game in 2023.
    In February 2023, Bale played at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California, a tournament at which professional golfers play alongside celebrities.
  2. Petr Cech:
    Chelsea legend Petr Cech called curtains on his footballing career at the end of the 2018-19 season and although he returned back as a coach, he felt he could still compete in another professional sport.
    So he decided to join the National Ice Hockey League team Guildford Phoenix – as a goaltender, of course.
    “After 20 years of professional football, this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid,” he said on joining the team.
  3. Paolo Maldini:
    Quite possibly the greatest defender of all time, Paolo Maldini retired from professional football in the summer of 2009.
    However, he began a new journey afterward as in 2017, he qualified for a professional tennis tournament – the Aspria Tennis Cup, in Milan alongside his doubles partner and coach Stefano Landonio. In case you are wondering, they ended up being beaten 6-1, 6-1 in 42 minutes.
  4. Eric Cantona:
    Manchester United legend shocked everyone when he announced his retirement from professional football in 1997 in his prime at the age of 30.
    However, he pursued beach hockey and played for the France national beach soccer team from 2002 onwards. Cantona later became the national team coach and guided the team to glory at the newly-reformatted Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005.
  5. Ivan Perisic:
    This one might come as a surprise to you as Perisic is continuing his career at the highest level at Tottenham Hotspur in 2023, but the Croatian actually competed in a professional beach volleyball competition, where he represented his country.
    After the game, he said, ““his was always my dream, I have been playing beach volleyball since I was 10. I’m very passionate about this game and every summer I have been practicing with my friend. I’d like to thank everyone who has given me the opportunity to play with the best beach volleyball players in the world. It felt amazing – even though I lost.”

  6. Rio Ferdinand:
    In September 2017, Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand announced he would attempt at becoming a professional boxer.
    He said, “Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible. It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly, clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer, but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.”
    However, despite practicing hard for the sport, he was denied a professional license. “It was not sensible for him or for the sport,” BBBofC general secretary Robert Smith told BBC Sport in May 2018.
  7. Lev Yashin:
    The greatest goalkeeper of all time, Lev Yashin was great at two other sports which he played professionally in his career.
    The only goalkeeper to win a Ballon d’Or in football’s history, Yashin also represented the Soviet Union at ice hockey and bandy, unsurprisingly also as a goalkeeper.
  8. Grant Holt:
    Former Norwich City striker Grant Holt made his debut in wrestling in 2018, winning a 40-man Royal Rumble event.
    After that shock appearance, he linked up with the World Association of Wrestling (WAW), signing a contract to fight at the company’s Fightmare 3 event in 2019.
    You can watch him in action here.
  9. Joe Hart:
    Former England number one Joe Hart took to the cricket field in Shrewsbury while England took on Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final, scoring six runs in 2018.
    In that game, he also took a catch for his hometown team.
  10. Jerzy Dudek:
    Champions League final winning hero with Liverpool in 2005, Jerzy Dudek retired from football in 2013 and became a professional motor racer.
    “Motor racing was my passion before football,” he told LFC TV. “I raced go-karts but of course that stopped when I became a professional footballer. When I quit football I also missed the adrenaline you got from playing.
    “Now I’m taking in new tactics about cars, about different tracks. Of course, there are times when I ask myself why I’m doing this; I have a wife and three kids at home – a very nice life, and when you lose control or focus in the car you can really get into trouble.
    “But you need passions in life – they are what keep you going. Motor racing gives me a lot of joy and I’m loving it.”Apart from the above 10 footballers, theres a few more like Bixente Lizarazu, who became Jiu-Jitsu European champion in the Blue Belt Senior 1 Light Division.
    Gabriel Batistuta became a professional Polo player and scored two goals on his debut for the Loro Piana polo club.
    There’s German goalkeeper Tim Wiese who launched his wrestling career as “The Machine” in WWE, saying ahead of his debut in 2016: “I don’t really see wrestling as an escape, it’s an alternative to becoming fat and sitting on the couch.”
    Last, but not least, Clive Allen, who spent a year as the London Monarchs’ placekicker in NFL Europe in 1997. “It was bloody scary when I got out there I tell you that!” Allen told the Evening Standard in an interview in 2022, while backing NFL fan Harry Kane to make a similar transition later in his career.You can check out more content like this in our comprehensive BestofBets’ football section.

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