Chelsea legend among footballers to have found success in other sports | Football

Paolo Maldini and Petr Cech have looked to replicate their success elsewhere (Picture: AFP/GETTY / REX)

For most of us, the idea of playing sport professionally is a dream we had to give up on long, long ago.

But for a handful of those talented enough to beat all the odds and make it at the very top level of football, the game simply wasn’t enough to showcase their competitive skills.

From Petr Cech trading his goalkeeping gloves for a pair of ice skates, to Ivan Perisic’s risky passion for beach volleyball, here are the footballers who have doubled up to play other sports at a high level.

Petr Cech

The legendary goalkeeper is better known for his record-breaking on the pitch and his instantly-recognisable helmet he wore in games since 2006.

Cech set the record for the most clean sheets in Premier League history and he’s the most capped player in the Czech national team.

During his eleven years at Chelsea, he helped the club win four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League, and one Europa League title.

Petr Cech playing ice hockey for Guildford Phoenix

Petr Cech returned to the sport he loved as a child (Picture: Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

He also played for Arsenal before he retired from professional football in 2019. 

Stuck at a loose end after his retirement, Cech decided to return to a sport he loved as a child: ice hockey. He signed with Guildford Phoenix and played in goal. Last year, he signed with Division 1 side Oxford City Stars.

‘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,’ Cech said.

Paolo Maldini

Italian footballer Paolo Maldini, who played as left-back and centre-back for AC Milan and captained his national team, dedicated his career to football until his retirement in 2009.

In 2017, at the age of 49, Maldini ventured into the world of tennis. He qualified for the Aspria Tennis Cup in 2017 alongside his doubles partner Stefano Landonio, saying they had entered for fun.

Paolo Maldini playing tennis

Paolo Maldini lost on his professional tennis debut (Picture: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

However, in their first game, the pair was beaten 6-1, 6-1 in just 42 minutes by Poland’s Tomasz Bednarek and David Pel from the Netherlands. Maldini said he pulled a muscle on the very first point of the match.

‘It was like writing a poem after studying years of maths,’ Maldini said.

‘It was a unique and unrepeatable experience, I have lived it as a game and there will be no other experience like this.’

Ivan Perisic

With stints at Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as representing the Croatia international team, Ivan Perisic is famed for his versatility.

But the winger has also played beach volleyball since he was ten.

Ivan Perisic of Croatia and Inter Milan spikes the ball during the second stage of the Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series

Ivan Perisic in action (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’m very passionate about this game and every summer I have been practising with my friend,’ he said.

He played in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 2017 alongside partner Niksa Dellorco, but the pair lost their first match.

Perhaps Perisic was getting his two sports mixed up when he conceded a handball against France in the 2018 World Cup final, which Croatia lost 4-2.

Tim Wiese

The German goalkeeper, best known for his seven years at Werder Bremen, has a rather surprising alter ego.

Since his retirement in 2014, Wiese has trained as a professional wrestler, going by the nickname ‘The Machine’. He made his WWE debut in November 2016 in Munich.

Wiese celebrates with Cesaro and Sheamus after victory in his debut WWE tag team match

Wiese celebrates with Cesaro and Sheamus after victory in his debut WWE tag team match (Picture: Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)

‘I don’t really see wrestling as an escape, it’s an alternative to becoming fat and sitting on the couch,’ he said.

Clive Allen 

The eighties football star – famed for scoring 49 goals for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1986-87 season – played for the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal, and Crystal Palace.

In 1995 he started playing American Football professionally and joined London Monarchs, which competes in NFL Europe, as a specialist goal-kicker.

Clive Allen holding a small American football

Clive Allen, centre, now coaches (Picture: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

When fellow Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane, now at Bayern Munich, expressed his ambitions to play American football in the NFL, Allen gave him his full support.

‘Former strikers are the ones that can do it well,’ he told the Daily Star. ‘Kane has a great interest in it and I wouldn’t be surprised if in years to come he’ll be kicking an NFL football.

Gabriel Batistuta 

Striker Gabriel Batistuta was Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 56 goals in 78 matches – a record that was broken by Lionel Messi in 2016.

But the iconic number 9 wasn’t as passionate about the sport as some of his peers. 

‘I don’t like football, it’s only my job,’ he once said.

Former Argentine football striker Gabriel Batistuta playing polo

Polo helped Gabriel Batistuta’s leg pain (Picture: DANIEL GARCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

He also suffered leg injuries that left him in debilitating pain.

‘I couldn’t get out of bed on some days. Overnight I couldn’t walk. I wet the bed even though the bathroom was only three metres away,’ he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera in 2014.

‘It was 4am and I knew if I stood my ankle would kill me. I’d be crying with anger and I said to myself: ‘It can’t go on like this.’

Batistuta turned to polo as a way to keep up exercise without making his leg pain worse. His team won the prestigious Stella Artois Cup, and he’s played for the Loro Piana polo club.

‘It is a very tactical sport and I’m devoting time to getting better. I’m having fun, but my character demands that I do things well, so I’m making an effort to learn and practice,’ he said.

Jerzy Dudek

Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, but since his retirement he’s taken up a different sport: motorcar racing.

Jerzy Dudek celebrates after winning the Champions League

Dudek was a penalty shootout hero as Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005 (Picture: MUSTAFA OZER/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Motor racing was my passion before football,’ Dudek told LFCTV in 2016. ‘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.’

Dudek competed in the Volkswagen Castrol Cup in 2014.

Amateur adventures

Other footballers have tried their hand at other sports, but with not quite the same level of success. In 2017 Ferdinand had hopes of becoming a professional boxer, with the backing of Betfair.

‘The chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw,’ Ferdinand said.

Rio Ferdinand wearing boxing gloves

Rio Ferdinand didn’t achieve his professional boxing dreams

‘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.’

However, Ferdinand’s dream was dashed when he was refused a professional boxing licence.

Gareth Bale plays a shot on the 14th hole during Day One of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Welsh footballer Gareth Bale is obsessed with golf (Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

It was football’s worst kept secret that Gareth Bale enjoyed a spot of golf and the ex-Real Madrid and Spurs winger has launched himself into the world of golf since his retirement.

Last year, he made his PGA Tour debut at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he loves the sport so much that he built a three-hole golf course at his home near Cardiff.

Elsewhere, Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart could have had an entirely different career as a professional cricketer. He played on national championship-winning sides at under-13 and under-15 levels.

He loves the sport so much that he missed watching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals to play a game of cricket in his hometown of Shrewsbury.


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