Why Do Soccer Players Spit So Frequently During Matches?

February 15, 2024

The world's most popular sport, football (more correctly known as soccer outside the USA), has a wide fan base that includes young children, college students and professional athletes. And the passion swells every four years for the World Cup, the global championship run by FIFA.

As fans of the game, we are drawn to its dazzling skill and dramatic action. We watch for a goal and are moved by a spectacular save, but we also linger over a player's behavior off the field. For instance, we wonder why do soccer players spit so frequently during matches?

There are many theories about spitting by footballers. Some think it's a way to show aggression and assert dominance, while others believe that the behavior could have something to do with boosting performance.

For example, we have seen Harry Kane, England's star striker, grabbing a Powerade-branded bottle and forcefully spraying a mouthful into his throat, only to gobble it down and spew it all over the nearest patch of bare ground. That's a good way to advertise a beverage and certainly catches the attention of any Coca-Cola executive.

But the reason behind this seemingly odd habit may actually be quite scientific. Exercise scientists have found that rinsing the mouth with carbohydrate solutions, like those contained in sports drinks, and then spitting it out without swallowing can significantly boost athletic performance during high-intensity exercise. During a game of soccer, which is played on a grass surface, there's no danger that the players will slip on water if they spit it out on the ground, as could happen with basketball.

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