Even if you’re not a football fan, you can’t have missed the media’s attention on professional players who have taken on a vegan diet or reduced their meat consumption in recent years.
The seven players below are role models to people all over the world with hundreds of thousands of followers across their social media pages. And so if they can use their platform to advocate a plant-based diet and/or a vegan lifestyle, then we’re all for it!
Whether it’s solely to boost their performance or because of an ethical objection to harming animals or the planet, we think that getting the “V” word talked about more – and having these hugely influential athletes praising its benefits – is a big ol’ tick for the movement’s progress.
Want to try vegan and looking for some sporting inspiration? Read on!
- FABIAN DELPH
In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, this Yorkshire man explained how a vegan diet and mindfulness exercises helped him go from injury misery to a Premier League trophy and the World Cup.
I decided to ignore my doubts and began to look at my body objectively, as if it were detached from me. I studied its weak parts, researched my injuries, began to strengthen my body and moved from rehab into pre-hab. I carried out mindfulness exercises like the moving meditation of Tai Chi. And I changed the fuel I put into my body and switched to a vegan diet.
- HÉCTOR BELLERÍN
This renowned Barcelona-born footballer credited a vegan diet with improving his fitness.
“At the beginning I wanted to try it for a couple of weeks to detox my body and stuff, but I just felt so great after it that I’ve been doing it for more than six months now.”
Bellerín shared his story with Veganuary, and told us what being vegan meant to him.
He even uploaded a video to his YouTube channel discussing his vegan diet.
- LIONEL MESSI
After failing to win the World Cup with Argentina in 2014, Messi, who is arguably the best player of a generation, decided to change his diet to help improve his performance. He recruited the help of Italian Nutritionist, Giuliano Poser in 2014, who according to sources, advises against excessive meat consumption. “The amount of meat normally eaten by Argentinians and Uruguyans is too much, as it is difficult to digest,” he told the Independent.
Poser prescribed the 30-year old player a diet that was abundant in water, good quality olive oil, whole grains, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. That sounds to us like a plant-based diet!
- SERGIO AGÜERO
Whilst an article written by the Independent a few years ago claims that the 30-year old Man City striker turned vegetarian, there are several reports suggesting that Agüero consulted the same nutritionist as his Argentinian teammate, and is following a predominantly whole-foods, plant-based diet to help him stay injury free.
In 2015 he was quoted saying:
I started the season very well, but then got injured. So I went to a doctor in Italy and he checked everything we did, and I had to change quite a bit – no more pasta, no more sugar and no meat, which I used to eat quite a bit… Hopefully, this season has proved that it has worked and I can stay the same until the end of my career.
Other notable professional footballers
- SEBASTIÁN PÉREZ
There’s no questioning Pérez’ stance when it comes to consuming animal products. Talking to PETA Latino, the midfielder explained that he has been vegan since 2017 for ethical reasons.
“There are those who say that animals are here to be eaten. For me, the world belongs to all living beings. That’s the reason for my decision and my respect for animals.”
He also discussed being vegan in an interview earlier this year, stating that lentil stew is his favourite meal!
- JERMAIN DEFOE
Defoe’s high profile meant that when he chose to go plant-based last year, A LOT of people took note! With 456K followers on Instagram and almost a million on Twitter, the British striker has the power to influence many.
Speaking to The Guardian, he credited eating a plant-based diet for maintaining his form and improving his recovery time.
I think I’ve managed [to adopt veganism] successfully. My girlfriend suggested I gave it a go. Well, she said to me: ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries on it. It’s always nice to have someone around you who helps you and drives you on and wants you to do well. I don’t find anything hard to give up, as such, because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me.
I think they look at me and think they should try it themselves – and they should, because the earlier you try it, the better it will be.
- JACK WILSHERE
Wilshere gave up all animal products as well as gluten in 2017 and believes it has helped him stay fit, according to the official Meat Free Monday website. “I feel sharper and quicker on the pitch. I feel like I can last longer.”
The Arsenal midfielder claims that a change of diet has helped him get into the best condition of his career.
I know my body well; I know the right foods to eat and the best way to recover. I’m also getting the right amount of sleep. I’ve learned that over the years, and I think I’m in the best shape I have ever been.
And finally, we can’t talk about football without also mentioning the world’ first 100% vegan football club – Gloucestershire’s Forest Green Rovers.
In case you didn’t know, the UK club went 100% vegan in 2015 after being bought by green energy company Ecotricity’s owner Dale Vince. He wanted to make them more eco-friendly – installing solar panels, banning plastic straws, and removing meat from the players’ diets as well as serving only vegan food in the grounds.
Incredibly, the change has also helped supporters of the club to go vegan. With one gentleman reportedly claiming that signs throughout the stadium about the environmental effect of the meat industry convinced him to give it a try.
If you’ve been inspired to go vegan and also experience the benefits of plant power, then why not take our 31-day pledge!
Many of our Veganuary Ambassadors are athletes at the top of their game, including professional rugby league player Anthony Mullally and international karate champion Tammy Fry.
PAGE UPDATED MAY 2020