Jermain Defoe is an English footballer who demolishes the view that vegans are weak or the diet doesn’t offer enough protein and energy to perform.
Born in 1982, Defoe began his career at Charlton Athletic and quickly impressed. The prolific striker became a West Ham favourite before he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2004. He is one of the top Premiership goalscorers ever.
Defoe has stated that veganism was the reason for his ability to excel at the highest level year after year. He was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying that it gave him a better understanding of his body – something which is obviously important to a top athlete. He credits the documentary What the Health for his conversion. The striker said:
I’ve always had energy, but sometimes you feel a little bit lethargic and bloated. Now I feel like I’ve got more energy. I feel completely different.
When Defoe announced his transition to a vegan diet in 2017, he received widespread mainstream coverage. During this time he didn’t shy away from talking about how it helped him remain at the peak of his fitness into his mid-thirties. He even stated that he was promoting the diet to his younger teammates. The proof is of course in the (vegan) pudding, and the fact that he has proven an athlete can excel on this diet beyond the expected years of a top-flight footballer is a powerful ambassador for veganism in itself. Defoe is one of a number of plant-based soccer stars now – check out our list of vegan footballers for more examples of this!
As well as being vegan, Defoe is teetotal and a fan of cryotherapy – or cold therapy, which uses low temperatures as a form of treatment. Ice baths and the freezing of sprains are perhaps the most widely used forms of the therapy. He has also said he only consumes caffeine on matchdays.
Away from football, he was awarded an OBE in 2018 for his services to charity. The Jermain Defoe Foundation was set up in 2013 and supports vulnerable children in the Caribbean, dispelling the myth that vegans only care about animals and not people.
His relationship with young, terminally ill, Bradley Lowery captured the nation’s hearts following Bradley walking on to the pitch with Defoe as one of Sunderland’s matchday mascots. A bond was formed and Defoe would visit Bradley in hospital regularly prior to his death from a rare form of cancer in 2017.