As millions of people around the globe watch the greatest soccer tournament in the world, World Cup South Africa 2010, enthusiasm of the sport is turning our youngest players into endurance athletes. If your favorite player is in the quarterfinals and is in his 5th game, he may have completed the equivalent of a marathon!
Estimates vary, but most of the World Cup players you will watch run an average of 6-7 miles per game. (or about 10 kilometers) Midfielders run the most, central strikers and defenders the least. This may not sound like much to a professional triathlete or marathon runner – broken down its 4 miles per hour for that midfielder. If the midfielder is playing a full 90 minutes their average heart rate will be approximately 150-170 beats per minute. However, the most physically intense part of a World Cup game is when that player is in control of the ball. Their pulse rate goes up and lactic acid production (that heavy feeling in your legs you perceive after sprinting) increases.
In 2007, AC Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso ran an estimated 10 km in one game against Manchester United. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had been working on a system for calculating things like how far individual players run, and how far and fast the ball gets kicked by tracking them with multiple cameras. The system is accurate within a 3% margin of error. To get an idea of how much running that is, 10 km is the equivalent of running across 350 basketball courts. Gattuso’s numbers aren’t all that unusual either. 10 km or about 6-7 miles is actually pretty average.
In terms of its physical demands, soccer shares more in common with endurance sports, such as marathon running, than it does with other ball sports such as basketball and tennis. Soccer has a bigger playing field than any other major sport and less stoppage.
Training and supplementation are very important. But what would be the MOST important? We'll be posting our thoughts soon!