Growing up, I needed to gain weight if I wanted to have a chance at playing professionally. I was naturally slim and had a high metabolism. It restricted me from gaining weight. I was not well versed about my calorie intake too. 

However, as I grew up, I realized that football is not just about physical strength and having an ideal body shape. The game requires much more. A footballer requires skill, technique, and mental toughness alongside a balanced body shape. While being physically larger might help, it is not the most vital factor for success on the pitch. When I was playing for Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools (BBFS), I got the better of physically stronger opponents in many matches. 

Size doesn’t matter. The fight does! 

Lionel Messi is one of the greatest football players worldwide. But he is not the tallest or the strongest player on the field. In reality, Lionel is short at 169 cm. However, has Messi’s size ever been a hurdle? Messi’s flexibility and dribbling capacity are far better than most of his counterparts. 

 Similar is the case with Robert Lewandowski. Robert is a well-built 6 ft tall forward now, but he was a skinny, underweight child earlier. However, being underweight was never an obstacle. He was outstanding in his early teens and took on opponents as mercilessly as he does today. 

Credits: Twitter

To dismiss or overlook a player for their physical stature can be a mistake. 

It’s never about the size, but the might.  

Choose a playing position that is best suited for you

However, one size cannot fit all. Different positions require different physical shapes. Basis on your physical attributes, you can always make the best choice for yourself. 

“Football is a sport which sometimes can depend on physical performance. Especially in some of the specific positions. For example, for a center-back, a coach is most likely to prefer someone with a big and strong physique to challenge the strikers with their physical abilities and win the headers whenever possible. 

Height is considered one of the most important factors when selecting a goalkeeper. Last year in the UK, I was fortunate to visit and experience the facilities of some of the leading Premier League clubs and their academies who worked with the younger age groups,” said Dr. Aritra Nag, the physiotherapist of Kerala Blasters FC. 

Aritra was leading the physiotherapy department when Kerala Blasters Reserves Team traveled to the UK to play the Next Gen Cup against some English Premier League sides. 

“I remember they had strict baseline criteria regarding physical attributes to select positions for players. For example, by their thorough procedure, they would be able to filter out the future physical structure of an individual and encourage the player to take up a suitable position right from that age, which would set the path for them. 

In football, it is not just about physical play. There are certain positions where many coaches and experts prefer smaller or shorter individuals who have a lower center of gravity. It becomes an advantage as shorter players are hard to displace or push down on the ground. Smaller players often use their speed to their advantage on the sidelines. There are so many examples. 

So the size of the player matters on the pitch with respect to the position in which he or she is playing. But there are no limitations or restrictions as such which state a certain body type is the best fit to pursue the sport,” continued Nag. 

Dr. Aritra further stressed the importance of correct diet and nutrition. He said, “Diet and nutrition go a long way today when it comes to performance and injuries of a sportsperson. An adequate amount of macro and micronutrients provides the fuel source for the body to perform. It also promotes recovery post-performance. With the developing research and evidence we are receiving today, it is obvious that nutrition when taken seriously can affect and change a sportsperson’s career massively. 

Food is also medicine, it has a direct connection with our mind and mood as well. They can calm our system down and heal it from the inside. There are anti-inflammatory foods that promote healing when a sports person is on his or her way to recovery, and there are foods that help the sportsperson to optimize their performance at the same time,” concluded he. 

Each athlete has a different bone structure, and we are all built differently.

Simultaneously, cardio level affects the size of a player as people who run further distances for extended periods tend to have less muscle mass, but because of their high fitness levels, they can play entire games and be effective team members. 

Some players also prioritize weight training in different ways, lifting heavier weights to add muscle, or lighter weights to get more of a toned body. 

In conclusion, size is just one of the factors in a player’s performance. Players can use their physical traits to their advantage, and always get the best results. There is never a ‘perfect’ body size for a footballer. 

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