11 footballers who don’t really like football: White, Tevez, Ronaldinho…
Arsenal‘s £50m defender Ben White has revealed in an interview with Sky Sports that his name is actually Benjamin – shock, horror! – and, to the surprise of many a Gunner on social media, that he never saw Patrick Vieira play.
Why? Well, because he didn’t watch football as a kid and still doesn’t watch it now. And, you know what, more power to him for having the guts to be up front about it.
But White is not the first high-profile professional or former professional footballer to admit that he doesn’t really care for the sport other than when he’s playing it.
Here, we’ve rounded up 11 players who’ve said they don’t watch the beautiful game on TV or at the stadium, a couple of whom have gone even further than that in their admissions.
In his interview with Sky, White said: “I watch myself for analytical reasons. I watch England, maybe, but I’m always busy doing something. I wouldn’t just sit down and watch a game.
“I didn’t ever watch football when I was younger. I still don’t now. I just loved the game, I was always playing it, never watching.
“So I don’t know too much about the older generations, but I know Vieira was a very good player. But I don’t know the details.”
Still, hasn’t stopped him getting to the top. Despite a shaky start, he’s now starting to come good for Arsenal and their fans won’t mind a lack of knowledge about the aforementioned legendary French midfielder so long as White keeps producing on the pitch.
Bale likes playing football – or at least he likes playing for Wales. But as the Madrid-based section of the Spanish press are wont to remind us, he much prefers a game of golf, whether on the course himself or viewing on telly.
“I don’t really watch much football, I’d rather watch the golf to be honest,” he told ESPN in 2018.
Famously, Bale also likes to keep himself entertained by looking for signs of alien life on earth. Each to their own.
Gareth Bale posing with a Welsh flag with "WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER" written on it.
Ex Real star Predrag Mijatovic recently said: 'The first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid. I haven't spoken to him but that's how he comes across.' pic.twitter.com/WLEWskgVRy
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) November 19, 2019
Tevez loves Boca Juniors and Boca Juniors loves Carlos Tevez, but El Apache’s adoration doesn’t extend to the game as a whole. Rather like Bale, he prefers to swing the clubs – or watch the pros swing theirs.
“I don’t like football,” Tevez told Clarin in 2018. “If Barcelona vs Real Mardrid is on and on the other channel there’s a golf tournament, I watch golf. I’ve never been a fanatic for watching games. I like to play, to have the ball at my feet.”
Batty was disinterested to the point where even his penalty miss for England at the 1998 World Cup didn’t affect him.
In 2015, he told The City Talking: “I was always a home bird, so I’d go play and then I just loved getting home. That never changed.
“At the World Cup, as soon as we got in the changing rooms after the shootout, I was looking forward to getting home and seeing my kids – so football didn’t matter.
“I could detach. I’d give my all. And then that was me finished with football.”
In a 2007 interview with the Mirror, he went even further: “The national game is boring. And I’ve not been to watch any match since I finished playing. I can never understand anybody paying to watch it, never mind going all the way across the world to see it. You want to be entertained.”
To be fair, Batty’s opponents probably hated playing him as much as he hated the game they were playing.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Despite playing for mid-table side Barcelona, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is currently considered one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. But even he isn’t bothered about watching the sport that earns him millions of Euros a year, to the point where he can’t even name the players he’s facing.
“People laugh when I tell them I have no idea about football,” he told El Pais in 2020. “I don’t watch a lot of football, except when there are good games or when I’m particularly interested in one because I have a relationship or a friend. Sometimes they ask me for a player’s name and I have no idea.
“In La Liga, for example, it happens to me with names. I don’t know what they are called. But later, when they show me the video, I realise that I know exactly who it is.”
Despite winning 34 international caps for Wales, Nytanga told us in 2019, that he – and a good number of his professional colleagues – are far less interested in the game they play than onlookers might imagine…
Batistuta was and is as cool as fuck, and part of nonchalant air may have been down to the fact that he didn’t real care a great deal for the game.
Once, when interviewed on Argentinian telly, he said: “I do not like football, it is just my profession.”
What did he do with his spare time instead? Play polo. Obviously.
“Every time I went back to Argentina on holidays, friends would invite me to play polo,” he once told FourFourTwo. “I was curious to know whether I would be able to do it. I tried [it] out, and I ended up loving it. It’s a hobby, but I always try to improve my standard, because the better I play, the more fun I have.”
Assou-Ekotto is the classic of this particular genre, a man who not only did not like the game but made sure everyone knew about it.
In an interview with Sky Sports during his time at Tottenham, he said: “I don’t watch football. Well, I play it enough don’t I? I don’t talk about football away from the game either. I suppose that is unusual. My interests are my friends and music, especially hip-hop. I like Ice Cube and 50 Cent.”
After limited success in England with Arsenal and a more productive spell in Spain with Real Sociedad, Vela has spent the last four seasons in MLS with LAFC.
And it seems Los Angeles is the city for him. “Between a good movie and a good football game, I prefer the movie,” he once said.
In an interview with Canal+, he expanded on the theme: “I’ll be honest with you. The truth is that I’ve never been so passionate about football as to say, ‘I’m a fan of Real Madrid or of this team and I’ll stand with them to the death.’
“I enjoy playing, but once the match ends the football is finished for me and you can talk to me about anything that isn’t football, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so or like doing so.”
It wasn’t that Vieri disliked football, more that he had another, more burning passion: cricket.
For those who might think that odd for a 49-cap Italy international, the explanation is that he grew up in Australia, where he picked up a taste for the game so strong that he once said: “I would have loved to have been a cricketer. I would stop playing [football] now to play cricket if I could get the same contract.”
Speaking to the ICC website in Febraury 2021, he went further: “I just love playing. I was probably playing more cricket than soccer at school.
“You know what we would do? The tennis ball, we would tape it up to make it go faster and swing. I think I would’ve been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket. I was an all-rounder. I was really good.”
Watching Ronaldinho brought us – and still brings us – immense joy. But it seems watching others play the game doesn’t do the same for him.
In an interview with Spanish internet celebrity Ibai Llanos in 2021, he said: “I was never one for watching football. I like watching the highlights and goal, but I don’t like the 90 minutes.”