Monday 27 March 2017

Vegan Profiles: Jermain Defoe

Vegan footballer Jermain Defoe

   When it comes to fairytale stories in sport from the last couple of years, Leicester City’s remarkable path to the summit of the Premier League takes some topping.

   Still, in its own quiet way, witnessing the humble comeback of a striker return from exile to score his first international goal after an absence of four years was rather impressive. On the cusp of 35 years old, and with many assuming his career was winding down after a stint playing in Toronto, how exactly did Jermain Defoe come to reach the best form of his career so late in the day?

   The answer, it would seem, is a combination of sports science and a very wise girlfriend – it was his partner who pushed him to embrace veganism to prolong his career. (Kudos I’m assuming should also be given to the poor soul who won the job as Defoe’s Personal Assistant – a role which, according to the job spec, required fridge stocking, brand building, a working knowledge of perfumery and planning Defoe’s trips to the cinema amongst a myriad of other wildly eclectic tasks.)

   A long-time teetotaller, Defoe has sought to streamline his diet and cut out a number of items – chocolate, eggs, dairy and honey no longer find the way to his plate and a former favourite, grilled salmon, has also been removed from his intake. The fact that he talks of having increased energy rather than any symptoms of fatigue flies contrary to the notion held by many meat-eaters that plant-based diets sap one of all their strength – that an increasing number of professional sport stars (including retired wrestler Daniel Bryan, boxer David Haye and would-be MMA fighter CM Punk) have each taken up a vegan lifestyle speaks volumes of the benefits it has on one’s body and mind too.

   Defoe’s new meal plan includes daily spinach, nettle smoothies and kale – a trifecta of selections which might not sound overly appetising to potential herbivore converts but are incredibly healthy and sustaining options according to the footballer. When asked if he ever yearns for a piece of meat, or even a splash of milk in his matchday-only caffeine, the Sunderland striker is reticent to give in to any such avarice: “I don’t find anything hard to give up, as such, because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me”. To wildly paraphrase a legendarily vulgar quote from Kate Moss: “Nothing tastes as good as getting your goals feels.”

   So, whilst it may have looked as recently as a couple of weeks ago, that Defoe’s international career was over and the player’s future would be entirely committed to relegation scraps with a long-ball team, the ex-Spurs man has set his sights on a much higher target – being a substitute in a scrappy England squad which will struggle to make it past the group stages of next year’s heavily corrupt World Cup in Russia.

   If it sounds like the last paragraph added something of a downer to an uplifting tale, the real story here is the positive profile put on a vegan lifestyle by an England star kids across the land look up to. Veganism and vegetarianism isn’t just, as some in the media would suggest, the sole preserve of hippies, Paul McCartney and members of “the liberal elite” (short-hand for “left-wing people I disagree with), but rather a diet for international footballers, for comedians, for actors, for politicians, for rappers and for fighters too.

   Over the course of this blog’s life, I hope to bring you more profiles of famous vegans and stories of how their diets help their success. I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have – please tweet me if you have any suggestions you’d like to see. My profile is at: @wokeanimalparty


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