Footballers who switched sports: Cech, Cantona & 20 players who made surprise swaps

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Cech Cantona Wiese footballers who took up other sport
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Eric Cantona taking up beach football, Petr Cech signing for an ice hockey team – here are some footballers who have dabbled in other disciplines

Ever wondered what footballers get up to in their spare time – or what they do once their football career ends? 

You might be surprised to learn how some footballers spend their time after hanging up their boots, or what has become of certain athletes who decided that football was not for them.

Goal has rounded up footballers who took up other sports away from the floodlights of the football pitch.

Eric Cantona

A legend at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, Cantona did not spend long without a ball at his feet after his shock retirement in 1997. Having played for the France national beach soccer side from 2002 onwards, he later became the coach and guided the team to glory at the newly-reformatted World Cup in 2005.

Ilhan Mansiz

The Turkish pin-up scored the Golden Goal to qualify his side for the World Cup semi-finals in 2002. He was a late bloomer in figure skating at the age of 33 and competes with his girlfriend Olga Bestandigova, though they failed to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Petr Cech

The former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper came out of retirement in October 2019 to sign with ice hockey team Guildford Phoenix, stating: "After 20 years of professional football this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid." He put in a match-winning performance as Guildford Phoenix beat Swindon Wildcats 2 on penalties on his debut.

Petr Cech 2019

Bixente Lizarazu

The former Bayern Munich and France full-back won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000 as well as numerous titles in Germany. He went on to compete in Jiujitsu, in which he won the European Blue Belt Senior 1 Light Division in 2009. 

Daniele Massaro

The former AC Milan stalwart played in the World Cup final in 1994 for Italy before hanging up his boots. He competed in two World Rally Championship races in 1998 and 1999 for the Opel team. 

Tim Wiese

The German goalkeeper played almost 200 times in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen and was part of the 2010 German World Cup squad. Since leaving Hoffenheim he has been attempting to win a contract with WWE and made his debut in Frankfurt as a special guest time-keeper. 

Bruce Arena

The American was manager of the United States national team at two World Cups and also represented his country once in an international as goalkeeper. He was a 1974 world lacrosse champion and for a time juggled professional lacrosse and football careers. 

Bruce Arena USA

Shane Long

Before he moved to England to take up football, the Tipperary native played hurling for his county side, reaching two All-Ireland Minor Championship semi-finals.

Mick Channon

A regular England international throughout the 1970s, Channon is a Manchester City legend and also won the FA Cup as a Southampton player. Following his retirement, he moved into horse racing and is one of the most respected trainers in the world having produced a Classic winner in 2012 with Samitar in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. 

Curtis Woodhouse

A former central midfielder with Sheffield United, Woodhouse earned four England caps before retiring after "falling out of love" with the game. He quickly turned professional in boxing, winning the British Light-Welterweight title before retirement.

Manfred Burgsmuller

A prolific striker who spent seven seasons with Borussia Dortmund before winning a Bundesliga title with Werder Bremen. After retirement, he moved into American football and was a place-kicker for Rhein Fire in NFL Europe, winning two World Bowls. 

Manfred Burgsmuller 2000

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Santiago Canizares

A highly-respected goalkeeper with Valencia and the Spanish national team who won two Liga titles during his time at Mestalla. After retirement he moved into rally and has competed in the Spanish rally championships for the Suzuki team. 

Ian Botham

Best known for his exploits in cricket, in which he is regarded as one of the all-time greats. However, Botham also turned out for Scunthorpe United and Yeovil Town at various stages during his England cricket career. 

Toni Fritsch

Austria international striker who also starred for Rapid Vienna and scored two goals for his country in a 3-2 win at Wembley in 1965. He was then scouted as a place-kicker by NFL side the Dallas Cowboys and won a Super Bowl in 1972. 

Adam Gemili

Adam Gemili 2014

Gemili started off his career as a youth player for Chelsea and Reading, before signing for Dagenham & Redbridge and being loaned out to Thurrock. He ultimately changed career paths, however, taking up sprinting and was crowned 2014 European champion at 200 metres, and 4x100 metres relay. He was also part of the Great Britain team that won gold in the 2017 World Championships.

Simen Agdestein

With eight caps for Norway, scoring one goal, Agdestein combined his full-time football career with being a top-flight chess master. A knee injury sustained in the early 1990s cut his football endeavours short, however, and has since won seven Norwegian chess championships, including the 2005 title.

Clive Allen

Former England international Allen turned out for 10 different clubs, most notably Tottenham during the 1980s - a side he would later go on to manage for a match in October 2007. After retiring as a player in 1995, he turned to American football two years later with the London Monarchs.

Gabriel Batistuta

Gabriel Batistuta polo

A goal machine for Fiorentina, Roma and Argentina, Gabriel Batistuta turned to polo a few years after retiring in 2005. 'Batigol' once joked he would have taken up the sport sooner had he been forced to battle Lionel Messi for a place in the national team.

Knut Anders Fostervold

In a career spent mostly with Molde (and briefly with Grimsby Town), Fostervold became infamous for his theatrics during an on-pitch confrontation with former Norway striker John Carew. His cycling career has been arguably more successful, however – Fostervold has twice represented Norway at the world time trial and claimed bronze in the national championships in 2005.

Aldo Donelli

Donelli played football with a handful of football clubs in the 1920s and 1930s including Cleveland Slavia and Morgan FC, a well as earning two caps with. the U.S. national team, beore turinng his attention to American football. He coached extensively within college football and the NFL, managing the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Rams.