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Footballers who served in the military

Sat 10 April 2021 | 19:29

Serving your country as a soccer player and as a soldier are two completely different scenarios. Which of the footballers have managed to do both? Follow us below as we take a look at some of the football players who served in the army.

It might be hard to believe for some people around the world that there are many countries that still require their citizens (usually male citizens) to complete a mandatory military service period which could last up to two years. There are, however, certain exceptions that exempt certain people from serving in the army or at least reduce the amount of time they have to serve their country.

These regulations and exceptions are usually for those who serve their country in some other way, which typically includes bringing international fame and glory to their motherland. Being an international footballer is one of the ways of avoiding military service in many countries, as you can serve your country by playing for the national team. Of course while this rule has helped many in world football, there have been instance where some had to complete a shorter training period before going back to their old lives.

This topic has surely gotten you wondering. There are many instances of

footballers who served in the military

and one cannot name all of them throughout history. But we can offer you an interesting list of contemporary footballers who served in the armed forces down below and take a brief gander at their careers as a whole and how they got into serving their countries as soldiers.

Football players who served in the army

Before moving further ahead and discussing the careers of

footballers who served in the military

, we have provided below a list of player names whose lives we are going to have a look at.

  • Son Heung-Min

  • Eric Cantona

  • Raymond Kopa

  • Mohamed Salah

  • Fabio Cannavaro

  • Paolo Maldini

  • Sir Bobby Charlton

Now that you know who some of the

footballers who served in the armed forces

are, let’s move forward and see how they got to shoot something other than a ball.

Son Heung-Min

Perhaps when we say

footballers who served in the military

, many might automatically think about

Tottenham

forward Son Heung-Min, as his military service saga took the world by storm with almost all media outlets covering his story week in week out to see how things pan out in the end.

Son Heung-min

is a national treasure as he is considered to be one of the more successful footballers in the history of South Korea.

Obviously, many might believe that being the captain of the South Korean national team would be considered enough reason to exempt a footballer from serving in the military, but the South Korean government didn’t deem it satisfactory and wanted their laws to be fair enough for everyone. While the army was waiting for the footballer to report-in on duty, the Premier League forward was looking for a way to reduce his serving time.

His moment came when he managed to win the gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, which earned him certain privileges in the military service. He finally took the advantage of a hiatus in football to go on and complete a three-week training course instead of the full period of 18 months.

As one of the footballers who served in the military, the Tottenham forward is a true sharpshooter both on and off the pitch, as football enthusiasts know him by his goalscoring feats in the

Premier League

and his superiors in the army know him for his exemplary shooting in the training ground. Son was reportedly such a brilliant marksman that he managed to earn the “Pilsung” prize as a top performer.

The €85 million-rated 28-year-old has since returned to his duties as a forward at Tottenham and has managed to score 18 goals and provide 16 assists in 41 appearances this season alone, which is mighty impressive for a left-winger.

Eric Cantona

It might be difficult to imagine the rather stylish Eric Cantona, who used to wear his shirts with collars up high back in his days at Manchester United, as one of the

footballers who served in the military.

But the former

Marseille

and Leeds United striker did in fact wear the well-known camouflaged military uniform in his youth. It was actually the main reason why he had to delay his entrance into the big stage as a professional footballer, as he had to enlist in the military service before going on to live his life.

Cantona’s career as a footballer was truly exemplary as his time at

Leeds United

and Manchester United will forever have a place in the football halls of fame. He got to help The Peacocks win one of the three of their Premier League titles back in the 1991-92 season, with the other two dating back to the late 60s and mid-70s. He later joined the Red Devils and conquered English football by winning the league four time, winning the old trophy back-to-back on two occasions.

As one of the footballers who served in the armed forces, not much is known about his days serving in the military, but his history as a sharpshooting footballer will always be fondly remembered by United fans all around the world. He scored an impressive 125 goals and provided 65 assists in 319 games throughout his illustrious career.

Raymond Kopa

The late Raymond Kopa is considered by many to be the very first French superstar in the world of football, as he managed to win the 1970 Ballon d’Or and wow everyone with his dribbling and technical abilities. While Kopa’s time is well past our lives, his name will forever shine both as a footballing legend and as one of the

football players who served in the army

. Raymond Kopaszewski, later known as Raymond Kopa did in fact serve France in World War II despite being merely 12 years old at the time.

During his time as a professional footballer, Kopa was usually deployed as a free-roaming attacking midfielder who loved to dribble his way past the opposition defenders and play the role of a playmaker who was as prolific in front of the goal as he was a fine passer of the ball. While he spent most of his career in France at

Reims

and Angers, Kopa did get to play for

Real Madrid

from 1956 to 1959, where he made a total of 101 appearances and managed to score 30 goals in the process.

The French midfielder set many milestones throughout his life, which will never be reached by anyone else. In 1970, Kopa became the first football player to receive the Legion d’honneur, which is the highest order of merit in France. While not much information is available about his day in the army, the legend’s amazing career was enough to have us include him on the list of footballers who served in the military.

Mohamed Salah

Next on our list of footballers who served in the military is the ex-Chelsea flop and the current

Liverpool

talisman Mohamed Salah, who got a taste of the rough side of serving his country in the military. Of course he is yet to fully complete his national and patriotic duties since he earned a temporary exemption from Egypt’s military service program thanks to his footballing career.

The Egyptian has enrolled in his country’s education program which allows those involved to not serve in the military during their enrollment in the program itself. In fact, Mohamed Salah was about to face the obligation of moving back to his home country and serving in the military during his days at

Chelsea

. But he evaded the move thanks to former attacking midfielder Ahmed Hassan intervening to renew Mo Salah’s education program expiration date.

As one of the footballers who served in the military, Mohamed Salah has been the crown jewel of both Liverpool and the Egyptian national team, as he is loved and adored by the supporters of both teams, with the people of Egypt regarding him as a Pharaoh. Even though the 2020-21 season has not been the best experience for Salah and his teammates and especially his manager Jurgen Klopp, the right-winger has still managed to score 25 goals and provide 4 assists in 40 appearances for the Reds this season.

Overall, the €110-million-rated and immensely versatile forward has made more than 440 appearances throughout his career, scoring a total of 196 goals and providing more than 95 assists in the process. The 28-year-old is at the peak of his career and will surely be a top-performer on the elite stage for years to come.

Fabio Cannavaro

Some of the younger fans of football might not remember this, but Italy used to impose a mandatory military service up until 2004, which is why many of the Italian footballers, whose careers dated back to the times before the mid-2000s, had to deal with the obstacle of serving their country off the pitch by enlisting in the military for quite some time. One of the Italian footballers who served in the military is Fabio Cannavaro, of whom surely many of you have fond memories.

The same national team captain who led Italy to winning the World Cup had in fact gotten his hands on a totally different World Cup before making history with La Nazionale. You might be wondering what on earth we are talking about. Well, not only did the former Italy international serve in the military, he also helped the Italian army win the World Military Cup in the 1995-96 season, which would mean that the 2006 Ballon d’Or winner has two World Cups to his name, with one being with the national team and the other with the Italian army.

Cannavaro, one of the only three defenders to win the Ballon d’Or, spent the peak of his career at clubs such as Parma, Inter,

Juventus

and Real Madrid, winning several trophies with

Parma

and later conquering Spain with two consecutive La Liga titles in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

Paolo Maldini

As mentioned before, there have been many Italian footballers who served in the military thanks to the country’s mandatory law that was abolished in the mid-2000s. That’s why Paolo Maldini, one of the greatest defenders in football and Italian history, had to go on and enlist in the military in the 80s. The Maldini family have been the proud representatives of their country for three generations, with the legacy starting with Cesare Maldini, Paolo’s father, and later moving to Paolo himself and finally reaching Daniel and Christian Maldini.

While the former Italy international was slowly becoming a rising star in his country as a footballer, he had to spend some time in the army as well, which obviously helped him become the tough defender he was during his days as a professional. As a true one country one club man, Paolo Maldini had quite a legendary and illustrious career which started in 1985 and lasted until 2009, when he finally retired from football having spent his whole career at AC Milan.

The Italian defender made more than a jaw-dropping 900 appearances for

AC Milan

, scoring 33 goals and providing 43 assists while creating a brick of a wall in the backline. He conquered Italy and the whole Europe itself on numerous occasions throughout his career, winning a total of 7 Scudetti, 5 Italian Supercups, a FIFA Club World Cup, 4 UEFA Supercups, a Coppa Italia and 5 Champions League trophies, two of which date back to before the reformation of the competition.

Sir Bobby Charlton

On the list of footballers who served in the military, not even Sir Bobby Charlton, who is considered by many to be the greatest footballer ever to play for England, could escape the good old camouflaged army uniform.

Back when the legendary forward made his debut for the Red Devils, the military came in knocking as the now 83-year-old Bobby Charlton had to leave Old Trafford and serve in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Shrewsbury alongside his then teammate the late Duncan Edwards, who sadly died of his injuries fifteen days after initially and miraculously surviving the unfortunate Munich Air Disaster of 1985 at the age of just 21.

The 1966 World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner had quite an illustrious career both at club and international levels. He went on to make a total of 389 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 110 goals and providing 4 assists in the process. His international career was even more of a legendary tale as he scored 49 goals in 106 appearances for the Three Lions, which earned him a special place in the footballing hall of fame.

These were only some of the footballers who served in the military, as there are tens and even hundreds of patriotic footballers who temporarily hung up their professional boots to go on and serve their country off the pitch. Many have even fought in wars all around the globe, writing their names in the history of football as some of the most heroic footballers of all time.

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source: SportMob