LONDON: As far as habits go, professional footballers sure do have some weird ones. Spitting is one, as is the slapstick tumble knee-hug ‘ouch that hurt’ roll, and of course, sliding on the ground with arms in the air. But fans watching soccer games have noticed another one, which defies easy explanation – the covering of the mouth when they are talking.
Why do they do this such a lot, and are there different reasons for the move (apart from camp disbelief)? Footballers are not paid thousands of pounds a day to speak, though occasionally, and grudgingly, they do. But speaking to team mates on the pitch to discuss tactics is essential for most pro players. They cover their mouths to make sure that the other team, cameras, and spying managers can’t see what they’re saying.
Yet this does not go far enough to explain the extent of hand-to-mouth action seen in football. Quite often you’ll see members of opposing teams covering their mouths when they speak to each other. Messi and Ronaldo once did this on the pitch while playing for their respective countries, Argentina and Portugal. This makes them look as if they are so disgusted by the other player they’re trying not to breathe their air.
However, the common belief is that actually they are hiding their mouths so that their words cannot be interpreted via lip reading from footage. When you’re a high-profile player, one of the world’s most famous, you don’t want to have the press asking you about why you called Ronaldo “a bellend”. Some players have also been known to use the covering of the mouth as a signal, to indicate to team mates what they’re about to do.
Occasionally a player will even cover their mouth while training, if they think photographers or video cameras are around. And talking to a referee behind your hand can be an easy way for them to hear you and keep your perspective on the action a secret as well. Therefore, while mouth-covering is used as a tactic in many sports, most notably tennis and badminton, footballers use it in a much wider context. – Agencies