Why Do Soccer Players Use Vicks?

Soccer players are known for having pretty weird match preparation routines.

Because the stakes in the sport are usually so high, with match results heavily tied in to the financial rewards that teams receive at the end of the season, players resort to all sorts of weird behaviours if they believe they’ll benefit out on the pitch.

Superstition is a major player here.

In fact, you may have come across a number of soccer players who have this strange looking blob right smack in the middle of their jersey.

When I was watching soccer games as a kid, I’d always wonder why Arsenal players had smudged their shirts.

Case in point below.

arsenal player using vicks vaporub - patrick viera

At first, I just thought they’d splashed a little water on their top because of the need to hydrate before games.

But as I’d watch matches play out and see the “blob” still freshly stained, I’d start to wonder what was actually going on.

That was until I discovered that the little stain I saw on soccer player’s shirts was simply an application of Vicks Vapor rub!

Astonishing, right?

So, why would soccer players need to apply Vicks on their jerseys?

Here’s the answer…

Soccer players use Vicks VapoRub as the topical ointment is said to relieve nasal congestion, which helps players concentrate better on their performance as they play. It is also said to open up a tight chest, which therefore improves respiration and helps them breathe easier.

Read on to learn more.


Why do soccer players put Vicks on their nose?

Soccer players are athletes who work through the most demanding playing environments.

They need to train and play competitive games at a high level, even when it’s raining or freezing cold.

Because they push themselves to their physical limits, sometimes they resort to using natural remedies that can help them recover from intense activity faster or make their exertions less strenuous.

That’s why a fair few soccer players from current and past generations use Vicks VapoRub to help them get through the 90 minutes.

The ointment supposedly achieves this by relieving nasal congestion.

why soccer players use vicks - relief from nasal congestion

So, when a player has a blocked nose with mucus dripping out at every convenient opportunity, Vicks comes in to save the day.

All the player has to do is open a tub of it and apply a little bit of the cream in and around the nostrils.

Funnily enough, the menthol odor doesn’t actually relieve nasal congestion.

Instead, it creates a sensation in the nose that air is passing through, which helps players breathe easier.

why soccer players use vicks - assists with breathing

So, it essentially tricks your brain into feeling as though you’re breathing through an unclogged nose, but the reality of the situation is actually different.

Soccer players have bought into the belief that it works, which is why you see a number of them using it on their own noses!


Why do soccer players put Vicks on their shirts?

Soccer players exert themselves quite a lot during matches so they can’t really afford to have a tight chest.

They need their chest to expand and contract effectively and efficiently to allow in enough oxygen as they play.

In comes Vicks VapoRub again!

The ointment purportedly eases a person’s respiration by “opening up” the chest area.

why soccer players use vicks - alleviates chest tightness

Here’s a video which explains this theory a little bit more:


Which soccer players have used Vicks before?

Quite a few players use this ointment.

Let’s take a look at some of the most famous examples.


1. Vinicius Junior

The 2021-2022 Champions League final goal scorer has been spotted applying Vicks VapoRub as part of his pre-match routine.

Take a look at the image below:

which soccer players use vicks - vinicius junior

He grabs the tin, opens the cap and sticks some of the menthol spread onto the center of his chest.

And then after that, he goes and sniffs his hands!

You can probably bet that this has been a consistent part of the Brazilian’s preparation before games for a long time now.


2. Patrick Vieira

Perhaps the most iconic disciple of Vicks VapoRub was Patrick Vieira.

He was the Arsenal player I was referring to earlier on at the beginning of the article!

My mind was always saying to itself…

“What does Patrick Vieira rub on his chest? What could it be!?”

In fact, when I think of him these days, I just imagine a tall and lanky black player wearing an 02 jersey (their shirt sponsor at the time) with a distinct stain in the middle of it.

Like so:

That’s Patrick “VapoRub” Viera at his finest!


Does Vicks VapoRub work?

Ultimately, Vicks VapoRub doesn’t relieve nasal congestion and chest tightness, but it still works.

As you have discovered, the menthol simply tricks the receptors and nerve endings into believing so by altering the perception of how much air you’re inhaling.

Nevertheless, professional players aren’t too fussed with nuance because as long as a product works in the way that it was intended for, so they can’t really care less.

That’s why you see quite a few of them applying this ointment to help them alleviate any respiratory issues they may be having.

Samuel Waihenya
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