Footballers' half-time tea break blamed for flagging skills

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The Independent Online
MANY things have been blamed for the failings of modern football - too many games, too little skill and too much boozing. But, with the new season kicking off tomorrow, a new culprit has been found, the British cup of tea.

British players are tea addicts, it appears. A survey for the Football Association's magazine FC reveals that 82 per cent of League and top non-League clubs serve the drink at half-time: only 40 per cent offer the 'isotonic' drinks designed to rehydrate the body and restore salts.

But tea is what footballers prefer. Gary Lineker, a former England captain, likes a cuppa and a slice of cake at half-time. Martin Hinshelwood, Brighton and Hove Albion physiotherapist, told how, when playing in Russia, the team asked for tea. 'You could have heard a pin drop. They all looked at us as if we were completely mad. Then they served this horrible black stuff.'

Though tea helped Britain to win two world wars, it offers little to footballers. A diuretic, it removes water from the body by increasing the amount lost as urine. Thus in the second half tea-drinkers will not only find themselves more thirsty than before, but dying to go to the loo.

According to sports physiologists, the only thing that can be said for tea is that, if sugared, there could be a mild benefit, and the caffeine in it may help to wake up a dozy goalkeeper.

Illtyd Lewis, executive director of the Tea Council, disputes the criticism. Tea is, he says, only a mild diuretic and ideal for half-time. 'What other drink warms you, refreshes you, cheers you up in depressed circumstances and calms you in elated ones?'

Certainly tea's role as comforter after disasters makes it ideal for English internationals.

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