Things are not looking good for England. Two draws against opponents many in the global football community had quickly written off. The passes aren’t coming through, the runs are being cut off, the set pieces are blasting over the cross-bar. Exasperation was clear and bright red on the faces of players during Friday’s match against unexpectedly impressive Algeria. They were snippy with each other, with the officials and with their coach. Their game could simply be described as frustrating. While I don’t want to discount Algeria’s quality of play, I think England’s poor performance in the match and the World Cup as a whole can be blamed on Coach Fabio Capello’s overzealous coaching tactics. Not on the field, but in the bedroom.
Capello has forbidden his players from having sex during the World Cup. Not even "Nice goal" sex or "Sorry about the yellow card" sex. And if you’ve seen some of the wives and girlfriends these guys have, you’ll join me in wishing them the worst of luck in what is, hopefully for them, their last match of the 2010 World Cup this Wednesday.
Capello, in his characteristically no-nonsense coaching style, has instituted this rule for one simple reason: to win games. He subscribes to the belief that abstinence before a game will make a better player—assuming that the act of having sex will result in lowered levels of testosterone, and therefore lower levels of aggression on the field. Boxers and mixed-martial arts fighters tend to fall into this camp as well. It’s considered common sports knowledge that dates back to the ancient Greek Olympics, ahead of which Olympians would avoid what they thought would be energy-draining sexual activities.
But science on the matter seems to be arguing against that common knowledge. No clear evidence has been found that sex causes a decrease in testosterone. In fact, it may be just the opposite. An editorial in the October 2000 issue of the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine cites clinical studies that found not a reduction in testosterone after sex, but an increase. So while there isn’t exactly any research (yet) that shows sex before a game is actually a good thing, most scientists are convinced it’s not a bad thing.
That science seems good enough for Dr. Donato Vallani, the team doctor for the Argentinian national team, who recently announced that sex would not be banned for players on his team during the World Cup, calling it a natural part of life. Coach Diego Maradona was likely a part of that decision, given his history of allegiance to the doctrine of “If It Feels Good, Do It.” And with Argentina playing what is arguably the best football of the tournament, giving players free reign in their own bedrooms doesn’t seem to be limiting their ability to win. But, of course, correlation does not indicate causation.
Brazilian coach Carlos Dunga has also chimed in on the pre-game sex question, saying that the sex lives of his players are basically none of his businesses and that they can do what they wanted. And, then, in what may be the most un-Brazilian statement ever made, Dunga suggested that some of his players might not even have sex during the tournament because—and this is an actual quote—“not everyone likes sex.”
Did Maicon get laid the night before he hit that improbably precise goal-line banana into the side netting during Brazil’s 2-1 conquering of North Korea? Well, I don’t actually know for sure, but I would be incredibly surprised if he’d give credit for that amazing goal to abstinence.
For the English, though, abstinence is and will continue to be the gameplan. Capello has even installed cameras in his players’ rooms to ensure that nobody gets any. And to cut deeper, alcohol has also been banned, though this is mainly to avoid a repeat of the team’s publicized drunken antics of during the 2006 World Cup that many say cost them the Cup. England is under what seems to be the only sex-ban of any team in the tournament. That makes them the perfect test subject to prove whether not getting laid is really what it takes to win a World Cup. And if we can take their first two matches as any sort of scientific evidence, it seems that what England needs this Tuesday night is not a quiet evening alone but an epic, patriotic shag in the name of salvaging their hopes for World Cup glory.