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Pizza and football: From pizza being thrown at Alex Ferguson to Lionel Messi’s cheat meal

1:30 pm AEST 13/4/22
Sepakbola & Pizza
Lionel Messi loves to gorge on pizza once in a while as part of his cheat meal

Pizza and football may sound like an odd combination but the Italian culinary treat has often been closely associated with the sport. From pizzas being thrown during football matches to stars like Lionel Messi enjoying a treat occasionally, it is a delicacy that everybody loves, including football players and fans.

While there are no debates on how popular pizzas are all over the globe, it isn't the healthiest of food choice for professional athletes. Football in modern times demands utmost athleticism from the players and pizzas may prove to be an unhealthy option for pros.

Nonetheless, here are some incidents where the humble pizza became an intrinsic part of football.

1) ‘Pizzagate’ at Old Trafford

Manchester United vs Arsenal was one of the biggest and fiercest rivalries in England in the early 21st century. The two teams were in rampant form and featured the best players in the league. They were undoubtedly the two best teams in the league for several years and there have been numerous memorable encounters between the two.

In one such Premier League game held on October 24, 2004, Manchester United hosted Arsenal at the Old Trafford. Arsenal were on a 49-match unbeaten streak and were almost unstoppable at that time. They had just won the Premier League title unbeaten in the previous campaign (2003-04).

But the Red Devils won the tie 2-0 with Wayne Rooney scoring a brace which included a penalty strike that he had earned after Sol Campbell fouled him inside the box. The Gunners and their fans were not too happy with the result firstly because their unbeaten streak was over and secondly they alleged that Rooney deliberately dived and the penalty that gave United the lead was mistakenly awarded.

The players of the two teams were involved in a scuffle inside the tunnel after the full time and apparently, a pizza was thrown at then Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. While it caused a lot of furore, later on it came to be known that it was a young Cesc Fabregas who had mistakenly thrown the food which hit the legendary coach. The incident came to be known as 'Pizzagate'.

2) Lionel Messi’s favourite food

While the Premier League stars brought pizza to a fight in 2004, the story of Lionel Messi is about unconditional love for the Italian delicacy. It is no secret that the Argentine superstar loves having pizzas occasionally. He has them as a cheat meal or even after playing an intense match. 

While at Barcelona, it was reported that Messi regularly had a cheese pizza as an after match meal. He also had partners when it came to having pizza as players like Luis Suarez, Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez loved pizzas too.

3) Pizza party at Leicester City

During Leicester City’s incredible title-winning campaign in 2015-16, then manager Claudio Ranieri had promised his boys of buying them a pizza dinner if they managed to keep a clean sheet in a match.

It happened to be after a game against Watford which Leicester won 3-2 after trailing by two goals at half time. After the match, the Italian coach decided to motivate his players by offering them pizza for keeping a clean sheet against Stoke City in the next match.

Guess what? The Foxes did manage to keep a clean sheet and Ranieri duly kept his promise by buying the entire squad a pizza dinner.

4) Pep Guardiola’s strict no to pizza

Right after joining Manchester City in 2016, in order to tackle his players’ injury problems, Pep Guardiola made drastic changes in the players’ diets, especially the post-match meals. And one of the foods that were strictly kept away from the post-match meal table was pizza.

However, after winning the Premier League title for the third time in five years in 2021, the Spanish coach revealed that the entire squad celebrated the triumph with wine and pizza.

Is Pizza bad for players?

Pizza is ideally not recommended for the players before they play a match as it takes time to digest the meat and the wheat flour that goes into the crust of the pizza. But after a match, a player can choose to have a bite to make up for all the calories they lost during the game.

How to satisfy your hunger for pizza?

While professional footballers cannot always grab their favourite pizza, fans have the full liberty to gorge on a delicious pizza, especially when they are enjoying a football match. Wonder where you can place your order before the next gameweek? We got you covered.

Fans in India can place their order via food delivery services like Swiggy and Zomato. They can also directly place their orders at Dominos and Pizza Hut outlets for delivery.

In Singapore the top food delivery services are Deliveroo, GrabFood, WhyQ, Foodpanda and more.

In Malaysia, fans can order their pizza from services like GrabFood, Lalamove and SmartBite.

In Philippines,, the top food delivery service providers are GrabFood, GrabMart, LalaFood, LalaMove, MetroMart and FoodPanda.

Fans in Australia can rely on Deliveroo, Menulog and Uber Eats for a bite of their favourite pizza.