Not only making their names on the football pitch, but some of the most famous players have also gone on to join the military at the peak of their careers, while others joined the army forces before their football careers got going and were then able to thankfully come home safely and start their careers. Here are six of the most famous footballers who served the army.
6. Teemu Tainio – Finland
In the last hour we asked you to #NameThatSpur
Monday’s mystery Spur was……Teemu Tainio!
— E-Spurs (@e_spurs) January 2, 2017
The Finish legendary striker turned down Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United for his mandatory national service in his country Army. Back in 1997, The 16-year-old Teemu Tainio, who had already impressed in the Finnish leagues with TP-47 and FC Haka, had a successful trial at Old Trafford, having scored few goals in the same team with the likes Eric Cantona, Karel Poborsky and Paul Scholes.
He was poised to return for another spell at Carrington until the call for national service in Finland came:
“I was at Manchester United for a few weeks but in Finland, you have to do army service and that was just before then,” explained Tainio.
“I played a few games, scored a few goals because I was a striker back then and they wanted me to come back but I said: ‘I have to do my army service’. After that, I decided to go and play in France, which is where I stayed for seven years. Why? Things change. I was only 16 when I trained with Manchester United. Eric Cantona was at the club at that time and I trained with the reserves, who had Paul Scholes, Karel Poborsky and those type of players.
“I spoke with Sir Alex and he said that he would love me to come back after army service.
“But things change, I went to France and the rest is history,” he said.
4. Eric Cantona – France
🗣 "You can change wife, politics, religion. But you cannot change your favourite football team."
– Eric Cantona. pic.twitter.com/fvdTI1Fhpg
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) April 23, 2018
The French legend began his professional career with Auxerre, making his debut in 1983, aged just 17. Just as his professional career was getting started, it was put on hold – Eric had to complete two years of military service for the French Army, and only returned to play football professionally in 1986. In spite of his time in the army, you would never describe Eric as disciplined…!
Eric Cantona enjoyed a hugely successful football career which saw him win four Premier League titles with Manchester United and many individual awards. But his achievement in football was a poor disciplinary record for much of his career, including a 1995 conviction for an assault on a fan.
4. Bruce Grobbelaar – Zimbabwe
Bruce Grobbelaar grew up in Rhodesia and served in the Army before joining the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League in 1979. He came to Liverpool's attention during a loan spell at Crewe and signed for the club in 1981. 628 appearances for Liverpool followed pic.twitter.com/zkSZOARP5F
— Sport & Casino History (@CDCHistory) April 24, 2018
The Zimbabwean legendary goalkeeper is one of the most successful African players in English football, having made 628 appearances for Liverpool in 13 years from 1981 to 1994, including 440 in the League, he won the League championship with the club six times, as well as three FA Cups, three League Cups and the 1983–84 European Cup.
But Despite having had a successful football career, the Liverpool legend once said. “In the army, I lived in the bush for weeks, so that put the luxuries of England in perspective. I know how lucky I am,”
Grobbelaar, who joined the Rhodesian army in 1975, spent time-fighting in the civil war, which ultimately led to the formation of Zimbabwe.