Maté, a footballer’s best friend

Maté, a footballer’s best friend

06/09/2019 at 09:46Updated 06/09/2019 at 10:49

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Maté has made its way to training rooms and touchlines across the footballing world, notably thanks to ambassadors such as Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi. The drink is absolutely essential in Argentina, its country of origin.

It has become a must-have accessory: seeing footballers stepping off a bus or inspecting the pitch with a wooden gourd in their hand and a thermos flask under their arm has become the norm in recent years. Their tipple of choice? Maté, of course. This drink made a name for itself in France notably thanks to Antoine Griezmann. The story is, by now, well known: it was thanks to his South American teammates that the French international discovered maté, back when he was playing at Real Sociedad, the club where his playing career in Spain began.

Antoine Griezmann drinking Maté

Antoine Griezmann drinking MatéEurosport

“Carlos Bueno and Pablo Balbi, our fitness coach, introduced him to maté” according to Martin Lasarte, the coach who launched Griezmann into professional football, speaking to Le Temps. “Before training and during every team trip Antoine began drinking maté, even though he’d never stepped foot in Uruguay. My wife and I bought him his first maté kit at the Montevideo arts and crafts market so that he would have one of his own, because he often drank with the others. Carlos [Bueno] would buy him maté herbs every time he came back from Uruguay.”

Argentina leading the world

Just like in Uruguay, maté is unavoidable in Argentina, its country of origin. The Guaranis, the native people whose territory covers not only the south-east of the country but also Paraguay and the south of Brazil, have made it their traditional beverage. “If you come to my home in Argentina the first thing you will be offered is maté” José Traversi, founder of the restaurant Ici Argentine in Bordeaux, tells So Foot magazine. “It doesn’t matter what time it is or what the social occasion may be. Gaucho cowboys drink it while on their horses, riding off into the countryside with their cattle. Whenever I take my truck anywhere, I prepare myself a litre of maté.”

Antoine Griezmann drinking Maté

Antoine Griezmann drinking MatéEurosport

Argentina is, quite simply, the world’s leading consumer and exporter of maté. Since 2010, the “Ruta del Maté” (the Maté route) is considered as cultural heritage in the country of Lionel Messi, who is one of the best ambassadors of this drink that he himself consumes. The route includes several visits enabling the public at large to follow the maté creation process before it arrives in the footballers’ gourds.

A completely natural product

Maté is a drink which is recognised for its energising properties. A member of the holly family, the leaves of this herb (“yerba maté” to give it its full name) are extracted, roasted and then ground in order to be brewed and then drunk via the aid of a “bombilla”, a metal straw which “filters” the liquid. Maté, which has a bitter taste that may put some people off, combines the advantages of both tea and coffee: it is said to improve sharp mindedness, concentration and reflexes, while at the same time combating stress and fatigue. And all of this without it being considered as a doping agent.

“There are no reasons not to drink maté” according to Franck Le Gall, team doctor for the French national team and Olympique Marseille, speaking to Le Parisien.

Antoine Griezmann drinking with maté

Antoine Griezmann drinking with matéEurosport

“It is a completely natural product that has entered the daily lives of certain players.”

“30 blood tests, 20 anti-doping checks… it’s not a doping substance, otherwise the tests wouldn’t have come back clean!” joked Antoine Griezmann in a video for FFF (the French Football Federation) in 2016, in which he explains his attachment to maté, which he drinks at any time of the day.

A convivial moment

Just like Griezmann or Messi, other footballers are also big maté fans, often after having been converted by their South American teammates. At PSG, Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani, Presnel Kimpembe and also Alphose Areola never leave home without their gourds, according to an article that appeared in Le Parisien last year.

In an interview given to TyC Sports, Paul Pogba admitted that he too is a fan of the drink, first introduced to him by his Argentine teammates Marco Rojo and Sergio Romero at Manchester United.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez with Maté

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez with MatéEurosport

Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain, who we saw drinking maté in a Netflix document about Juventus, Sergio Agüero: the list is long.

Even English footballers are at it, trying to “pass themselves off as South Americans” according to Eric Dier. “At Tottenham” he continues, while citing Danny Rose and Dele Alli as other maté aficionados, “several players have begun drinking it. I’m now slightly addicted myself.”

Maté is not just a fad or a drink which allows you to boost your performance: it also embodies the idea of conviviality and participating in a moment of sharing. Within a group, the person who prepares the maté must then offer it to those around them. Such an act can strengthen camaraderie between teammates, whether at club or international level.