Young footballers at South Africa’s top football academies are being given ballet lessons to improve their game. The hopefuls spend 30 hours a week on football-related training, and have now had ballet class added to their timetables. The unlikely inspiration for the scheme is Diego Maradona.
“It started off (when) some person went and compared Maradona’s game to typical ballet movements, and that’s where they started developing their ballet curriculum for football,” said Kobus Maree, a physiotherapist at the Sport and Art Exchange Academy.
The youngsters are spared the humiliation of leotards and tutus, and instead perform their dance classes in their football kit. Dirk Badenhorst, who heads the academy’s ballet programme, believes improvements can already be seen.
He said: “There’s a basic move that they do called a rond de jambe en l’air, where they lift the leg in the air, and that in particular helps them with kicking the ball in the air. And if they have the control of the body, and learn how to bend the bottom leg while they do it, they have much more strength and power in the kick.”
Can’t wait to see if this catches on in the Premier League!