To a certain extent, all footballers are nerds.
For hours a day, footballers around the world single-mindedly pursue the perfection of one activity. They do it so much so that they eventually become defined by it.
Footballers assemble together to play like school kids getting together for a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The only difference is the game—and arguably their physique.
But some footballers take nerdiness to a higher level. They have other weird hobbies that separate them from the general footballing population; hobbies that surprise and confuse the fans who follow them.
Here now is a list of 15 footballers from all over the world that could be called nerdy off the field.
The heavily tattooed Liverpool center back might have done his own ink job if it were physically possible.
In his spare time, Agger is apparently an accomplished tattoo artist, once volunteering to tat his entire team if the Reds won the Premiership title.
His own back ink features a design he invented himself: a Viking graveyard with the Latin words “Mors Certa, Hora Incerta” (Death is certain, the hour is not) written just below the back of his neck.
By the look of his teammates Martin Skrtel and Raul Meireles, Agger might have had takers had Liverpool ended their league title drought in 2009.
Unfortunately, Chelsea had to deny the Reds their championship, leaving Agger’s promise unfulfilled.
A self-confessed World War II buff, the Arsenal goalkeeper seemingly cannot get enough immersion into a conflict still fresh in the mind of many Europeans.
If he’s not watching Saving Private Ryan or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Manuel Almunia enjoys visiting the various battlefields of Europe and talking to willing survivors. Inspired in part by Steven Spielberg's Acadamy Award-winning epic, Almunia once visited Omaha Beach in Normandy with his girlfriend.
It’s understandable that the Spaniard would be curious about the war, being that Spain played virtually no part in it.
Now keeping semi-regularly for West Ham on loan, Almunia has less time to pursue his chosen hobby, but still remains perfectly placed to resume his travels.
America’s lead striker and AZ Alkmaar’s beloved son has scored 10 goals for club and country in 2011, but has netted hundreds more off any pitch.
Altidore is a proud addict of the popular football simulation FIFA, once even gracing its cover back in 2008. While the US National Team had down time in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Altidore admitted to constantly challenging his fellow countrymen to bouts of FIFA 10.
Accounts differ between eyewitnesses as to whether Altidore is in fact any good at the game, yet he still plays regularly.
With the physical 22-year-old in rare form as of late, perhaps those hours scoring virtual goals have finally translated into striking success in reality. With his American side struggling for goals, Jurgen Klinsmann can only hope it continues.
Guilty of possibly the most unusual nerdy fixation on this list, Arsenal’s attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin designs women’s clothing in his spare time.
A graduate of the University of Technology and Design in St. Petersburg, the pacey Russian has his own clothing line, particularly beloved by Russian women.
Owner of designs ranging from casual sportswear to flattering dresses, Arshavin is slowly building on his £15 million Gunner transfer fee with sales in the garment industry.
With only one goal in eight appearances for his domestic club, perhaps Arshavin would be better served focusing on football rather than his stitching.
One of Roberto Mancini's prized possessions, Balotelli is frequently subject to some of the EPL's most fascinating stories.
Like a renaissance man of old, the Manchester City striker dabbles in many different disciplines, be it moonlighting as a super hero to young children or setting his house on fire.
Back in May 2011, a young fan outside Balotelli’s Etihad training ground reportedly confronted the Italian for an autograph. When asked why he was not in school, the lad slowly confessed he was being bullied. Balotelli then took the child in his white Maserati to confront the bully (and the headmaster) face-to-face.
While Balotelli did speak to both parties, there has been no word from the youngster as to whether the sudden appearance of a multi-million dollar footballer helped end his schoolyard torment.
A lover of fireworks, Balotelli once set his house on fire after releasing a few in his bathroom. An eminently reasonable thing to do, Balotelli himself was unharmed. His Mottram St. Andrew, Cheshire property was not.
With eight goals in 12 appearances for the Sky Blues, crazy seems to work for Balotelli. Here's hoping he'll find another injustice worth solving in the future.
A fashion icon and English star, a man of David Beckham’s stature is expected to frequently socialize with A-list celebrities now that he lives in Los Angeles. While he does indeed find himself in the company of Will Smith and Tom Cruise, you might not anticipate how.
The three celebs frequently get together to fence. That’s right, the sport of foils, sabers, white padding and facemasks is one of the ways Beckham chooses to relax in his downtime from the LA Galaxy.
Alongside Smith and Cruise, the trio has admitted frequently meeting at Cruise’s place for some impassioned swordplay, but no word on who wins.
With the MLS Cup on the line, Galaxy fans hope that Beckham can translate his killer thrusts into strikes on the pitch.
In a classic nerd pursuit, Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge is a fan of the epic Star Wars franchise.
While some fans' appreciation for the movies stop at just that, Bridge went further.
While they were still together, former girlfriend Veronica Perroncel bought Bridge a full-sized stormtrooper outfit for him to wear. Bridge happily sported it for Chelsea magazine, but the relationship with Perroncel didn’t last.
Darth Terry allegedly had an affair with his English teammate's girlfriend, ending a romance that seemed destined for a new hope. Now on loan at West Ham, we can only hope Bridge can eventually rebound.
May the force be with him.
Another video game aficionado, Conor Chinn plies his trade for the Atlanta Silverbacks in the North American Soccer League after being waived by the New York Red Bulls.
Before falling out of MLS, Chinn was featured in a New York Times article detailing how video games have become an integral part of a professional athlete’s daily routine. Chinn himself was no exception, frequently booting up his Xbox 360 to prepare or relax during the day.
Just like fellow countryman Jozy Altidore, Chinn’s game of choice seems to be the FIFA series. Unlike Altidore, his play on the real field has yet to surpass his skill on the pixelated one.
America’s most famous footballer, Landon Donovan also suffers from the FIFA bug, recently consulting with EA Sports concerning its famous football franchise.
Donovan has even appeared in FIFA advertisements, battling Steve Nash in traffic and losing to Tim Lincecum on a couch. It’s unclear whether Nash got the best of him on the road, but considering Nash’s unfortunate FIFA skills, I give the suspected edge to Donovan. Lincecum clearly bested him, but Arsenal vs. LA Galaxy is a tad unfair.
With the MLS Cup Final quickly approaching, Donovan will need to focus on the field if his Galaxy has a shot at beating the Houston Dynamo.
Hopefully the orange starting 11 will show up to the Home Depot Center taunting from a limo hot tub. If that comes to pass, LA’s victory will be all but assured.
At 41 years old, David James has probably played in his last World Cup for England, but he will forever remain a bit of a nerd.
Bristol City’s No. 1 in goal, James wasn’t always vying for promotion. Once a standout keeper for Liverpool, at one time he blamed a stretch of poor performances on his excessive computer game play.
James’ addiction went so far as to sideline him for a game due to a repeated stress injury.
While the English national might have his virtual playing days behind him, James is still tending a real net with the Robins, appearing 13 times for them so far in 2011. He’s signed an extension through June 2012, so the old man won’t be going anywhere soon.
His Premier League record of 173 clean sheets still stands today.
With his glory days undoubtedly behind him, Michael Owen has moved on to hobbies befitting his age.
Not one to shy from a challenge, Owen has been known to take up 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles in his spare time, his most recent attempt drawing mock ridicule from many Manchester United teammates.
Apparently, this latest jigsaw was a picture of a horse. Why he chose a horse over a pretty sunset puzzle remains clouded in mystery, suspicion and intrigue.
Owen rarely sees the pitch anymore with Sir Alex Ferguson spoiled for choice attacking-wise, so perhaps more puzzle solving is in his future. His most recent appearance for Man U against Champions League foe Otelul Galati ended with an injured thigh.
With some expected time out of the side for rehabilitation, perhaps a 2,400-piece puzzle is now on tap.
Yes, you read that sentence right. The Real Madrid striker who everyone outside of the Spanish capital loves to hate picked up that interesting hobby whilst playing for Manchester United back in 2008.
Once thought as a game solely for senile retirees and young children, Ronaldo has made the game of random numbers and squares hip again for a new generation. Unbelievably, given a DVD of the game one Christmas, Ronaldo was drawn to the game’s nerve-racking tension and competitive play.
With video games too dangerous, Ronaldo instead took solace in the simplicity of bingo. It seems like the logical next step would be tic-tac-toe, but Barcelona’s players might have the monopoly on that.
Unsatisfied with the pedestrian thrills of football, West Brom defender Paul Scharner garners his excitement elsewhere in the form of bungee jumping, parachuting, skiing, water skiing and skydiving.
The Austrian center back participates in such extreme activities in an effort to challenge himself and help bolster his mentality on the pitch.
While Scharner isn’t the first one to label Liverpool striker Luis Suarez a diver, someone with such intimate knowledge of actual diving should have his opinion taken seriously.
With West Brom facing probable regulation, Scharner might have to cut back on the thrills. Successfully navigating the championship will be dangerous enough.
We’ve all known band nerds in our time, and Nolberto Solano could very well have been one of them.
The Peruvian dead-ball specialist is a skilled trumpeter, starting while he attended grade school in Callao, Peru. A fan of Salsa and Latin Jazz, Solano continued to practice frequently even after he made his professional debut with Sporting Cristal in 1992.
He won his footballing fame at Newcastle from 1998 to 2004, appearing in 182 games and scoring 37 goals.
When his longtime Magpie manager and England legend Sir Bobby Robson died, Solano paid tribute to him with his trumpet. He often plays in jams with friends, and teammates seem to enjoy it too.
Currently, Solano plays for Hartlepool United in the English League One. If you listen closely, sometimes the faintest sounds of a trumpet can be heard breezing out of the Pools’ dressing room.
While footballers pride themselves on their fitness, German international Moritz Volz routinely tempts them into unhealthy choices with his hobby of choice.
As a matter of routine, the FC St. Pauli right back bakes a cake before each match themed in the style of the upcoming opponent. Whether he eats it or shares it with his colleagues before the match is unclear.
Apparently a skilled baker, Volz is able to tailor the ingredients he uses to the type of play his opponents use. Why he does so is unclear, but it’s safe to assume that the man enjoys cakes.
After 10 years in England, Volz finally went home to offer his baked goods in Germany. FC St. Pauli never had it so good.