“I always love to do sports, but I try never to put me in any risk,” explains André Miguel Valente da Silva, the 27 year-old Red Bull athlete who’s also known as one of the best strikers in the world.
Splitting his time between the Bundesliga and his national team, Portugal, Silva knows he has a responsibility to his sport, and his body. Which isn’t to say it’s all football, football, football. “Sometimes I enjoy doing other sports like paddle tennis with my family and friends,” he explains. “Or, here in Leipzig I try to be active by bicycle or with the canoe.”
That said, with Qatar 2022 about to take over everyone’s lives, Silva is now in full fitness mode – and he’s taking it more seriously than ever.
“I think football these days is demanding a lot of the players because we have many games, flights, and training sessions,” Andre says – to say nothing of his canoeing commitments. “I think the amount of games is more a burden on body and mind than a few years ago. It is not easy, and we must sacrifice some parts of our social life. Of course, we have to adapt and try to make the best out of this situation.”
The pressures Silva outlines here are very real, but thankfully society – and sportsmen – are now more aware of mental health than ever before, so Silva and his teammates in both nations are able to implement some safety nets.
“Football players and other professional athletes are somewhat different to the average society,” he says. “We start already at a young age with a lot of responsibility and pressure. There were a lot of situations when I didn’t feel good but now I look at the past and these moments made me stronger in the future. I never gave up and it made me who I am today. We need to be aware of mental wellbeing because it is totally underrated.”
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The Balancing Act
Talking about his fitness, Silva continually goes back to the idea of keeping everything in balance. Be that the balance between the physical and mental, the balance between nutrition and training, rest and active time.
“Everyone is mentally and physically different, so I need to focus on myself and be balanced. I like to go to the gym even before the training because the sport football can put us in an imbalance,” he says.
Injury is, of course, a huge concern for a player representing his national team and Silva’s philosophy helps him stay in tune with his body, and off the bench. “I believe that if you constantly stay in a balanced way with your body you can try to prevent injuries that you can control. Of course, you don’t know what will happen in the future and some things are unlucky, but we can prepare and focus on ourselves and things we can prevent. We can go to the gym, focus on mind and body and a good recovery. But the most important thing is to sleep well and pay attention to a good nutrition.”
Silva knows that what you put into your body affects the performance you get out of it. “It is essential what you drink, which vitamins you focus on to supply your normal nutrition,” he says. “I always try to keep hydrated during the day even if I am not thirsty. I try to drink water constantly and in smaller amounts.”
As for main meals, Silva avoids too many fats and sugars despite a sweet tooth. “After games I try to eat proteins to help the muscles to recover. Before a match I eat more carbohydrates. If it is possible, I try to eat the healthy way, some green vegetables and leaves, but in football sometimes it even has to be the fast carbs, ha.”
When he isn’t dashing about on the pitch, Silva knows the importance of recovery. “Right now, it is very rare to have a rest day,” he says. “We always have training and games in different competitions. Most days without training I do an active recovery and go to the gym. Once I reach the final of the world cup I then will recover during holidays afterwards, haha.”
One thing Silva will be angling for plenty of on his holiday is sleep. “I think sleep is one of the most important things,” he enthuses. “It can improve your recovery and, in football, we have to recover often and faster to be in a perfect shape. Sleep prepares us also to be in the best mental shape. For me to sleep in a constant way between 8 and 9 hours is the best.”
“It is completely different to play in the desert or in the arctic,” Silva explains when asked about how he’s preparing for the heat in Qatar. “I think we as football players are used to play in different weather conditions. I don’t know how it will feel like with that kind of heat, but I will try to prepare the best I can for the upcoming situation.
“My body, my mind and me are completely different than another player,” he continues. “Not everything I do has the same advantage for someone else. Everyone should focus on what is and feels best for them.”