Heung-min Son finished in the top five recruits and was given an award for his military performance
South Korea and Tottenham Hotspur forward Heung-min Son during military service in 2020 (Picture: Republic of Korea Marine Corps).
Football

Fifa World Cup 2022: Which footballers have served in the military?

Heung-min Son finished in the top five recruits and was given an award for his military performance
South Korea and Tottenham Hotspur forward Heung-min Son during military service in 2020 (Picture: Republic of Korea Marine Corps).

England and Wales are dreaming of World Cup glory in Qatar.

With millions of fans getting ready to cheer their country on once again, it got us thinking about which footballers have spent time in the military, both in the UK and internationally.

Here is a list of some of football's biggest names who have also had a stint in the military.

Heung-min Son

One of the most recent and famous footballers to have a spell in the military was South Korean footballer Heung-min Son who completed a compulsory period of national service in May 2020.

The winger, who plays for English club Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, was one of the top five recruits and was given an award for his performance.

Having originally had to serve 21 months, Son's service was shortened to three weeks after South Korea won the Asian Games in 2018.

Heung-min Son finished in the top five recruits and was given an award for his military performance
Heung-min Son finished in the top five recruits and was given an award for his military performance (Picture: Republic of Korea Marine Corps Facebook).

Mohamed Salah

Another Premier League star, Mohamed Salah served his native Egypt due to the country's compulsory national service.

The Liverpool talisman and Premier League Golden Boot winner is yet to fully complete his service however after being granted a temporary exemption from the programme thanks to his sporting career.

Salah enrolled in the country's education programme, with those enrolled not having to serve in the military.

During his time at Chelsea, before he eventually moved to Merseyside, he nearly had to move back to Egypt and complete his military service, but former attacking midfielder Ahmed Hassan renewed Salah's education programme expiration date so he could continue terrifying defences in the Premier League.

Eric Cantona

Before the iconic Manchester United star became an icon for his audacious goals, high collar and kung fu kicks, Eric Cantona completed military service for France.

As King Eric's career was getting started, he had to serve two years in the French Army – delaying his professional career.

It did not stop him though, with Cantona playing in the French national team just two years after he finished his short military career.

Sir Bobby Charlton

Sir Bobby Charlton, Manchester United legend, 1966 World Cup winner and England's all-time second-highest goalscorer, served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Shrewsbury due to mandatory military service.

He served in the Army in the same year he made his debut for Manchester United – going on to play for his club 750 times.

He was also England's record goalscorer – until he was overtaken by Wayne Rooney in 2015.

Image ID GC57Y9 Sir Bobby Charlton talks to members of The Royal Regiment Second Fusiliers 06112009 CREDIT PA, Alamy EXP 20112023.jpg
Sir Bobby Charlton talking to members of The Royal Regiment Second Fusiliers in 2009 (Picture: PA/ Alamy).

Duncan Edwards

Duncan Edwards, another Manchester United legend, joined Sir Bobby Charlton and served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps at the same time as his teammate.

Tragically, he died when he was just 21 after the plane carrying Manchester United players crashed in thick snow in Munich – on the way back from a football match in Belgrade in February 1958.

A total of 23 people lost their lives, including eight players – who were known as the Busby Babes due to their footballing success under manager Matt Busby.

Ferenc Puskás

Regarded as the greatest Hungarian player ever, Ferenc Puskás had a glittering career that now sees FIFA's award for the best goal scored globally each year named after him.

While playing for Budapest Honved, each player was given a military rank.

Ferenc Puskás earned the title of major without ever serving in a war and was later referred to as the 'Galloping Major' – as well as getting a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Paolo Maldini

Arguably one of the best defenders of all time, Paolo Maldini served in the military in Italy.

Military service was mandatory in Italy until 2004 and, as he was coming up through the footballing ranks, he served some time in the Italian army's ranks.

He went on to make more than 900 appearances for AC Milan, winning numerous titles and Champions League trophies.

Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro lifts the World Cup trophy after Italy win the FIFA 2006 World Cup Final
Fabio Cannavaro, who captained Italy to a World Cup win in 2006, served in the Italian military as part of mandatory service (Picture: Alamy).

Fabio Cannavaro

Another infamous Italian defender, Fabio Cannavaro also served in the Italian military due to mandatory service.

He had a glittering football career, captaining Italy to a World Cup win in 2004 as well as winning multiple league titles in Spain with Real Madrid.

But Fabio Cannavaro also enjoyed footballing success in the military, winning the World Military Cup while serving his country from 1995-1996.

Alongside him in the World Military Cup-winning team was also Italy and Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero.

Gary Holt

Maybe less of a name than the rest of the players on this list, Gary Holt had a long career at Norwich City as well as playing for Scotland ten times.

However, before he became a mainstay in the Canaries midfield, Holt served in the British Army with the Army Catering Corps.

He also played for the British Army's football team before eventually joining the Celtic youth team.

Teemu Tainio

You may remember Teemu Tainio for his time in the Premier League, playing for Tottenham, Sunderland and Birmingham City.

What you may not know, however, is how the then-16-year-old Tainio had to turn down a chance to sign for Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United after his native Finland called him up for National Service.

After completing his military duty, Tainio signed for Auxerre in France before finally making it to the Premier League.