Jermain Defoe has revealed that his girlfriend is helping him to become vegan in a bid to make England’s World Cup squad and remain young in mind and body.
Gareth Southgate left the door open for Defoe to make the plane for Russia after the 34-year-old scored on his England return in the World Cup qualifying victory over Lithuania.
Defoe will be 35 when the World Cup kicks off, but he is doing everything in his power to remain in the best condition possible.
He has never touched alcohol, will not eat chocolate and drinks daily spinach, kale and nettle smoothies, and he is now trying to cut meat, fish and dairy out of his diet.
“I’m trying to turn vegan, which is a funny one because when I go to my mum’s house she’s got every meat you can imagine out on the table,” said Defoe. “I’m just trying to tick every box, so I can continue playing.
“It’s my girlfriend’s idea, she said I have to do it and she puts on these documentaries about it. It’s always helpful when you have got someone around you to help you and drive you on.
“I eat a lot of fish, so it’s not easy but I’m trying and I feel good so I’ll continue to do it.”
As well as concentrating hard on his diet, Defoe also endures regular cryotherapy sessions which involve him exposing his body to temperatures as low as -220F.
“It’s not enjoyable, but I try to do it like I’m loving it. Everyone wants to play and there’s no better feeling than to feel fresh. So I just make sure I’m doing the cryotherapy, massage and eating the right things.
“I don’t find anything hard because I know the feeling I get scoring goals. It’s like when I get in that ice bath. I don’t want to do it, but I know at the weekend I’m going to get rewarded. It’s hard, but on the other side it’s easy.
“It’s just the way football has gone. The demands on the players are so high with the intensity of the games these days. But with the sports science, if you do things right and look after yourself you can keep going.
“The key thing for me is recovery and how you look after yourself after the games to give yourself the best opportunity to perform in the next game. I seem to have got that to a tee. There’s a lot of things I do away from training and playing that help me to perform on match day.”
Defoe first experienced World Cup heartbreak back in 2006, when he was left out of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad. He went to the 2010 tournament and scored against Slovenia, but was again omitted from the 2014 squad and also missed out on last year’s European Championships.
“All these things play at the back of my mind,” said Defoe. “I love playing football and I love playing for my country. I still think about it. It keeps the fire in your belly. I’ve never been one of those people who want something given to me on a plate. I always want to work hard for it.”
Not getting any explanation for his Euros omission from former manager Roy Hodgson, having scored 18 goals for Sunderland last season, was the hardest thing for Defoe to take.
“It was heartbreaking, because in my heart I felt I’d done enough to be involved (in the Euros),” said Defoe. “I’m not talking about going to the Euros and starting. Just to be with this bunch of players and have the opportunity to play.
“Even if it’s a five-minute phone call. Gareth (Southgate) phoned me and said ‘even if you’re not in the squad I will still phone you’. As players you appreciate that. You have a conversation with the manager and you understand. Maybe if I do this, I can get in the next squad. When he called me we had a nice conversation. When the squad for the Euros was announced, I just saw it on the telly.
“But never once did I think I was going to retire from international football. Because I’ve worked so hard and I still feel sharp. I always thought if I do get selected that I could still score goals at this level.
“My mum’s always said it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Years later I’m back in the squad at 34 and scoring goals for my country again. I’m just delighted.”