If a soccer player, coach, or fan was to type into a computer the ideal physical characteristics of a top footballer, I bet most people would choose similar attributes; 5'9 or taller, low body fat percentage, durable bone structure, muscular and explosive legs, and an efficient set of heart and lungs.
Interestingly, as much as this website preaches the importance of achieving a leaner and stronger physique and more athleticism, the nature of soccer is such that with a certain skill set, attitude, and intelligence (or vision for the game), there is no denying that certain players have found great success despite their limitations. One needs not look far to see that some of the best the game has ever seen have come in all different shapes, sizes, and with various physical strengths and weaknesses.
Have a look at some of the best soccer players of all time, and perhaps you will reconsider what is possible:
1. The Handicaps
Arguably the best dribbler of all time had a handicap, so let us use him as an example. Check out Garrincha's legs:
"When it comes to unlikely athletes, it’s hard to think of anyone who defied logic more than Garrincha. Born with a crooked spine, warped knees and a left leg a couple of inches shorter than his right, the young Garrincha didn’t seem destined for soccer stardom. But despite these physical obstacles, Garrincha built a reputation as one of the most skilled players in Pau Grande, the factory town where he grew up. Professional clubs took notice, but none of them were willing to gamble on the kid with the bent legs."
Eventually Garrincha got a trial at Botafogo and went on the become a dribbling wizard who would star for Brazil alongside Pele. He is now considered a legend in the game, but also a legend of the party and eventually ruined himself with alcohol dying from liver disease.
2. The Midgets
Just below is a list of soccer players who are like me; tiny. I stand at 5'5 and I was surprised to see several professional players who are just above 5'0 tall. I would TOWER OVER THEM. Ok maybe not tower, but you know what I mean.
Being short has its disadvantages, but it has its advantages as well. Messi, Maradona, Zola, Pele, Romario- some of the best of all time all 5'7 and shorter and possessed incredible agility, quickness, and balance.
3. The Giraffes
Just like being small has its advantages and disadvantages, so does being tall. While being tall helps with winning headers, covering distance to make tackles, and powerful shots with longer levers, being really tall is also a disadvantage when it comes to being shifty in tight spaces. This is why you don't often see tall point guards in the NBA. Point guards need to cover ground on the court quickly to open up the opposing team's defense. But, below is a little pick me up, though not like you needed one. Get it? Bad jokes are the best.
4. The Fatties
Being fat offers no advantages in a movement dominated sport like soccer. In sumo wrestling or American football where the object is move your opponent's mass a certain distance and direction, being heavier does have advantages. If you are overweight, I suggest you look into nutrition and weight training methods as a way to improve your metabolism. However, there is still more than a fat chance you can still play at a high level if you happen to possess wizard-like skill and vision. Or if your name happens to Ronaldo.
5. The slow pokes
Pirlo and Valderamma are examples of players who didn't have pace but made up for it with incredible vision and passing. Beckham, who could run up and down the pitch with the best of them lacked sprinting speed had an incredible work rate in addition to his great passing and crossing. The point is, while yes speed kills, not having it won't kill your chances of playing at the highest level.
6. The gimps
By "gimp" I mean injury prone. Being injured kills entire seasons, ruins chances of getting recruited, and halts progress. In other words, it sucks. However, it does breed mental toughness and tests love for the game. And, some of the best players in the world have suffered with injuries-a-plenty. Think Robben, Rooney, and even Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi of late (though thankfully not often).