Soccer is without a doubt the most successful sport in the world. Since its inception, it has been able to attract billions of fans and players from all over the world.
Reducing the success of soccer to one particular reason is hard. However, we can confidently say that the success of the game is partly because it embraces everyone, regardless of your height or other physical attributes.
Also, there are so many variants, such that, regardless of the part of the world you reside in, you will easily find a suitable variant for you. This is in contrast to games like ice hockey and skiing which can only be held in cold regions of the world.
At the moment, there is no study that suggests that the average height of any team can affect their performance. So, why are people concerned about the height of soccer players?
Are there any benefits to being short or tall in soccer? Are soccer players really short? Keep reading to find out what we think about soccer players’ height as well as the pros and cons of being on the extremes of the height spectrum in soccer.
Are soccer players short?
The height that may be considered tall in one country may be called short of average in another country. Some countries grow taller than others—and we can’t explain why. For example, the average height of an American male is 1.79 meters while that of Europeans is 1.8 meters.
Asians are among the shortest with an average height of around 1.7 meters. Regardless of the difference in height, soccer is enjoyed across the different continents.
Apart from national teams, virtually all top leagues across the globe feature players from other countries (and continents). Therefore, you will mostly find a heterogeneous mix of the tall, the not-so-tall, and the short.
A study of the 2018 World Cup showed that the average height of soccer players at the tournament was 1.82 meters. That is way taller than the height of the average American male. Here is a table of the height of the tallest and shortest players at the FIFA 2018 World Cup.
It is easy to see that the shortest goalie is still far taller than the shortest outfield players. We have had soccer players as short as 1.69 meters like Lionel Messi, those that are close to average at 1.75 meters like Neymar, and the very tall ones at 2.01 meters like Peter Crouch.
So, inasmuch as there are short and tall players in soccer, judging by the average height of all soccer players, we cannot say that soccer players are short. Most soccer players are well over 1.7 meters. Here is a height chart that will help you make a better assessment of the height of soccer players.
|Extremely short||1.52 – 1.58||1.40 – 1.46|
|Average||1.76 – 1.83||1.58 – 1.65|
|Extremely tall||1.95 – 2.01||1.79 – 1.83|
So, where do people get the idea that soccer players are short? We believe the following factors affect people’s perception of soccer players’ height.
The angle of the camera
One of the largest and most frequently used soccer stadiums in the world is the Camp Nou with a seating capacity of more than 99,300. This figure may seem huge but it is nothing compared to the 3.5 billion soccer fans in the world.
With more than 270 million fans, Barcelona has the largest fan base in the world. So, there is no way all the Barcelona fans will fit into Camp Nou to watch their favorite team play.
That means the majority of the fans watch soccer matches on the television. Considering the wide dimension of soccer fields, the cameras usually cover the game from the top corners of the stadium so that they can capture all the events at once.
The camera pans to the side during major breaks like throw-ins and corner kicks. This top viewing angle often makes soccer players appear short.
Your position in the stadium
Depending on the side of the stadium you are watching soccer games from, you may have a similar experience to those watching on the television.
Those that are viewing the games from the seats that are farther from the pitch will see the game almost from the top. From this angle, the soccer players will appear shorter than they are.
Comparing soccer players to basketball players
Another important reason that brings about the question, “are soccer players short” is that a lot of fans tend to compare soccer players to basketball players. However, these two sports are the direct opposite of each other.
In soccer, the players use their legs and cannot use their hands. In basketball, it is the other way around. Also, in soccer, the goalpost is on the ground while the basket is up in basketball.
Therefore, height favors basketball players because it makes it easier for them to reach the basket. In soccer, being too tall can even make it harder for you to score.
So, while the average height of soccer players is 1.82 meters, that of basketball is 2.01 meters. Therefore, when you place an average basketball player close to an average soccer player you will think the latter is short.
Nevertheless, an average male soccer player is still much taller than an average man in general.
Comparing outfield players and goalies
When soccer players emerge from the dressing room, they usually stand shoulder-to-shoulder to sing the anthem of their country, club, or that of the competition. It is at this point that a lot of fans and enthusiasts make the height comparison.
In most teams, the goalkeeper is usually the tallest in the team. Therefore, when they stand side-by-side with the rest of the team, the outfield players will seem like they are short.
Most of the short goalkeepers in recent times are at least up to 1.7 meters in height—and that is still taller than Messi. In soccer, goalies are usually taller because of their role.
They need to be tall enough to be able to tip the ball above the crossbar or stretch to the sides even when they are not centrally positioned.
While being tall is useful for a goalkeeper, it may not be so useful for outfield players. That takes us to the next question, is it better to be short or tall for soccer?
Is it better to be short or tall for soccer?
Clearly, being tall or short can impact your game. Either of them can have its pros and cons depending on your position in the team.
Some coaches will give priority to tall or short players depending on the style of their play. For example, coaches that give priority to counterattack style of play will prioritize short players while a coach that depends on corners and spot-kicks where the ball will be floated into the 18-yard box will prefer taller players.
To make it easier for you to appreciate the place of height in soccer, we will like to branch out this subheading to focus on the two different attributes separately rather than discussing them simultaneously.
Is it better to be tall for soccer?
Being tall has its advantages in soccer but will likely limit you to certain positions. With a towering height of over 1.89 meters (using the average height of goalkeepers at the 2018 World Cup), you will likely perform better as a goalkeeper, a defender, or in the forward if your team relies on the aerial style of play.
The taller the goalkeeper, the larger area of the goalpost they will cover making it harder for players to score. However, contrary to popular opinion, being too tall may likely affect your performance as a goalkeeper.
We did an interesting analysis of the goalkeepers that conceded the most goals in the Premier League’s 2021/22 season and what we found will shock you. The top five first-choice goalkeepers (Illan Meslier, Kasper Schmeichel, Jordan Pickford, Tim Krul, and David de Gea) that conceded the most goals as of the end of February 2022 had an average height of 1.90 meters.
On the other hand, the five first-choice goalkeepers (David Raya, Karl Darlow, Edouard Mendy, Ederson, and Aaron Ramsdale) that conceded the least goals in the same period had an average height of 1.89 meters. Obviously, the taller you are, the harder it will be for you to get down quickly.
Defenders can also benefit from being tall because it makes it easier for them to head corner kicks away before their opponent can reach them. Tall defenders also use their height advantage to score when their team gets a corner kick.
At a towering height of 1.93 meters, Virgil van Dijk is one of the defenders in soccer that has learned how to utilize his height to score goals whenever Liverpool gets a corner kick.
Most of his goals have come through headings. Also, he uses his height and physical build to outmuscle attackers.
Taller players tend to have longer legs which allows them to stretch and reach crosses easier than shorter players. However, taller players usually have lesser speed compared to shorter players.
Is it better to be short for soccer?
Shorter players usually have better stamina, speed, and balance which makes it harder for defenders to bring them down when they mount an offensive. It is not surprising that the average height of the forwards and midfielders at the 2018 World Cup is 1.83 meters and 1.81 meters respectively.
This is shorter than the average height of defenders (1.84 meters) and goalkeepers (1.89 meters) in the same tournament. In soccer, the midfield, forward, and wings require fast players—which makes shorter players valuable in these positions.
Some of the best known dribblers in the history of soccer have been on the shorter side of the height spectrum. Diego Maradona was 1.65 meters while Lionel Messi comes in a bit taller at 1.69 meters.
In fact, throughout the history of the game, exceptional male soccer players in terms of speed and dribbling skill rarely exceed 1.79 meters in height—and this is shorter than the average height of men.
However, having a shorter height will put you at a disadvantage if you want to play as a goalkeeper or a defender.
Teams with the tiki-taka playing style will benefit more from having shorter players who can move quickly in the midfield and attack. However, teams with the aerial style of play will find it more difficult to score goals if they have shorter players occupying these positions.
Regardless of whether a soccer player is tall or short, they usually have one thing in common, they are usually viewed as the fittest in the world.
While height is important in soccer, the way you develop yourself will determine how exceptional you will turn out.
To set the records straight, soccer players are not short. When talking about height in soccer, it is always important to make the comparison in relation to the position the soccer player occupies on the pitch.
You will find shorter soccer players in the midfield, wing, and forward positions while taller players will mostly man the defense and goalpost.
However, the majority of soccer players will fall under the average height range (1.76 – 1.83 meters). If you think soccer players are short, it may just be an optical illusion arising from the way you watch the game.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!