Vinicius Junior is the latest player to start rubbing Vicks VapoRub on his shirt

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Vinicius Junior

Back in the days, it wasn’t uncommon to see football players with some vile glop lubed across on their shirts.

Initially, the prevalent misbelief regarding the same was that these were actually mucus stains. But now knowing better, it’s safe to conclude otherwise.

The application of Vicks VapoRub on shirts pregame has been happening for decades, and the latest entrant of this little tradition is Brazilian star Vinícius Júnior.

Madrid fans stood witness to this peculiar pre-match ritual when the 21-year-old forward was caught on tape rubbing a smidge of the ointment on his kit, followed by him rubbing his hands and inhaling the odour in silent approval.

The origins

Although the origin of this practice remains shrouded in mystery, Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira was certainly the one who brought it to the fore.

Vieira was almost invariably never seen without vapour rub plastered all over the middle of his shirt, a trend which has since found takers in the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Yaya Toure and now Vinicius.

The reason

Conjectures remain fresh as ever with regard to the purpose behind this tradition, as conclusive answers continue to evade most folks.

Perhaps the best-regarded answer is that the application of Vicks is for nasal decongestants to help with breathing problems, especially if players are suffering from cold and the like.

The topical ointment doesn’t relieve nasal congestion per se, but the powerful odour “tricks” the mind into believing that one is breathing through an unblocked nose, aiding and improving respiration.

The menthol odour apparently opens up the chest so that players can take a full breath in.

Vinicius Jr’s latest fiddle with the rub is perhaps a reminder that this football fad is here to stay, inspiring the younger lot to imitate and keep the trend alive and going.

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