For the fashion-conscious footballer, donning an ungainly oxygen mask may not seem like the ideal way to spend an hour a day.
But unless they wish to risk the wrath of manager Fabio Capello, that’s exactly what England’s finest will be doing at their training camp in Austria this week.
In an effort to make sure his players are quick to acclimatise to the altitude in South Africa, Fabio Capello and his England staff have put in place several measures, including issuing the 30-man squad with silicon gel masks pumping out air with lower levels of oxygen – simulating the effect of high altitude.
England’s opening game with the USA will be played at Rustenburg – the players will also be based there – which lies 3,786ft above sea level, still over 1,000 feet higher than their specifically-chosen camp in Austria.
The thinner air makes it more difficult to breath and subsequently recover, while adidas recently did a study that showed that footballs will travel five per cent faster at altitude than at sea level, due to less friction on the ball.
It’s why Capello is taking no chances and preparing his side for all scenarios. After all, the venue for the 2010 world cup final, Soccer City in Johannesburg, is over 6,000ft above the sea.
But England aren’t the only ones taking high altitude into consideration. Ten other nations, including Spain and Holland, will spend some time in Austria, Japan are making a trip to a glacier village in Switzerland at 5,000ft and the French squad are bike riding in the Alps. Mexico, whose players are used to playing at over 7,000ft in Mexico City, should find South Africa’s climate a doddle.
Interestingly though, England’s first opponents are not subscribing to the same pre-tournament thinking, after consulting their Olympic Committee.
US coach Bob Bradley told the New York Times that “in order to build a good base of fitness, hard work is best accomplished without being at altitude. You need to be at levels where you can push it and recover properly.”