LONDON (Reuters) - Anxious England fans suffering as they watch Tuesday’s last 16 World Cup clash with Colombia are being offered a calming canine alternative fixture to help lower heart rates. Puppy football.
The online stream of a match between a litter of English bulldogs and Maltese Bichon will kick off just as millions of fans tune in to see if England under captain Harry Kane can reach their first World Cup quarter-final in 12 years.
With plenty of defeats and penalty shootout losses since England’s only World Cup triumph in 1966, the fans know more than most about the heartache of following your team.
“It is really important that people take stock of the effect that spectator sports can have on their body,” said British doctor Jeff Foster, who has teamed up with the organisers of the puppy match, pet food maker Freshpet, to warn about the health risks of watching sport.
“For most people, feeling the emotion and the hormonal and neurochemical response is exhilarating, but for those with certain existing medical problems, these changes can pose a real risk to their health.”
A study in the British Medical Journal found that blood pressure and heart rate levels significantly increase when watching a soccer match at home, with the likelihood of heart attacks also increasing when watching a closely-contested game.
Foster encouraged fans to breath, exercise and avoid caffeine while watching the match in Moscow.
He also suggested using visual distraction such as the puppy match which is tagged as ‘Kawaii’, a Japanese relaxation technique where people are encouraged to look at images of baby animals to tackle stress.
But even with all these tips, he feared for the hearts of England fans on Tuesday night. “As this is such a key moment for England footballers so I expect to see an increase in patients,” he added.
The puppy match will be streamed on Freshpet’s Facebook page.
Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by David Stamp and Andrew Heavens