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Football, science and history, on the road to Russia 2018

Surrounded by pictures of the sporting feats of football players —and national heroes— Alcides Ghiggia, Juan Alberto Sciaffino and Obdulio Valera, and many Uruguayan national squad’s victories throughout history, on Tuesday, May 22, the first PASTEURizarte 2018 was held in the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo. This time the invitation was to talk about the link between football and science.

The motto was to display some of the options that different scientific disciplines can offer athletes today to improve their physical performance. With this purpose, researchers Carlos Escande, Lucia Spangenberg and Gregorio Iraola, of the Institut Pasteur of Montevideo, joined the event.

The activity also hosted a special guest, the former Uruguayan soccer player Andrés Scotti, who talked about his experience as an elite athlete and his time as a player at a Russian soccer team. But he was also invited as director of the new Centro Deportivo Integral Enfoque, a new club opened in a nearby neighbourhood that aims to empower our local society to take care of their health in an active way.

As the tradition goes, every PASTEURizarte event includes an artistic exhibition, which in this case consisted of photographs that are part of an itinerant exhibition belonging to the Football Museum. Opened on December 15, 1975, the Football Museum has become one of the most visited points of interest for tourists in Montevideo.

This first 2018 edition of Pasteurizarte was an opportunity not only to talk about some cutting-edge research but also to help debunk some tools that are being offered to improve athletic performance but lack of verifiable scientific support.

Dr. Carlos Escande, head of the Pathology of Metabolism and Aging Laboratory at IP Montevideo, introduced the audience to the basic concepts linked to the importance of sport practice for well-being and how physical activity is key for healthy aging.

Escande also cited recent researches on a molecule called NAD+ that had been analysed decades ago and then forgotten, but at the beginning of this century was picked up for new studies that found links with healthy aging.

Dr. Lucia Spangenberg, from the Bioinformatics Unit at IP Montevideo, spoke about genetics, to tell what is currently known about the genes linked to physical performance and how genomics can really help today’s elite athletes.

Dr. Gregorio Iraola, also from the Bioinformatics Unit, spoke about how gut bacteria can have an impact on the footballer’s performance. In this sense, he referred to the importance of knowing the gut microbiota —which is unique to each person— to adapt the diet to these characteristics. It has been detected that there are certain bacteria that are present and / or in greater abundance in athletes of elite and have implications in their physical performance.

Iraola also spoke about novel tools such as transplantation and fecal doping, which are not yet an extended reality but that have several studies under development.

At the end of the scientific talks, Andrés Scotti shared some anecdotes that reflected the evolution of healthy practices for soccer players and the later awareness of the great importance that a good nutrition has in their professional activity.

He also spoke about his new club that, just a month after opening, has incorporated around 2,400 members, of which 800 are elderly, many of whom had never done physical activity.

To close the event, Dr. Mario Romano, director of the Football Museum, shared anecdotes about the evolution of the practice of football in Uruguay, the origin of the light blue jersey that the Uruguayan team currently uses, and the link between the history of soccer with Uruguayan national history.

The photo exhibition will remain at the IP Montevideo for a couple of week.