The World Cup of Hair
Usually, as the World Cup approaches then the anticipation conjures up thoughts of open air street parties, big outdoor screens, BBQ’s in the beer garden of your local and so forth. However, as I write this and the torrential rain lashes into my window, I can’t help but think that this time it’s going to be a bit different.
Never before have we had a Wintertime World Cup and we’re all wondering what that will look like. There are so many questions - Will the players be able to cope with the dramatic change in temperature? What will the time difference mean for kick off times? Will the cold lagers be replaced by egg nog or mulled wines?
All of these questions will be answered shortly but, as we reminisce over tournaments of old, there is one teaser that we can look into prior to a ball being kicked. That is, of course, who would win the all-time World Cup of hair?
There have been so many iconic hairstyles over the years, from the sublime to the ridiculous. So that this article doesn’t go on forever, we’ve fast forwarded through the group stages and the round of sixteen straight through to the business end of the tournament; the quarter finals.
This is the part where all of the people who usually couldn’t give a monkeys about the beautiful game arise from the ashes in a snug England shirt that lives in the far dark corners of their wardrobes, only to be awoken and de-mothed every four years.
As you will see, there are some of the usual suspects here (Brazil, Italy) as well as a couple of curve balls not usually seen at this latter stage of the competition.
Carlos Velderrama - Colombia (World Cup 1990, 1994 & 1998)
C’mon, where else would we start but with “El Pibe” (The Kid) and his legendary blonde afro?
Widely regarded as Colombia’s greatest footballer, Velderrama amassed 111 international caps, captaining his country at three World Cups.
Very few people would’ve been able to outshine the barnet of his teammate René Higuita; which looked not entirely different to Lionel Richie’s; but old Carlos managed it with aplomb.
David Luiz is probably the nearest modern day equivalent, but in truth he’s barely fit to lace the big man’s boots in follicular terms.
David Beckham - England (World Cup 1998 & 2002)
How on earth could we do a football-based hair article without mentioning Golden Balls? 115 caps and “that goal” against Greece has given the man national treasure status. And he’s had more than his fair share of hair moments too.
We’ll ignore the 2006 tournament as unusually Becks was sporting a fairly mundane trim by his own more exuberant standards, but his two other World Cup thatches were iconic.
1998 saw him rock the wet look, swishy highlighted curtains that had sealed him a lucrative sponsorship deal with greasy fave Brylcreem. He went from heart throb hero to pantomime villain in the space of a week after booting Diego Simeone and getting a red card as England exited the tournament to Argentina. Many thought it couldn’t get any worse for England’s public enemy number one, until sarong-gate.
In 2002 Beckham headed to Korea and Japan with a very different ‘do. Whilst England were largely underwhelming, his peroxide blonde faux hawk raised more eyebrows than his team’s tepid football.
Ronaldo - Brazil (World Cup 2002)
The great Brazilian is commonly named as one of the finest number 9’s of all time. During his glittering career he bagged an astonishing fifteen World Cup goals, winning the tournament twice.
In the lead up to the 2002 tournament there were reports that Ronaldo was injured and overweight. Some journalists went as far as to say that he shouldn’t have been included in the squad. Ronaldo’s response to this was to sport a ludicrous new hairstyle to divert from these headlines.
The press were proved spectacularly wrong as Ronaldo scored eight goals (including a brace in the final) and won the Golden Boot as his team were victorious. Turns out that the absurd zero all over but a grade four in an arc at the fringe wasn’t necessary after all then.
Andrea Pirlo - Italy (World Cup 2014)
This was a tough one. A part of me really wanted Italy’s representative in this farcical tournament to be Roberto Baggio’s beaded ponytail, but the barber in me couldn’t not include the luscious locks of eternal smooth operator Mr Pirlo.
Of the elegant midfielder’s three World Cup appearances, from a football perspective, 2006 was undoubtedly the highlight. Italy won and he was instrumental and named in the team of the tournament. However, it was his World Cup swan song where his locks hit their peak.
Sure, the hair was always solid with Andrea - mid-length, wavy and dark - but only when teamed with a rugged beard did it reach legendary status. Bravissimo!
Taribo West - Nigeria (World Cup1998)
Taribo West is renowned primarily for two things. Firstly, for those as geeky as me, his hugely overrated ability on stat heavy management simulation game Championship Manager. Secondly, his frankly dreadful hair.
At the 1998 World Cup in France West took his trademark bunched plaits and turned them bright green in a sign of patriotism, and possibly early onset madness.
Other bizarre stories about Taribo include him hiring a witch doctor to perform voodoo on opposition teams and becoming a Christian pastor following his retirement from football. Interesting chap.
Claudio Caniggia - Argentina (World Cup 1990)
Journeyman forward Caniggia graced the Serie A with Roma, played in Portugal for Benfica and his homeland for Boca Juniors and River Plate. Late in his career he also made a surprise three year cameo in Scotland for Dundee and Rangers.
He was a runner up at Italia ’90 with Argentina, where he scored two goals en route to the final but was suspended for the headliner against West Germany.
For the tournament he sported sun kissed, shoulder length hair which looked like a combination of Patrick Swayze from Point Break and Kurt Cobain. Often it required an alice band to hold it off his face so he could see where the goal was.
Samuel Eto’o - Cameroon (World Cup 2014)
Prolific striker Eto’o is Cameroon’s most famous player having won African Footballer of the Year a record four times. He is now President of the Cameroonian Football Federation.
He will be remembered largely for his electric form for Barcelona and Inter Milan through the early noughties.
One aspect of his decorated career which he may wish to regret, however, is his World Cup 2014 haircut. Inexplicably, he decided to have a hard part razored in through the centre of his neat ‘do which gave him a slight resemblance to that childhood favourite, the butterfly cake.
Romanian Team - World Cup 1998
The final entry surprisingly goes to an entire squad rather than an individual.
In an attempt to enhance team unity, team Romania made a communal decision to bleach their hair blonde en mass (except their poor ‘keeper, who was bald as can be).
In some ways it worked as they topped a tough group, beating England in the process before being knocked out by a strong Croatia side. However, the clash with their mustard yellow strip was not so easy on the eye.
For my money, below is how the theoretical tournament would go, but of course you may have your own opinion. Now, I’d best get that mulled wine on in time for kick off.