By Mike Hammer
We can’t quite put a finger on it (probably because it’s soccer and you’re not allowed to use your hands), but a growing trend seems to have sprouted on the soccer field ... like the hair on your face.
It’s clear that throughout the history of “the beautiful game,” global soccer stars have found their brush with greatness accompanied by the brush on their mugs. Not prone to hyperbole, we’re saying that their cleverly appointed facial hair was not only their signature, but the factor that sealed the deal to their worldwide success. (And we say that with confidence, because we’re pretty sure we don’t exactly know what “hyperbole” means.)
In the annals of soccer greatness, many majestic mustaches and beards have adorned the lips, chin and -- in the worst cases -- ears of the game’s biggest names. Join us as we examine the evidence that is as plain as the hair on the faces of these soccer giants. Meet the all-trim team of soccer’s hairy Hall of Fame.
Rudi Voller, Germany
This brush-beaked German played 90 times for the national team during the 1980s and 1990s, racking up an amazing 47 goals, which included eight biggies during the World Cup -- all of which were scored with his signature magnificent mustache. Germans everywhere modeled their above-the-lip hair after their national hero, whom they affectionately called “Tante Kathe” (Aunt Katie) due to his mustache’s faithful companion: his long, curly and graying hair. (Our Aunt Katie prefers to go for light ash blonde, but that’s just how it is here in the crazy USA!)
The term “genius” is thrown around quite a bit in sports. But that word truly seems well suited for the man who was a genius at soccer … and style. (Hey, if you can’t give that moniker to a guy named Socrates, who sports a brilliant beard, who can you give it to?) His sweetly styled brush matched his panache on the pitch as he captained and starred in 60 games as a midfielder with spectacular soccer sensibilities on some of the greatest Brazilian teams of the 1970s and 1980s.
Roger Milla, Cameroon
This African legend is best remembered for roaring like a graybeard when he scored four goals to take his country to the quarterfinals at the ripe old age of 38. But he’s also fondly remembered for showing up for the 1982 tourney with a bodacious beard that became the fledgling team leader’s signature during the African nation’s heroic stand that saw them go unbeaten in the first round. With Milla’s leadership, Cameroon forced draws against established powerhouses, including the eventual winner Italy, before bowing out bloodied (and of course, bearded) but definitely unbowed.
Djibril Cisse, France
This Ivory Coast-born, Iberian bad boy has sculpted his scrub so many different ways we can’t figure out his strategy for the future. But for today, his game face is one of the most famous on the planet. One of his country’s biggest scorers, he still is better known for the singular style of his brush than for his play. Having said that, he was one of the stars of the troubled and disappointing French team at this year’s World Cup. But no one can say his beard didn’t show up ready to go for each and every game.
Alexi Lalas, USA
Landon Donovan’s getting all the action as the glamour guy of American soccer these days, but when our USA boys broke out on the big stage in 1990, the face of the sport in our country was Alexi Lalas. And that face was prominently plumed with one of the coolest goatees this side of Iron Man. Looking like a blend of Yosemite Sam and that dude from the Spin Doctors, Lalas had a style that matched his flamboyant play as he introduced the game to grunge and American soccer to the elite level in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup and in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Mike Hammer has covered sports for such macho titles as Maxim, Stuff and Ladies' Home Journal.
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