World Cup 2002 - the Hirsute Perspective Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

World Cup 2002 - the Hirsute Perspective

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Historically, football and haute coiffure have gone hand-in-hand, almost symbiotically. In 1966, the players all looked like bank clerks, excepting of course the trichologically-challenged Bobby Charlton, who, with his self-stated 'in retrospect it was very silly' comb-over, looked like the branch manager. By 1974 things were getting a little longer, most notably the hair on offer under those Total Footballing Dutch-caps. Then, Argentina 1978 saw a veritable hair explosion, with Mario Kempes, Luque and Passarella just three among many making follicular fashion statements. However, surely no player's hairdo has had a greater impact in the hair history of the game than bejewelled Colombian Carlos Valderama, whose 'Hair-Bear-Bunch'-inspired thick blond mushroom looked more like a hat than a hairdo.

At World Cup 2002, the trend continued unabated with Swede Freddy Ljungberg, German Christian Ziege and Englishman David Beckham all sporting variations on a mohican theme, the Teutonic effort was predictably the neatest and most efficient of the three. Notably though, as the tournament progressed it appeared that those players who appear to be more worried about their hair than the ball were destined for disaster. For starters, seeming to confirm former Argentine manager Daniel Passarella's admonition that players should cut their hair short so they don't play with it during games, Argentina under-achieved beyond anyone's wildest fantasies at World Cup 2002 with quite possibly the hairiest team in the tournament. It was the long-haired Mauricio Pochettino who brought down Michael Owen resulting in England's marvellous 1-0 victory over Argentina, while his hirsuteness, Gabriel Batistuta was ineffective against England's smart crew-cut back-four. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Group F, Taribo West's Prodigy-inspired green tufts scuppered a last-gasp life-saving opportunity for a headed Nigerian equaliser against the Swedes, not entirely unreminiscent of dreadlocked Ruud Gullit's spongey attempts to head the ball during his decline at Chelsea.

Next, scruffy-locked Portuguese Joao Pinto stepped into the ring to put one on referee Sanchez effectively closing Portugal's chapter at WC2002. And the Italians, all of whom (free-scoring, short-back-and-sided Vieri excepted) seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time attending to their respective barnets, only confirmed their status as nothing more than tight-shirted board short-wearing fashion-victims. Indeed it was the appropriately-named Totti, rarely in camera-shot not pulling his hair back off his face, who, when red-carded, effectively ensured that the shoulderlength ladyboy XI of Korea would progress to the Quarter Finals.

Thus, it was worrying for England fans that prior to the Brazil quarter-final David Beckham allegedly had his hairdresser flown out to the far-east to look after his coiffure. Of primary concern, then, was the head-to-head comparison between England and Brazil. In the England camp, Beckham's mohawk was accompanied by goalie David Seaman's gypsy ponytail and Martin Keown sporting a smart but style-challenged Paul Kruger beard. Thankfully (recalling midfield crooners Waddle and Hoddle), no mullets abounded. Disturbingly meanwhile, Brazilians Rivaldo, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos were just three among many other samba-boys who remained oh-so-efficiently all shaven and shorn, although Ronaldo's V-shaped wedge of 'Harry Potter meets Jonah Lomu' hair-pie pitched against Michael Owen's pageboy should have given the South Americans cause for concern.

On that evidence alone, Brazil should have won it by a cowlick. As it turned out, David Seaman's romany adventure was no match for Ronaldinho's shaggy 'David Essex'. The rest, as they say, is history.

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