The Tuesday 10: Footballing beards

No, not in the sense of Rock Hudson's wife: Dan Ross investigates the finest face-fuzz flaunted by footballers

David Beckham
With England comfortably qualified, there was only one talking point during the win over Belarus: the facial furniture of the half-hour 'Man of the Match' Becks – England’s very own Barack Obama.

Often accused of infecting the game with the 'metrosexuality' phenomenon, DB7/23/32* (*delete as appropriate) seems to aboard the beardwagon of another new trend, copying the topiary of Brad Pitt and most of Take That in an attempt to further blur the boundaries between fashion and football.


Captain Blackbeard?

Surprisingly dark and extremely angular, Goldenballs' beard was striking against the all-white kit he barely had time to dirty and undoubtedly swung the MoM award his way.

His Hollywood hair and Hollywood passes made him seem a cut above the rest (pun definitely intended) of the park footballers on display in a particularly uninspiring game.

It looks to be a brilliant tactic – Becks fooled Steve Bruce easily, and though Mr Capello seemed less convinced, if 'Blackbeard' can make the same impact in Milan, Becks could even become captain of his nation again in South Africa.

The question now is: will John Terry start sprouting in retaliation?

Alexi Lalas
Perhaps the reason that many in England ridicule the US version of ‘Soccer’ is the extraordinarily-haired Lalas.

The defender amassed an impressive 96 caps for the US, became the first American to play in the Italian Serie A, was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2006, was president and general manager of LA Galaxy, and can now be found as a pundit on ESPN and ABC Sports.

But no matter what the centre-back achieved in his career, he will always be remembered for his massive ginger goatee.


Woah, dude...

His exceptionally wiry, heavy-metal style bright copper beard was made all the more prominent by matching his untidy, shoulder-length hair (the cutting of which was often cause for public protest), and clashed fantastically with the gaudy US kit of the time.

Bold, bright and in-your-face, the centre-back was a walking caricature of the American stereotype. Think Yosemite Sam in cleats.

The neat, cropped office-smart look of Lalas today is a million miles from the unkempt fire-red mess he sported at the birth of the MLS.

Perhaps his crumb-catcher embodies the maturation of the sport in the US.

Robert Pires
Pires was handed a difficult task when Arsene Wenger signed him in 2000.

Part of the all-conquering French squad of that year’s Euro Championships and World Cup ’98, Pires’ pedigree brought pressure, and he was charged with the task of replacing jet-heeled winger Marc Overmars.

He coped comfortably; combining a winger’s width with the vision of a No.10 and the finishing of a striker made him a deadly opponent.

Pires had an almost one-in-three goalscoring record at the Gunners and clearly revelled in playing with the French contingent that dominated Highbury.


Relax, ladies, he's French

He could soon do whatever he wanted, including sporting a jet-black musketeer mini-beard.

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to The Masked Vigilante from V For Vendetta, 'The Pires' has found its way into modern slang, meaning a runway strip on a man’s face or, rather more crudely, a lady’s modesty…

The look was taken to the extreme in recent years by ex-Chelsea striker Gavin Peacock who, aside from failing to centrally align 'the Pires', combined it with a shaven head for the authentic 'stick-on' effect.

Rafa Benitez
The winds of change blew across Anfield in the summer of 2007.

American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks took over the club, Spanish international striker Fernando Torres arrived from Atletico Madrid, and manager Rafael Benitez woke up one morning and decided not to shave.

More specifically, he decided not to shave in certain areas, leaving him with a dodgy goatee to go with his balding pate – the classic timeshare salesman look.


Question marks remain over zonal policy

Rafa may have been worried that his rotation policy had left him looking a little too much like Gerard Houllier, or that Liverpool’s bid to become the UK’s culture capital needed something more than Harry Enfield re-runs.

Whatever his reasoning, the tabloids had a field day with his surprise chin-lichen.

And the fans had something new to chant: "It's neat, it's weird, it's Rafa's goatee beard!"

Ian Rush
Talking of Harry Enfield, all that perm-and-'tache malarkey had foundation, you know.

Back in the day, the lady tickler was very much a statement of masculinity; by that definition, no club was more masculine than early-'80s Liverpool.

Young Scousers would stare up at posters of their idols praying that the morning would bring a growth spurt – not in height, but in their pubescent sprouting: a surge of testosterone that would allow them to emulate their heroes.


Sharp shooter, marvellous muzzy

Ian Rush was one such hero.

During his time as a Liverpool player Rush won every trophy in England (including the First Division five times), broke all goal-scoring records in the FA Cup, matched Geoff Hurst’s record in the League Cup, one European Cup, a Golden Boot and PFA Young Player and Player of the Year Awards, keeping his Midas mustache for the entirety of his career.

However, tragedy befell the footballing world in 2003 when Rush, then 42, decided that the Flemish fuzz was a fashion faux-pas and shaved it off.

And the Welsh legend wasn't the only one, as most of the Liverpool Magnum-wannabes went on to shave their ‘taches in old age: Souness, Lawrenson, Kennedy, Aldridge, McDermott, Heighway, Smith.

And Liverpool will never win another league title until they all grow them back, according to a legend that we've just made up.

Trifon Ivanov
Some iconic images of pognophiles (beard-lovers) inspire a gentleman to careful grooming. Others are enough to make us flirt with laser hair removal.

Trifon Ivanov, part of the Bulgaria side that came to our shores for Euro 96, is one such person.

While Ivanov quickly achieved cult status among English fans for his combination of face-carpet and mullet, his appearance is as far from the clean-cut Hollywood beard of Becks as you can get.

A scary, ragged beard fits well with his cold, emotionless eyes and makes Ivanov look not so much serial lover as serial killer.


"I will kill you."

A myth circulated that when Ivanov shaves he has a full beard four hours later. This is, apparently, unfounded – purely a rumour spread by a team-mate.

Whoever it was, they really should be nicer to a man that owns an ex-Bulgarian army tank and looks like he was raised in a forest by wolves (the animals, not the club).

Brian Kilcline
'Killer' Kilcline, who was Kevin Keegan's first signing as a manager at Newcastle in 1992, was an old-fashioned caveman of a centre-back, both by trade and appearance.

Looking like a bloke that should have a can of Special Brew tucked into the waistband of his ridiculously short shorts, Kilcline combined permanently angry eyebrows and a scraggy mane with a wonderful walrus-thick 'tache.

Kilcline may have deliberately tried to look ridiculous, just to dare attackers to laugh at him.


"Thanks, I like this look too"

He also receives a special mention for his facial hair evolution.

To the single bushy cookie duster, Killer added some large sideburns and an impressively twisted ‘tuning fork’ goatee beard.

The former captain of Coventry City can now be seen giving his ex-peers horrific flashbacks in the indoor 5-a-side ‘Masters’ tournaments.

Gennaro Gattuso
'Rino' is living proof that you don’t have to be a metrosexual mahogany-skinned Adonis to play for one of Europe’s chief clubs.

In fact, what Gattuso’s beard proves is that hair and facial furniture should change dependent on the position played.

For instance: a traditional moustache on all goalkeepers, a compulsory 3mm of stubble on centre-backs, sideburns flanking a winger’s face, and a flamboyant tuft for the striker. 

Perhaps due to the time he spent in Scotland with Rangers, Rino has a dark, matted beard that makes him resemble a Scottish Terrier, and his position ensures that he plays like one too.


"Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"

The beard certainly enhances the intimidating look of Milan’s hatchet man, and was surely grown for the purpose: the fuzz-thickness changes as necessary.

When Milan are on a fine winning streak, Gattuso will trim his chin-warmer down to a stylish, fashionable covering.

When they are desperate for points, it seems to grow of its own accord, creating a menacing piratical look designed to frighten opponents into surrendering possession.

If Milan's spluttering start under Leonardo continues, expect by season's end to see Rino starring in Pirates of the Carribbean 4.

George Best
The reason every fan in England reveled in the unmitigated booing of Cristiano Ronaldo is that nobody could relate to him.

Football fans worship those like John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney – the players that could have grown up at the end of your street.

Best had that ‘everyman’ feel about him – he made no bones about his love of drink or beautiful women, and he seemingly made no real effort with his appearance.

Yes, he sprouted a beard, but it wasn’t one that screamed "a fashionista advised me," it was more like "now I don’t have to bother shaving."


"Well, now you've seen my hairy bits..."

A legend of the game, Best will always be mentioned in the same breath as Cruyff, Pele and Maradona, without ever having played in the World Cup.

Pele even said he thought Best was the greatest ever player. And to be that good, but not give two hoots about the way you look is impressive.

A true bloke and a fine proponent of beardism.

Socrates
The Brazilian version of Best, Socrates was an agile attacking midfielder who could play with both feet and was regarded as one of the game's greatest creators.

Like Bestie, he defied athletic convention and medical advice, in his case not only enjoying a drink but also indulging in a half-time cigarette or two like a Sunday League centre-back.

Except with genius in his feet rather than murder on his mind.


"Can we crack on? I'm gasping for a ciggie"

The samba sensation was also famous for his terrific facial covering.

Brazil may be famous for its beaches but Socrates's face was famous for its thick yet finely coiffed follicles – stylish but also incredibly practical: given the length of his similarly spectacular mullet, his beard gave the impression that it was keeping his hair firmly stuck to his head.

He obviously wasn’t too convinced his furry strappings would be up to such a task, doubling up by sporting a wonderfully oversized headband.

An icon in the manner of Che Guevara: unlike many who lose their beliefs in facial topiary, Socrates has kept his to this day...

Disagree with our choices? Go take it to the forums.

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