As much as purists may want to deny it, hair plays a crucial role in the World Cup. Unlike American football or baseball, where men's heads are covered by helmets and hats, soccer players have an opportunity to send a message to fans, teammates and opponents via their tresses. Just look at these men:
Composite made from AP and Getty Images
A truly genius hair player is one who understands the power to confound one’s rivals, and mobilize fans with ludicrous locks. Colombia's Carlos Valderrama was the all-time hair legend.
Carlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997.
Carlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997. Daniel Muzio/AP
Over the phone, South Florida Sun Sentinel soccer columnist Jeff Rusnak fondly recalled "the unmistakeable incandescent glow" his curls left in their wake, adding there just hasn't been a hair champ like him since.
Nonetheless, this year's World Cup has produced some serious hair players. In honor of Valderrama's approach, we offer the hair bracket above; serious soccer reduced to a battle of super-hold gel, elastic bands, bleach, braids and mutton chops. Only teams with hair stars qualified. (Hint, the winner sometimes matches his scarves and shoes to his hair.)
Utterly disgusted by this treasonous approach to futbol? Even ESPNsoccernet senior editor Jen Chang admits ...
there's something bold about a footballer who's willing to risk eyesight for style.
Perhaps because his stringy blonde hair got in the way of his vision, Brazil's Marinho Chagas, right, misses the ball as Poland's Kazimierz Deyna, left, heads the ball towards the Brazilian goal in the World Cup third place match in 1974.
"It's gotta be a handicap unless you get it tied back," he said, although he tried to convince us that World Cup players' attention to their locks is more a metrosexual "why don't Europeans wear boxer shorts kind of thing" than a soccer-specific phenomenon.
Either way, we're just glad that players have moved beyond the mullet.
Brescia soccer star Roberto Baggio, right, is weighed down by his rat's tail in a fight against Empoli's Sanchez Emilson Cribari of Brazil on Nov. 10, 2002.