I blame David Beckham. It was the English football superstar that changed the looks of football players.
When you watch footage of major tournaments that took place some twenty years ago, you’ll see a bunch of men running around the pitch, chasing the ball, tackling and fouling, trying to score goals.
Sure, all this is still a given today, as this is what football is all about. But what has changed drastically is the way the players present themselves.
Beckham was not only a gifted football player, he was also a star off the pitch. He made headlines in the media not only when he scored goals for England and Manchester United, but also for his high-profile marriage to Victoria Adams, now Beckham, of the Spice Girls.
Whenever Beckham sported a new haircut, it sparked a big discussion. His tattoos suddenly seemed more important than his performance on the pitch. Girls fell in love with him, boys wanted to be like him.
Beckham was the first true metrosexual football player – and he has had a legion of followers since: it seems almost obligatory for a player these days to have a tattoo in order to be cool, or a unique haircut to stand out from the rest.
Often, when I watch a football match, I wonder if I see a team of real athletes on the field, or 22 models.
OK, that is maybe a shameless exaggeration but sometimes questions pop into my head that shouldn’t be there when watching a football game: How many bottles of hair gel does one Cristiano Ronaldo use before a big match? How many hair bands have been sold to the players of the Italian and Spanish national teams?
It is no wonder that, over the last decade or so, football has become increasingly popular with women. That is not a bad thing per se. But more often than not I have the feeling that they watch football for the wrong reasons. There is nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy a good match at a bar, and hearing giggling and laughter from the next table and comments like “Mario Gomez has the most beautiful eyes” or “When are they finally exchanging their jerseys?”
Sure, it’s great if a person is an excellent player and, in addition, is easy on the eyes as well. I am a woman, too, so I get it.
But I am wearing a jersey with the name “Schweinsteiger” not because I think he is oh-so-handsome. He simply is my favorite player of the German national team, the one I think can lead us to the next title.
I certainly don’t think that Andrea Pirlo’s flowing mane makes him look dreamy, but I do have a weakness for the sexy passes he presents on the field.
And even though I recently discovered how insanely good-looking Mats Hummels is – it wouldn’t be enough for me to admire him if he wasn’t a solid, bold defender.
So, for the upcoming quarterfinals at the Euro 2012, that will hopefully bring us many exciting moments, I wish for the game to be the focus. Be players first and foremost, at least while on the pitch.
I want to see Ronaldo working his magic against the Czech Republic, rather than hearing a discussion about why he changed his hairstyle during half time.
I want to witness some great tackles from Jerome Boateng against Greece, rather than having a full view of the tattoos on his arms.
And I want to hear women complimenting Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas on his great saves, not his charming smile.
After all, this is football – it’s sports, not a catwalk.