How a Moustache Might Save Football

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

Written by Adam Mourad

When David Seaman hung up his boots on February 13 2004, the world of association football lost more than a once reliable keeper gingerly limping past his prime. While Gunner fans were left with the lasting memory of a wonderful save against Sheffield United’s Paul Peschisolido in a 2003 FA Cup semi-final, and City supporters unwittingly beginning their rollercoaster ride with a young David James, the rest of us quietly bid farewell to a few filaments of cultural phenomena.

Seaman’s moustache, narrowly edging out an awkwardly long ponytail in a career-spanning fight for the rights to his trademark, perched steadfast as the final bushy example of one remaining in mainstream football. It has been suggested that moustaches carry with them some form of supernatural omnipotence, ranging from acute sexual prowess to a tendency to retain food and drink, the latter to which Seaman’s physique late in his playing years surely lends daunting evidence. Always an affable character, if not ordinary, Seaman’s numerous television appearances since his retirement, including an inexplicable win on BBC One’s Strictly Ice Dancing, must in part be due to society’s affection for the innocuousness of a striking moustache. Indeed, no goatee could ever tell so much about a man.

In keeping up appearances, a moustache in football these days is as rare as Mourtaz Khourtzilava in a Mexico 70 Panini sticker album. Every other major sport can boast at least one notable athlete with a fringed upper lip: the NFL, MLB, rugby, cricket and, of course, the perennial hotbed for the freestyle moustache, the NHL. In the uber-trendy NBA, Adam “The ‘Stache” Morrison is notable because of it.

Imagine, for a moment, a world where world class footballers were equally risqué. What if Kaka wore a pencil moustache, or Messi (when he’s old enough) donned an Edgar Allen Poe? Would their respective claims to the title that was once Ronaldinho’s still be up for debate? If Maldini had always sported a Fu Manchu, would Beckenbauer’s legacy be threatened? How about a few whiskers for Kerlon to match his foquinha dribble?

The possibilities, like the advantages, are endless. For one, supporters could easily know whose jersey to purchase for the new season. Say, for example, you’re a Liverpool fan. Chances are, you’ve got the Gerrard shirt already. In terms of reputation at the club, most would agree that Stevie is the spine, Riise the cult hero, Torres the star and Babel the future. You want to buy another jersey but can’t seem to make up your mind. Suddenly, Dirk Kuyt shows up to this week’s Premier League match proudly displaying what he casually explains is a new signature moustache. Would you now not be attracted by sheer novelty to seriously consider stenciling his name on your shirt?

Secondly, a carefully selected moustache can prove quite disarming in public. The media would no doubt have a hard time cruelly lambasting a player with a Salvador Dali after an uninspired performance. Finally, a new foreign manager could immediately have a frontrunner to consider for the captain’s armband if one was not already apparent. A moustache stands out even when personality might not.

I’m sure some of you can name a defensive midfielder playing in Hungary or dig up a veteran goalkeeper in Uruguay, but it shouldn’t be so hard. We need moustaches in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Enough with the schoolboy look, fellas. A little less Tintin, a little more Dupont. For the sake of namedropping my favorite club to induce a sympathy vote from Ed Harrison, I’ll nominate Joey Barton. Nothing screams clean slate like a moustache makeover. At worst, I’m sure he could use the laughs.

“Let Them Eat Gate”

Football has always been the great proletarian sport, both to play and support. With every new season, with every last television and licensing right renewed, with clubs modeling third kits despite the absence of European football in their fixture lists, we are reminded every day that like everything else in life, it is now principally a business. This is a broad subject that needs no further scrutiny. What does, however, is Manchester United’s newly implemented Season Ticket Holders Home Cup Ticket Scheme, which represents perhaps the most blunt example of audacity in the face of football supporters yet. This is news a few months old, but many I know still aren’t aware, so I’ll briefly explain. Any season ticket holder who doesn’t purchase a ticket to every home cup match this season, regardless if they are willing or even able to attend, will have their season pass withdrawn. Skyrocketing seat prices is one thing, but this utter lack of disregard for those who truly keep a club relevant is abhorrent, even by today’s standards. If this is a sign of things to come, someone needs to speak up quick.

Random Thought

Ever since Swept Away, I’ve believed Guy Ritchie needs to resurrect his career with a film about Robin Friday, the enigmatic English striker from the 70’s who remains a controversial legend for Reading and, to a lesser extent, Cardiff City supporters. He’s showed up late to matches drunk and still made the score sheet, knocked in two goals in a match against Bobby Moore, scored what some consider one of the greatest goals ever taken and once kicked future BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson in the face before promptly proceeding to defecate in the opposing dressing room after his dismissal. The Greatest Football You’ve Never Saw is an entertaining biography about him, curiously co-written by a former bassist for Oasis. The unpredictability of our sport ensures it will never commensurately translate into believable movie scenes, but Friday’s tale through the eyes of Guy Ritchie has to be well worth a watch.

Shearer vs. Marino

I’m a fan (albeit not so rabid) of the other football too, the Miami Dolphins in particular. Add that to the continued unparalleled success of Newcastle United in my lifetime, and this could very well be the start of a long overdue session with a seasoned therapist. It isn’t; at least not today. In light of the recent release of Alan Shearer’s autobiography, the unfortunately titled Alan Shearer: My Illustrated Career, a seemingly symmetrical comparison dawned on me. Alan Shearer and Dan Marino share more in common than the limited joy they afforded me. They are practically kindred spirits. Synonymous with their respective franchises and, it can be argued, still very much the faces of their teams today, both now enjoy easy lives as television analysts. Statistically speaking, they are relatively unmatched by their contemporaries, each with longstanding records to their name, yet in historical conversations about their positions, few would anoint them the best ever, citing an ultimate lack of indisputable success. Paging Dr. Melfi…

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

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