Football players and their masks: A growing trend
Is that Phantom? Is that Zorro? No, that's a footballer! Well, it's very obvious that the "curiosity index" has been raised by the "mask"! These mysterious, eye catching accessories are more associated with comics and films rather than football. However, nowadays very few eyebrows will get raised seeing footballers playing in these. Just a few more days, and we might see Thiago Silva, one of the coveted defenders in the world, the captain of Brazil, leading his team wearing one such mask (he has been wearing one after his cheekbone fracture).
Accessory with an Advantage
Football players are known for their unique style. The game has seen legendary players flaunting their different styles and accessories on the field. Baggio's divine ponytail, Ronaldo's bald but beautiful piece, Valderrama's blonde candy style hair, or Socrates’ famous head band with communist preachings on them, we have seen a lot. With the rapid increase in TV viewership and Internet audience, players are now keen to create an identity of their own, to look good, to attract their fans.
We have always worshipped footballers playing with a bandage, an impression that he is a hero who is playing against the odds for his team. Who can forget Beckenbauer of 1970? However, previously, some serious injuries did keep footballers away from the field. For example, skull fractures or a broken nose, and even eye problems. With the advancement of the orthopedics, masks and glasses have been designed to allow players take the field safeguarding those injuries or problems. Petr Cech came back from the head blow he received against Reading in 2006. He suffered multiple skull fractures but came back on the field after a few months sporting a specially designed head gear on the lines of the ones used by rugby players.
We also remember Edgar Davids of Netherlands wearing stylish, protective glasses after he had an eye surgery. Paul Gascoigne or Gazza as we know him was one who started wearing masks. He used to wear a mask to protect a cheek bone fracture. Gradually many others followed suit. Over the years we have seen Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, Ramires, and many others wearing masks. Players have now gone ahead and customized their masks to their comfort and styling too.
Taking Cue from Other Sports
Although headgears and masks are relatively new additions to soccer, we can often see these in sports like hockey, rugby, boxing, American football, cycling etc. The goaltender or goalie mask worn by hockey (both versions) goalkeepers is a classic example of protective accessories in sports. Headgear became compulsory in amateur boxing since the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles after a furore over serious head injuries and even deaths.
More about the Masks
According to FIFA guidelines, "Modern protective equipment such as headgear, facemasks, and knee and arm protectors made of soft lightweight padded materials are not considered dangerous and are therefore, permitted." Following these lines, sports medicine has come a long way from plastic sheet tied to an elastic band”. The modern masks or headgear are generally made of carbon fiber, a strong but light material.
Football is a body contact game and clashes, crushes, and consequent injuries will continue to happen. Like knights with armors, masks or no masks, footballers will keep giving their best to protect the spirit of the game!