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 May 10, 2002 | 1310 IST

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Never mind the ball, spot the haircut

Bill Barclay

It is amazing the fuss that 22 grown men running around after a leather ball can generate.

For supporters lucky enough to be able to afford the trip to South Korea and Japan, World Cup 2002 is certain to be an unforgettable experience.

But for those less fortunate souls left at home in front of the television, a feast of entertainment is also guaranteed.

Never mind the score, the uninitiated can anticipate a heady mix of bizarre celebrations, tantrums, expulsions, street parties, hooliganism, death threats, blood, sweat and tears. And some of that will just be at the pre-tournament FIFA Congress meeting.

As far as the football goes, the stars of the piece are expected to be Zinedine Zidane, Juan Sebastian Veron, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rivaldo, Luis Figo and Francesco Totti, among others.

David Beckham
But every one of the 736 players dreams of scoring a World Cup goal, which explains the extravagant celebrations that tend to follow when they do.

From the yawing fighter-plane impression of Brazil's Careca in 1986 to the corner flag wiggle-dance of Cameroon's Roger Milla in 1990 and Brazilian Bebeto's baby-rocking routine of 1994, the response to scoring on the biggest stage of all can provide some of the most memorable images.

Somersaulting Nigerian Julius Aghahowa has already given notice of his intent to tumble his way across almost the width of the entire pitch, as he did after each of his two goals in a recent friendly against Scotland.


With cameras installed inside the goal posts for the first time, viewers will be closer than ever to the action and as an added bonus will be able to experience the bone-juddering impact of a Roberto Carlos rocket shot.

Then, of course, there are the haircuts.

Sadly, the unforgettable giant, blond afro of Colombian Carlos Valderrama will be absent for the first time in four finals tournaments.

But there will be plenty of other styles for the hair-conscious fan to copy, although the monkish pate of balding French genius Zidane is unlikely to be one of them.

The traditional flowing locks of the Latin teams may be less evident these days but expect several players still to be wearing Alice bands.

Likely to be less warmly received is the ponytail of 38-year-old England goalkeeper David Seaman, in stark contrast to the shaved dome of France's jack-in-the-box stopper Fabien Barthez, which is regularly kissed lovingly by his team mates.

Fashion icon Beckham's World-Cup crop will be the subject of weeks of speculation and the clever money is on a red mohican-style St George's cross.

Another famous red mohican, that of Freddie Ljungberg, will clash horribly with his yellow Swedish shirt, unless sharp-dresser Freddie opts to dye it yellow specially for the occasion.

Equally unmistakable is the gleaming bald cranium of Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, whose bullet-hole eyes command instant respect from players and viewers alike.

One of his tasks will be to oversee the agony-inducing penalty shootout, which remains the football equivalent of a public execution, making mugs of the world's greatest players and voyeurs of the rest of us.

Footballing geniuses such as Diego Maradona, Zico, Socrates, Roberto Baggio, Michel Platini, Franco Baresi and Chris Waddle are among those to have fluffed it from 12 yards on the World Cup stage.

But that will not stop Paraguay's charismatic captain and goalkeeper Jose-Luis Chilavert stepping forward to take his side's spotkicks, and even some of their free kicks.


Stuck in the middle of the maelstrom armed with only a whistle, two fluorescent cards and the latest tome of FIFA guidelines, are the likes of Collina and his fellow match officials.

This year they have been ordered to clamp down on players who dive, feign injury and stop quick free kicks being taken, although this is merely enforcement of rules already in existence.

Watch out for the now-familiar farce of the motorised stretcher, when a player unable to carry on has to stand up, take his seat in the buggy and then get out and lie back down for treatment off the pitch.

With world governing body FIFA having okayed the removal of shirts during goal celebrations, flesh-seekers will have a field day, although sponsors will note that players are not allowed to expose T-shirts bearing their slogans underneath.

The Italians are sure to be ogled even more than usual with their azure, skin-tight jerseys but Cameroon's players have been told they cannot wear the sleeveless numbers they modelled at January's African Nations Cup.

Beckham says his team's new shirt is so light he "feels naked" and another piece of kit to look out for will be the England squad's ice jackets to combat the expected humidity.


The mugginess will also be a factor for those supporters who habitually daub their faces with their team's colours.

Anthem-spotters among them will need to brush up on the words to the national songs of the World Cup virgins -- China, Senegal, Ecuador and Slovenia.

Should any of those teams manage to score their country's first ever goal at a World Cup, the celebrations are likely to be wilder than ever.

The Netherlands' orange army of supporters will be missed after the gifted Dutch team's failure to qualify but they will be adequately compensated for, at least in drinking terms, by the Irish who are back in the finals after missing France 98.

Last and certainly not least, no World Cup is complete without a bizarre-looking mascot these days, or in the case of the South Korea and Japan, three bizarre-looking mascots.

Meet Nik, Ato and Kaz, respectively blue, yellow and purple.

The trio hail from an imaginary family of thorny-headed characters called Spheriks.

They live in the sky in a place called Atmozone where they play Atmoball and are likely to live as long in the memory as their predecessors at previous finals.

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