Football's men in masks make an impact
Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at footballers making an impact despite the use of protective gear.
When Chelsea played Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League Group E encounter at the BayArena towards the end of last month, the match witnessed two masked men coming face-to-face.
Petr Cech and Michael Ballack, once colleagues, were opponents on the day. Both men had headgears (face gears, if you please), a device many footballers have taken refuge in recent times.
Cech injured his head in a collision with Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt back in October 2006. And after surgery for a depressed skull fracture, the Czech has worn protective headgear in every game since.
The goalie had a special mask made of carbon fibres in Italy to protect his nose.
He remains the first choice at both Stamford Bridge and his national team.
Image: Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech reacts following his team's defeat against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League Group E match in Leverkusen
Ballack has led Bayer Leverkusen to the top
Ballack, on the other hand, broke his nose during a Bundesliga game against Freiburg in October.
Ironically, the 35-year-old scored the winning goal for Bayer Leverkusen in the said game.
The former German captain has worn the protective gear since.
His performances have not only impressed coach Robin Dutt, but also taken Bayer to the top of their group.
Image: Bayer Leverkusen's Michael Ballack (L) reacts during the German Bundesliga soccer match against Hertha Berlin in Berlin
A Klaas act
Klaas Jan Huntelaar has been wearing a protective mask after suffering a broken nose earlier this season in a Europa League match against AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.
The Dutchman, who scored 12 goals in the Netherlands' impressive qualifying campaign for Euro 2012, has also scored 24 goals in all competitions this season, taking his club Schalke 04 up to fourth in the league.
The 28-year-old last week joined Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez at the top of the Bundesliga scoring table with 13 goals.
"With the mask I have a good nose for goals again," he has been quoted as saying.
Image: Forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of the Netherlands, wearing a protective mask, in the friendly match against Germany in Hamburg
Chivu's performances impress Real Madrid bosses
Cristian Chivu suffered serious injury in a clash of heads last January in Inter Milan's Serie A match against Chievo Verona.
The Romanian captain was involved in a sickening clash of heads with Chievo captain Sergio Pellissier and required immediate surgery.
However, his rehabilitation went off better than expected after he was initially ruled out for the season. The defender has tried Canterbury's protective caps since.
His impressive performances for Inter has raised speculations of a move to Real Madrid.
Image: Inter Milan's Cristian Chivu (R) fights for the ball with Udinese's Dusan Basta in the Italian Serie A match at the San Siro in Milan