the baggy trousered misanthropist

missives issued from the lair

After months of testing, tweaking and concessions to the ‘No! Make it more Bane!‘ lobby, Nike have started promoting their Squad Snood. 

In the real world it’s just another fashion transgression from the people who bought you day-glo boots, ham shirts and the Gucci manbag. For some members of the football community though, it’s reappearance heralds the start of another pitched battle for football’s soul.

In a war as ironic as it is tedious. 

To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, the snood’s life in football was nasty, brutish and short. Having smuggled itself onto these shores around the necks of Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez in January 2010 (yep, someone actually looked into this), the snazzy new accessory spread like a virus across elite training grounds of England. A particular favourite of players from warmer climes, hardly a match was played in the 10/11 Premier League season without someone having the temerity to try and keep their neck warm.

For proponents of ‘real football’ – those who get a bit wistful when thinking about Bert Trautmann playing on in the 1956 FA Cup Final despite a broken neck, say – the snood signified everything wrong with modern football and launched a coordinated attack on its velvety softness.

Ostensibly it was for players’ protection; concerns were raised about potential neck injuries caused by opposition players holding onto the snood for leverage (see also: Peter Crouch & Brent Sancho’s dreadlocks) and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter went as far as to suggest someone might end up getting hanged. His concern for the welfare of footballers was quickly crushed by his desire to distance himself from the dangerously feminising neckwear though. “I was a player in both winter and summer and I never wore a snood.” 

He wasn’t the only one. Even respected men of the game made fools of themselves over this. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed snoods were for powder puffs, which is surprising as he doesn’t look like a man who wears a lot of make-up. 

“I wonder what Norman Hunter and Chopper Harris would’ve made of the snood being adorned by some prem footballers? Broken leg time!” opined Graeme Swann on Twitter, presumably forgetting that cricket is not a contact sport and therefore by definition, a girls’ game. 

It was left to former Millwall and Republic of Ireland striker Tony Cascarino to hammer it home.

“It’s like a fashion accessory and personally, I think it’s typical of the modern footballer. I would see it as a weakness, slightly, that they’re not a real man.”

“It’s not frowned upon now, but 20 or 30 years ago a player would not have got away with it. He would have been buried [with abuse].”

The snood was duly banned from gameplay by the International FA Board in March 2011, which is an amazing turnaround given how it’s members have had decades to sort out racism in football and have singularly failed to do so. 

So why have Nike, one of the biggest sports apparel brands in the world spent the last god knows how long researching and testing the Darth Vader-esque Squad Snood if players aren’t going to be allowed to wear it? 

In an astonishing turn of events, it seems that pundits and commentators and some football fans have literally no idea what they’re talking about.

A relatively straightforward google search suggests there are some applications for football kit that are more important than whether it makes you look like a ‘powder puff’.

Breathing in cold air can irritate the airways, potentially leading to shortness of breath and a cough. While this is the entry criteria for some Sunday League pitches, for athletes at the top level this can be a performance threatening problem. Hence the snood in training.

You’ll find this with a lot of sciency stuff in football. Arsene Wenger was nearly lifted up and chucked back to France by the Arsenal back four when he turned up and tried to ban ketchup, alcohol and chocolate from their diets. Today, many players have diet plans and meals prepared for them by nutritionists and private chefs to ensure they’re remain at peak fitness.

Cold hands and feet can affect tactile sensitivity and manual dexterity so sometimes players wear gloves and short sleeved shirts. If the wailing and gnashing of teeth are any evidence, some pundits and commentators would rather see break an opponent’s leg than slip on a pair of club branded digit warmers. 

Don’t get them started on tights or pink boots.

Is it homophobia? Racism? Misogyny? A cheeky little cocktail combining all three?

Look, it’s football. Home of the shithouse. No one expects miracles. But really, should media outlets be employing people who perpetuate pathetic, misguided myths that feeling the cold is a bit gay? That young men today are overly feminised because they eat well and want to be the best they can be? 

It such a tired narrative and so at odds with the inclusive message many of these media outlets like to align themselves with, I’m beginning to question whether they really mean it. 

And whether Bert Trautmann could have saved us all this trouble by just wearing a proper bloke’s wooden snood between the sticks on that fateful day.

Image via prodirectsoccer.com

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