(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2011)
One of the great things about/problems with Twitter is that just a tiny, innocuous, 140-character tweet can have a snowball effect.
For example, during the 2011 Carling Cup Final I was quite impressed with Stephen Carr and just said “Carr would probably make a Bald XI on this performance. Cambiasso as captain.”
Brent Atema, or @GFT_Brent as you may know him, then came up with some brilliant suggestions for the Bald XI of all time. I knew at that moment, with his passion for the job, he was the right coach for the Bald XI. But the competitive part of me wanted something to try and beat his team. So please step forward = The All-Time Mullet XI. It is time for the All-time Mullet XI to take on the All-time Bald XI.
ALL-TIME WORLD MULLET XI (by Hayden Shaw)
The Mullet is defined as a haircut where the hair is short at the top and long at the back. But the mullet is so much more than that. It’s iconic. It tells people – “I’m a winne….”
You know what, I can’t do this, I was born in 1985 and although there have been some horrific examples in my lifetime, I’ve never had a mullet and hopefully never will. However, some of the best footballers ever to play the game have had one, and for that, I salute them, because it means I’ve got plenty of options for my team.
Now, I’m not the manager of this team, I don’t have crazy enough hair to command the respect of the dressing room, my current haircut of clippers all over is never going to inspire a team of international, mulleted superstars to glory. Consider me the Florentino Perez to this, the Galacticos of the hair style/football world. Luckily, like Perez, I don’t just get to pick the players, I’m even going to dictate the tactics (seriously, with a system this good how did Real Madrid NOT win more trophies during that era?). Now I couldn’t find a formation that looked like a mullet and didn’t leave me horrifically exposed, so I went away from novelty and instead decided to cram in as much creative and attacking talent as possible with the minimum amount of fringe. These boys might look pretty with their perms, and long, redneck mullets, but they go for the kill. So, without further ado I present to you – The All-Time Mullet XI.
Manager: Martin Riggs
Martin Riggs has never been a professional football player. Well neither has Jose Mourinho. It’s a well-quoted fact that great players are rarely great managers, and often somebody who has achieved less in the game will be better equipped for management. Well, those are good defences of what is clearly an insane plan, but basically I have Riggs in there because everyone loves a crazy manager — and there’s nobody crazier than Martin Riggs. He’ll help to keep the trouble makers in line with his Jujitsu skills, he’s got plenty of jokes to keep morale up, and if the worst comes to the worst he can be deployed as a substitute midfield enforcer – he used to be a government assassin so he should be able to put in a tackle.
Assistant Manager: Pat Sharpe
The good cop to Riggs’ bad cop, Sharpe will be the one to keep up morale in the dressing room. After all, if the presenter of Fun House can’t make people happy, then what’s the point in having him there?
Goalkeeper: Dave Beasant
The first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup final, the first goalkeeper to captain his team in an FA Cup final and part of one of the greatest upsets in the history of the FA Cup, Dave Beasant was a great distributor of the ball way before it became fashionable for goalkeepers to be great distributors of the ball. He could kick it a hell of a long way, and that helped Wimbledon’s style of play back then, but he could also make the smart choices and his intelligent play from the back will help to counter attack at lightning pace.
Right Centre Back: Barry Venison
I was going to simply put “He had an awesome mullet. Needless to say he will be captaining the side,” but that would be doing my skipper a massive disservice. Barry Venison’s career was cut tragically short before he could truly demonstrate everything that he had to offer the game, but I have no doubts that with his talent, had it not been for said injury, people would barely even bother to mention Franco Baresi. Pele, Maradona, Puskas, Platini, Cruyff, Van Basten, Ronaldo, Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and even Leon Best have never scored against Barry Venison, which, for me says it all. Plus if he gets injured and we’ve used all our subs we just sneak Pat Sharpe on in a Barry Venison shirt.
Left Centre Back: Trifon Ivanov
Every team needs a player who sounds and looks like he could be in Rocky 4, and boy does Trifon Ivanov fit that bill. Not exactly the most gifted of players, but he had a hell of a shot on him, leading to some fine memories of attempts at 40-yard free kicks and ridiculously ambitious attempts that flew just wide. A nearly man is not exactly what we’re after for taking on the best follicly challenged players the world has ever seen, but Trifon looks like a hard bastard so we’ll let him be the one to wind Zidane up.
Centre Back: Carles Puyol
If Puyol was an animal, he’d be a lion. You can tell by the mane. Fans of Barcelona call him “The Wall,” and rightly so, he’s an absolute unit. His performances for Barcelona and Spain don’t just defy his age and injuries, they make a mockery of them. Puyol has already won four league titles with Barcelona, as well as two Champions League winners medals and World and European Championship titles with Spain to go with numerous other trophies and awards. He is nearing 100 caps for Spain and is quite frankly one of the most dominant defenders in world football. When he tackles, things stay tackled. He’s only 5’10” but his personality adds an extra foot, and it’s that personality and will to win that we will be looking to use to our advantage.
Defensive Centre Midfield: Ruud Gullit
Seven League titles, two European Cups, 11 assorted Cup competitions and the only Dutchman to captain his team to winning a major tournament – ladies and gentleman, please welcome Mr. Sexy Football. Not only does Gullit sound like mullet, this guy was one of the original exponents of total football. He could play everywhere. Fantastic athleticism mixed with incredible technique meant that Gullit was an absolute beast to play against and means our midfield contains a player capable of mixing it with the best of them as well as getting the ball down and passing it with such style that you’d think he was Glenn Hoddle.
Centre Midfield: Glenn Hoddle
I wasn’t going to pick Hoddle because you can’t really trust those fancy pants players who don’t know how to tackle, don’t run enough and seem a bit, you know, good at passing. But, then I thought, I’m probably not going to get the England job anyway so I might as well ignore conventional wisdom and have the finest English player of his era, and one of the few to perform with real distinction overseas, as the fulcrum of my team. Hoddle might not thunder around the pitch killing people, but what he will give the team is some incredible vision, passing, touch, technique, a little bit of class and invention, and be part of the best karaoke double act the footballing world has ever seen. Glenn Hoddle is undoubtedly my vice captain for the first 30 minutes before he limps off injured.
Trequartista: Roberto Baggio
La triglia divino – The Divine Mullet. Where to begin? Baggio is somebody who I’m not articulate enough to describe, who it would be unfair to even attempt to sum up in a short parragraph outlining his accolades, stats and trophies. I guess one reason I’m reluctant to try listing honours and trophies is that Baggio’s list is painfully short for such a genius – 2 Scudettos (the first player to win it with different teams in consecutive seasons), 1 Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup. It’s more than most players ever win, but you could argue Djimi Traore has a more impressive medal cabinet, and that really shouldn’t be the case. Baggio has played for a host of clubs, in the latter stages of his career it was often to get enough football to prove to the Azzurri manager that he warranted a place in the team to do what he does best – score goals for Italy, for whom his record is outstanding. Baggio is a heart on his sleeve, creative genius, and if I hadn’t already built my team around Venison then I’d build it around Baggio. Oh and I know he missed THAT penalty, but he has scored 106 out of 122 penalties and I’d quite like him to have a “Pyscho” moment after blasting one in for us. Because scoring for the Mullet XI will be as important as the World Cup final. Obvsiouly.
Right Forward: Kevin Keegan
I’d love it if Keegan scores for us. Before Keegan became known as the guy who blew it, he was European Player of the Year twice in a row, an absolutely incredible achievement and something that I still don’t think he gets enough credit for. Between Liverpool and Hamburg he won 4 domestic league titles and a European Cup along with two UEFA Cups and an FA Cup. But that’s not why I’m putting Keegan in my team. It’s the way he picked himself up after falling off his bike in Superstars and re-raced – earning second place in that event and winning overall. Going deep, deep into added time and needing a goal is something I’d hope to avoid, but if it happens then I’ll be counting on the Superstar spirit of Keegan to drag the team over the finish line victorious. Keegan has also reached 31 in the UK music charts and the top 10 in German music charts with “Head over heels in love” – meaning that I am seriously looking forward to a night of Karaoke with this lot.
Left Wing: Chris Waddle
One of the first things that I’m going to do is insert a clause in the contract of Chris Waddle that states he has to pass to everyone, not just Glenn Hoddle. As long as he agrees to that then he’s an automatic pick because, quite frankly, Waddle has an awesome Mullet, Diamond Lights was….ummm….and he was actually a really good footballer with spells at Newcastle, Marseille and Spurs during his peak. Waddle is four times a losing finalist, in the FA Cup for both Spurs and Sheffield Wednesday, again with Wednesday in the League Cup final and also with Marseille in the 1991 European Cup final. Despite that he did win three titles with Marseille and is still considered a bit of a legend there.
Centre Forward: Fernando Torres
El Nino might be going through a bit of a weird spell, having transferred from Liverpool to Chelsea in slightly acrimonious circumstances, but he’s widely considered to be one of the best finishers in the World today and when he’s on form he’s borderline unplayable. For Spain he has won the European Championship at Under 16 and Under 19 levels as well as the real thing and a World Cup in back to back tournaments – something that should make up for his lack of club honours for the time being. Deep down, I think all Chelsea fans are hoping that Torres grows back his Mullet and that his confidence grows with his hair, because a Torres with confidence is a lethal, lethal goalscorer with searing pace and a great first touch.
Centre Forward: Rudi Voller
Voller is a goal machine. Over the course of his career he’s worth a goal just over every two games – for Germany he scored 47 goals in 90 games. He knows what it is to experience both success and failure, well losing in the final of the World Cup, European Championships and the Champions League isn’t exactly failure, but you know what I mean. Voller’s Mullet sounds like the name of a band, but it was also famously spat at by Frank Rijkaard in an incident that saw both of them sent off, when he returned from suspension Voller won the penalty that resulted in Germany winning the World Cup. Oh and Voller was also the manager who somehow managed to lose 1-5 at home to England and then take his team to a World Cup final. Bonkers.
ALL-TIME WORLD BALD XI (by Brent Atema)
Some men are born with beautiful, flowing hair that lasts them more than 60 years. Women flock to them, men are jealous of them, and football clubs want to see those exquisite locks covering the top of the their jersey.
However, other men must overcome a crippling condition to claw their way to the top and succeed despite their hideous disease. They are incapable of showing that they are business in the front and party in the back. If they go party in the back, then they have nothing in the front. What kind of message does that send? While I am not bald, I have always chosen to go with short hair — and I have always vowed to defeat the long hair, rock-n-roll prima donnas. That is why I have accepted Hayden’s challenge of creating at team of stars who overcame their male pattern baldness to succeed in life. So here is my All-time World Bald XI (playing a 4-2-3-1).
Manager: Dr. Evil
It doesn’t matter if they have a mullet or not, how is someone supposed to break through a central defender pair wearing frickin’ laser beams on their heads? Dr. Evil’s superior, undisciplined intellect is capable of implementing new tactical creations that will likely fail a majority of the time, but will certainly strike fear into the hearts of opponents. However, his insistence on paying $1 million for every player could be a bit of an issue.
Assistant Manager: Luciano Spalletti
When Dr. Evil’s crazy, insane tactics and formations fall apart, Luciano Spalletti will be there to clean up the pieces and lead the team to victory — leaving Dr. Evil to plan the victory parade.
Goalkeeper: Fabian Barthez
Keepers that are celebrities are rare. Bald men that are celebrities are rare. Bald keepers that are celebrities are almost unheard of, but that is what Fabian Barthez will tell you he is — no matter how much you disagree with him. Barthez is the first of many World Cup winners to earn a place in the squad. However, my American bias means that I have Brad Friedel’s number on speed dial for when Barthez just becomes too annoying.
Right Back: Lillian Thuram
The most-capped player in French football and one of the 30 most-capped players of all time certainly deserves a spot in the team. His gorgeous bald dome graced the pitches at Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona and won the 1998 World Cup with France.
Right Center Back: Jaap Stam
Whether it was while playing FIFA in the late 1990s or watching the Dutch and Manchester United, Jaap Stam’s shiny melon could be seen from all corners of the pitch as he steamrolled opposing attackers. Alex Ferguson said his decision to sell Stam to Lazio in 2001 was the worst decision of his managerial career.
Left Center Back: Fabio Cannavaro
Any man who can lead a team full of Italians with endless manes of dark, wavy locks to a World Cup victory despite his newly developing baldness can certainly captain the All-time World Bald XI. Not only did he captain the Italian side to victory, he did it in the shadow of one of the greatest heads of hair to ever grace a pitch, Italy’s most-capped player who retired after the 2002 World Cup, Paolo Maldini.
Left Back: Roberto Carlos
When God created Roberto Carlos he put so much talent into his left leg that there was nothing left to give Roberto Carlos a lovely head of hair. Even though the long, flowing locks are not as much a part of Brazilian culture as Italian culture, Roberto Carlos still had to walk on to the pitch insecure about the sun reflecting off his head and blinding people in the crowd. Luckily he was able to release all the bald-related tension and anger that had built up through a left leg similar to a Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber (http://www.barrett.net/firearms/model82a1).
Right Center Midfielder: Juan Sebastian Veron
This Argentine milk dud played for some of the biggest clubs in South America and Europe, including Estudiantes, Boca Juniors, Manchester United, Chelsea and Internazionale. Veron made a risky decision to grow the goatee to go with his naked dome. Despite looking like a villain from a marginally successful 1990s Hollywood movie, he put together an exceptional career and is a welcome addition to the squad.
Left Center Midfielder: Esteban Cambiasso
In 2006 Esteban Cambiasso overcame his baldness to put in amazing displays for the Argentina National Team. However, he was part of the 2010 World Cup squad because baldist, and occasionally mulletted, Diego Maradona did not call him up. Maradona’s obvious prejudice against chrome-domed players clearly led to Argentina’s quicker-than-expected exit from the tournament.
Central Attacking Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane
Like many members of the All-time World Bald XI, Zidane started his career with hair. He also, like many other members of the squad, was at his best when he accepted his baldness and focused on his game. However, Zidane’s hairy demons never left. In the 2006 World Cup Final he was given a red card for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest after the Italian called Zidane a “cue ball.” Every member of this squad has dealt with baldist players and fans before, so they will be able to help Zidane until FIFA can finally “Kick Baldism Out” of the game.
Right Wing: Attilio Lombardo
Lombardo’s career took off when he played with fellow balding Italian, Gianluca Vialli, at Sampdoria. Luckily the two bald men had each other to rely on because the prospect of facing the beautiful Italian mane of Roberto Mancini on a daily basis must have been daunting. After an unsuccessful, injury-plagued stint with Juventus, Lombardo eventually turned up in South London with Crystal Palace. His cue-ball-with-ear-muffs look is the epitome of proper male pattern baldness, and during his time at Crystal Palace it earned him the nickname “The Bald Eagle.”
Left Wing: Arjen Robben
This talented Dutchman has been bald most of his career. No, he did not become bald from diving so much and rolling around on the ground that friction with the grass pulled his hair out. His baldness is a natural condition. In recent years he has accepted his baldness by shaving almost all of his head — and his game for the Netherlands and Bayern Munich has improved.
I’m sure many people will say, “Ronaldo isn’t bald!” Well those people are actually correct. However, Ronaldo made a conscious decision to go bald. The Ronaldo of 1998 was bald, and the Ronaldo of 2002 was mostly bald. He was certainly at his best when he was freshly shorn. The bald brotherhood is always welcoming new members, and Ronaldo just chose to join the club early.
Referee: Pierluigi Collina
Since the initial idea for this match between Novelty XIs came from Hayden’s warped mind, the All-time Mullet XI is the home team, which means I get to choose the match official. Who better to choose than a man who suffers from alopecia and is arguably the greatest official of all time?
So there it is: The All-time World Mullet XI v. the All-time World Bald XI. What are your thoughts? Who has the better side? Who got left out? What other Novelty XIs should we create?