Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1971. Perhaps the biggest change was visual – long hairs. There were long haired players before, but not top level players and not that many. Haircuts were modest – even George Best looked like Beatles circa 1965 in 1970. In 1971 it was no longer so and quickly the new look became informative – exciting players were the longhaired ones, the new stars, playing free football. Shorthaired players were clearly boring, fading stars of yesteryear, representing the defensive, slow football of the 1960s. Soon not only long hairs were everywhere – even in Soviet Union – and by 1974 longhaired team was most likely to be the winning team. It is difficult to say why long hairs in football lagged behind long hairs in the other walks of life: after all, the ‘swinging 1960s’ established them. But football was conservative, clubs obviously restricted players’ impulses, and many of the stars from the 60s were not socially rebellious. The shift in football from South to North brought leniency or democracy, or combination of both: players in England, Holland, Germany grew their hairs first; Southern players not so. Club politics as well as larger politics, on state level, permitted or not the freedom of the players. Eastern European countries played state politics, but the story would be too long for narration here. Countries like USSR and Bulgaria often required their top level players to be ‘presentable’, but in the lower football divisions it was not so strict a requirement. Dictatorships in Greece and Spain also prohibited long hairs, but in other countries it was mostly restrictions on club level or simply the players remained old fashioned. Nevertheless, very soon it was evident that long haired teams and players were fun to watch. And add to that jerseys hanging loose, no longer tucked in shorts. And socks rolled down. Depending on the point of view, football was becoming either free, fun, and democratic, or rugged, undisciplined, and disrespectful. Yet, the new image was more than image – it was new football, winning football, wonderful to watch football, no matter who was grumbling against the look of the players. And it was infectious: even older stars grew long hairs. Long hair equaled quality.
Stoke City 1969-70
Looks equal quality? Well… two players born in 1951.
The wild features of Paul ‘Der Afro’ Breitner (in 1974): one of the biggest stars of the 1970s. World champion, European champion, German champion, Spanish champion, etc, etc.
Dusan Keketi was unusually clean cut for his time (the photo is from 1974 or 1975). Like Breitner, he was a big promise and part of the best Czechoslovakian club from the early 1970s – Spartak (Trnava). He was even in the first team of his club before the German was – debuted for Spartak in 1969; Breitner debuted for Bayern in 1970. But Keketi never made it to the top – there was always a better goalkeeper than him in Czechoslovakia. Of course, world fame never came. He remains in the shady category ‘unfulfilled promise’. Does haircut tell anything?