Snood: the latest poncey football affectation

Once upon a time, football was a man’s game. Now players are wearing scarves and gloves on the pitch. Whatever next?

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

Vuvuzelas? Remember them? They’re sooo last summer. It’s all about the ‘snood’ now – the latest word to enter the football lexicon.

Never heard of a snood? No, I hadn’t either until last week. Before that, if you’d asked me what a snood was, and how it relates to football, I’d have taken a wild guess that it was one of the following:

  1. The collective noun for footballers’ wives: “A boisterous snood of WAGs were drinking Cristal champagne in the VIP lounge”.
  2. South American rodent which has now become a euphemism for a sex act with a soccer groupie: “Glamour model tells of steamy all-night snooding session with England star”.
  3. A north-east English slang term for a comprehensive sporting victory: “Wor lads gave the Makems a reet propa snooding like”.

As it happens, it’s none of the above. It’s the item of clothing that Carlos Tevez and other Premiership players have taken to wearing around their necks. Intrigued by this new objet de curiosité I decided to investigate. The snood is a tubular garment that can be worn either around the neck or as a hood. The word appears to be a neologism – an amalgam of scarf and hood. However, according to Wikipedia (did you seriously expect me to spend all week in the British Library researching a spiked football column?), snood is an Anglo-Saxon word which was used to describe a woman’s hairnet or caul. The first recorded use of the word dates back to 725 AD.

The fact that the word snood is derived from an item of women’s clothing merely confirms many people’s suspicions about modern footballers, namely that they’re a bunch of pampered softies who don’t have the stomach for the cold. To be honest, I tend to agree. Football is a tough winter sport. Man up! If you’re feeling cold try running around! I’ll concede that when it gets a bit chilly it’s acceptable to wear long sleeve jerseys. But that’s where the line should be drawn. Snoods go beyond what is acceptable. Like gloves, they send out the wrong signals. ‘I don’t really fancy it’, is the subtext.

How did our beloved national sport sink to this? The foreign players, particularly those from warmer countries, are partly to blame. Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Marouane Chamakh are early snood adopters. Foreign players tend to wear gloves too, but there are growing numbers of homegrown glove-wearers like Wayne Rooney.

Arguably the rot set in well before the foreign invasion. Readers of a certain generation can probably remember Leicester striker Keith Weller sporting a pair of white tights in the late 1970s. It was only a matter of time before players started taking to the field in thermal vests, leggings, cycle shorts and gloves. Twenty years ago you simply wouldn’t see a footballer in gloves. Now, particularly if you follow Arsenal, you’ll struggle to find a player not wearing gloves.

Five years ago Tony Cascarino wrote a piece in The Times bemoaning the rise of gloves in football. ‘The old-school British managers I played under wouldn’t let their players wear gloves because it created the wrong impression’, wrote the former Republic of Ireland international. ‘One day I wonder if a player will run out with a scarf on’, he added. It might have seemed fanciful five years ago, but Cascarino’s fears have materialised. A snood is a scarf in all but name.

Cascarino felt that wearing gloves signified that ‘footballers are softer these days’. Sir Alex Ferguson has also complained that modern players are ‘more cocooned’ and less robust. ‘It’s a different player character we’ve got today, it’s a player who’s more fragile than players 25 years ago’, said Fergie.

Soft might not be the most obvious adjective to describe Carlos Tevez. He’s not a bottler. You can’t fault his work rate. And you certainly wouldn’t call him soft to his face – he’s one of the scariest looking players in the Premiership. If he wasn’t a footballer you can just picture Tevez arranging dog fights in a Buenos Aires shanty town. But, even though he’s probably as hard as nails, the snood does raise question marks over his commitment to the City cause. Tevez’s homesickness is well documented. The snood, I would suggest, is a visual expression of this. ‘I’d rather be somewhere warmer’, is the message.

Football ain’t what it used to be, ie, a man’s game in which players weren’t put off by a little winter chill or a good honest career-threatening tackle. Masculinity ain’t what it used to be either and that’s reflected in football. It probably started in the Sixties with long hair and homoerotic goal celebrations. But now metrosexuality has gotten out of control and David Beckham is the chief culprit. Sarong, women’s underwear, Hoxton fin haircut: Becks made preening narcissism acceptable in football. He paved the way for the proliferation of body art, waxed chests and pink boots in domestic football.

And now the snood. Whatever next? Faux fur leg muffs? Ugg-style football boots? Ear muffs? Pashminas? Excuse the pun, but it’s a chilling prospect.

Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.

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Topics Politics


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