Youth and masculinity, in all their exuberance, are what the World Cup is about. Getting the ball is just an excuse. You must jump, dance around, twist and turn, elbow an opponent, raise your leg to the top. And you must sweat.
There is no extra fat anywhere. Pectoral muscles are on display, but it is inappropriate to overemphasize them, unless, obviously, you are Ronaldo. He loves scoring so he can take his shirt off. See how he flexes? His physique was engineered by the Barbie company.
Hair-styles tend to go from the conservative to the flamboyant, with Neymar and Dani Alves in the latter category. African players like Mohawks. There is a Bob Marley-look alike in the U.S. team.
Only an Italian or two will dare to wear the hair in the 1960s style. Shaving it all off is preferred, à la Kojak, like Arjen Robben.
In this category, refs are unquestionably the most boring. At times it seems as if they should have a mustache. But they never do. Of course, no soccer player likes wearing one either.
As a huge Red Sox fan, I am struck by the almost universal absence of beards in the tournament. This isn’t surprising given the humidity in Brazil. Here and there one does see a Brad Pitt–like five o’clock shadow. And, less frequently, a goatee. Or a “pad-luck” beard. In short, facial hair is a no-no.
Body hair is out, too. These guys must shave often to protect the semblance of the pitch-perfect frugality they are known for.
With a carefully placed hair-band, the girlish hair-cut of Memo Ochoa, the Mexican goalie—whose name was tweeted more times during the Brazil vs. Mexico match than that of any other player at any point in the whole World Cup—is refreshing. I’m told it became an instant hit among eight- to twelve-year-olds in California.
In general, the uniforms for this World Cup are gorgeous. The wine-color used by the Russians seems especially elegant. Shirts are tighter than on previous occasions, almost like surfing suits. And shorts are longer. An Ivory Coast player with a hip-hop style keeps pulling his shorts down half-way every time the camera looks at him.
Why are goalies always in their pajamas? Mercifully, none is wearing long pants.
Cleats come in green, yellow, and orange neon colors. As in a Montessori class, some players opt for non-matching pairs.
In short, this is el juego bonito, the beautiful game, in more ways than one.