by Conor McStay
As we move into the winter months something will appear obvious when matches are on television. It won’t be the fluorescent ball for increased visibility nor will it be the number of fat topless men decreasing as the nights get colder. No, it’s that the snood (or neckwarmer) is no longer with us. Deemed ‘dangerous’ by Sepp Blatter, this move was the best decision that FIFA has ever made if the English media, and ex-players, was to be believed.
“I’m sick and tired of seeing players, even when it’s mild weather, wearing tights and these things [snoods] around their necks. It’s not right…. tights – they’ll be wearing skirts next.”These were the words of Paul Ince in a bid to have the manliest opinion on the topic. Not to be outdone, Roy Keane claimed that the snood was an indictment of “the way the game’s gone.” So it seems that the world (or the trade union for ex-Manchester United Midfielders) is glad to be rid of the snood in the beautiful game. The question is why: what does a layer of cloth around the neck represent? In my opinion, it’s clear that the backlash against the snood was a cultural backlash against the reality of a league being dominated by foreign players, and what they represent. I believe that the British Isles have a winter which can justify the wearing of extra layers. Our micro-climate has as much in common with Scandinavia as it does France and since snow annually brings this country to a halt then how come those who are exposed to it can’t cover themselves up? Fair enough, it doesn’t reach the lows of Moscow or Kiev, but when you have to train in a Manchester winter you start to question this. In a game which is embracing science and the use of muscles during games, what difference can it make to remain a tiny bit warmer during a game, advice which was followed by Arsene Wenger?
I’d like you to try something: Do a Google (other search engines are available) image search for “Snoods in football”. The results include Samir Nasri, Carlos Tevez, Marouane Chamakh, Yaya Toure and Pepe Reina. Not only are none of these footballers English, but they are either highly paid or unpopular in the eyes of most football fans. Players like this became the image of the anti-snood campaign, the object of what was seen as wrong in the modern game. The BBC website, when reporting the ban, called snoods the “beloved neck warmers of precious and pampered footballers”. The article was accompanied with an image of Carlos Tevez. The Mirror had a slideshow of “villains” who wore the snood. As for the Daily Mail, they claimed to “expose” the “wimps” who wore the snood.
The correlation made by organisations like these was that the players with the most money had an deathly aversion to the cold and needed a snood. The money argument doesn’t stick in my opinion, snood ownership doesn’t have a minimum income requirement, nor does the notion of ‘you earn more so you should run more’. If you try wrapping notes around your neck to heat up then you cleary have more money than sense. However, where does money come into the ability to re-adjust to a new life? The rise in the wearing of snoods hasn’t coincided with the appearance of foreginers in the Premier League. When the likes of Zola, Henry and Cantona arrived on our shores and started wearing gloves, it’s hard to have to imagined the same uproar surrounding this new ‘fad’. However in the gap between the birth of the Premier League and today, the league has become dominated by foreign players (64.8% of Premier League players are foreign, according to www.transfermarket.co.uk) and as the English National Team has constantly underperformed, the mainstream media has tended to use the ‘invasion’ of the Premier League by foreign players as an easy scapegoat for this. With the exception of Ashley Young, no images show an English player wearing a snood. You also couldn’t imagine the likes of Lampard, Scott Parker or the brave (tongue-in-cheek here) John Terry wearing one, likewise Rio Ferdinand has tweeted about his dislike of snoods. By extension, the association of foreign players with snoods makes for an easy story to write about.
A final point to consider is the type of player who is associated with a snood. With the exception of Reina and Chamakh, it’s an item associated with flair players. The luxury player. The lazy player. The players who do the fancy flicks; dive; score the goals and the ones that you just love to hate. At local league levels, or six a side, if a player wears a snood they usually get a reducer or two in an attempt to ‘put them in their place’. The snood distinguishes certain players, either for good reasons or bad and the end result is a treatment which differs to non snood wearing players. It’s almost like a mark of a threat which warrants this special treatment. Given the association with attacking players and snoods, the mentality of ‘stop the player with the snood and you stop the goals’ is created, which acts as a justification for an extra-physical challenge. In short, the snood is the antithesis of the kick-and-run, gung-ho style of play that has dominated the English game for so long.
In summation, the snood was treated as an embodiment of a cultural shift in the Premier League which was happening at a rate faster than the traditional media had anticipated. By it being associated with the foreign players in the league, it brought the gulf in quality and number of homegrown players and overseas players (and the high wage culture associated with them) sharper into perspective. Oh, I thought I’d mention that I’m a snood-wearer, as well as gloves; leggings and coloured boots. And I’m not a striker, I’m a wing back with a love for uneccesary flicks. I’m sure Roy Keane would hate me then.