1970s throwback as Brazilian stars and players from Africa and Europe rock funkdified afros in World Cup

1 - capa


Note from BW of Brazil: In Brazil of today, there has been a rise in the self-acceptance of afro textured hair in a country in which this type of hair is consistently the source of ridicule, jokes and insults. Yes, the dictatorship of straight hair rules supreme. Children, women and men are regular targets of discriminatory comments expressing the idea that they should conform to the standard of “acceptability” in terms of their locks. From being told that they need to straighten their hair to get a job, being denied entrance to their schools (here and here), being the targets of jokes on national TV or harassed and removed from public interaction with clients, there is clearly not a “racial democracy” when it comes to hair. Although Marcelo, one of the men featured in this post, rocks his ‘fro loud and proud, he has already been the target of an insult about his hair that made headlines during the World Cup due to his hair. Regardless of how some prejudiced fans may feel, these players are taking us all back to a time when the ‘fro was a popular symbol of black pride. 

Willian of Brazil's National Team posted a photo of himself and his "brothers" in 'fro, Marcelo and David
Willian of Brazil’s National Team posted a photo of himself and his “brothers” in ‘fro, Marcelo and David

Afros command the Brazilian team
by Luiza Oliveira e Pedro Ivo Almeida

The stars of the Brazilian National Team, known as the seleção brasileira, always dictate fashion, especially in the time of the World Cup. Ronaldo already made Brazil go bald and emulate the Cascão character of the Turma da Mônica cartoon. Neymar made the mohawk popular among thousands of children. But in the world of 2014 the tresses of the Barcelona playmaker have been overshadowed. Now afros, known as ‘black power’ in Brazil, dominate the seleção.

During the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo's haircut was compared to a cartoon character
During the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo’s haircut was compared to a cartoon character

Defenders Dante and David Luiz, left back/winger Marcelo and midfielder Willian are successful and proud of their locks. They posted a picture on social networks extolling this group with full heads of hair.

They are even making money. The defender David Luiz has become one of the main advertising stars of on the squad. Much is due to his look. In two of them, his hair steals the show as in the Pepsi commercial where he flirts with a girl with curly hair, and also in Vivo (phone company). In this one, a caricature of the defender has his hair straightened by a chapinha (flat iron).

David Luiz in a Pepsi commercial
David Luiz in a Pepsi commercial

The funkdified hairdos are also successful with fans. With Chelsea, team fans frequently wore wigs that mimicked David’s ‘fro in games. The same happened with Willian when he played for Shakhtar Donetsk, in the Ukraine.

It’s not by chance that the midfielder takes special care with his tresses and adopted the look as his favorite after using close cropped early in his career and most recently braids.

Dante and Willian of Brazil's National Team
Dante and Willian of Brazil’s National Team

But every success does not come free and is the result of hard work. Dante, for example, spends a good part of his day caring for his locks. He uses special shampoos and creams and takes care of his hair as if it were a newborn child, reveals a friend.

Even David Luiz, who doesn’t consider himself very vain, doesn’t make much fuss about his hair but still has a regimen. David’s mother, Regina Célia Marinho, says he uses shampoo and a leave-in cream to comb without rinsing which is generally used after bathing.

David Luiz
Brazil’s David Luiz

Regina admits she would like her son to be more devoted. “In Europe it’s very cold and the strands get too dry. And I think the water there has a lot of sodium and limestone. I tell him to moisturize and massage. But he doesn’t want to. He says he doesn’t need it and doesn’t have time. He uses the first shampoo that he sees and then just puts in the leave-in,” she says.


Jairzinho, Paulo Cézar Caju and Edevaldo were a few Brazilian players known for their afros in the 70s and 80s
Jairzinho, Paulo Cézar Caju and Edevaldo were a few Brazilian players known for their afros in the 70s and 80s

The hair style became known worldwide during the 60s, in the heyday of the black struggle for civil rights in the United States. Through the “Black is beautiful” (a slogan known as “Negro é lindo” in Brazil) cultural movement, which encouraged men and women to not hide their features, eventually becoming a trademark, and the next decade, become popular among futebolistas. In the 1974 World Cup, Jairzinho and Paulo Cézar Caju were the representatives of “black power”. In 1978, it was Jorge Mendonça and Rodrigues Neto.  Even in the 80s, Reinaldo, of Atlético-MG, made history and Júnior earned the nickname “Capacete” (helmet) with the Flamengo team in Rio. Players such as Serginho Chulapa and Edevaldo were also famous for their ‘fros in that era.

Reinaldo, Jorge Mendonça, Júnior and Serginho Chulapa
Reinaldo, Jorge Mendonça, Júnior and Serginho Chulapa

Bringing back the popular 60s/70s look, Brazilian stars, African teams and even players from Belgium become attractions of the World

By Fábio Lima

The return to the afro has caught on not just with the team in canary yellow. National teams from Europe, Africa and South America also have enthusiasts of the look.

Brazilian defender Marcelo
Brazilian defender Marcelo

Marcelo also adopted the style in Europe. Dante has been faithful to the visual since childhood, and was inspired by his father, plastic artist João Carlos, who sports dreadlocks that he has maintained for 19 years.

“My dad has had ‘rasta’ hair for many years. Once I experimented to see how it would look and ended up liking it, and my wife too. It’s already been many years that I let my hair be big like this,” he explained.

The midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Witsel are symbols of the Belgian national team in Brazil competing in the Cup. The current generation is listed as one of the best in Europe, which puts them among the teams capable of surprising the favorites. Both players also adopted afros and captured the attention of fans because of their appearance.

In the times in which he defended Everton, between 2008 and 2013, Fellaini’s hair had such a strong influence culturally for the club that many fans, especially young children, used to go to the stadium wearing wigs to imitate him. The midfielder, currently with Manchester United, hasn’t thought of getting rid of the cut, despite admitting that it’s necessary to shape it so it doesn’t disrupt his field performance.

The midfielder, currently with Manchester United, hasn’t thought of getting rid of the cut, despite admitting that it’s necessary to shape it so it doesn’t disrupt his field performance.

Marouane Fellaini of Belgium and Assou-Ekotto of Cameroon
Marouane Fellaini of Belgium and Assou-Ekotto of Cameroon

“I cut it regularly, otherwise after a few months, I couldn’t see the ball, especially when there is a lot of rain,” he told the magazine Match of the Day.

Among the African teams, the lateral Assou-Ekotto of Cameroon, is the owner of the longest hair. Bony, of the Ivory Coast, and Carlos Sanchez, of Colombia, are also noteworthy for their afros.

Carlos-Sánchez of Colômbia and Axel Witsel of Belgium
Carlos-Sánchez of Colômbia and Axel Witsel of Belgium

If visually and even commercially the style can be advantageous for the players, technically there are those who don’t approve. Some trainers often complain with curious allegations. The journalist João Saldanha who led the Brazilian national team and Botafogo (in Rio), already starred in a fun story in which he explained the reasons for the afro being a problem.

“On the crioulos (blacks), with that “grama (grass) of that size, they lose the account of the ball. I’ve seen Zequinha (attacker with stints on teams like Flamengo, Botafogo and Grêmio) in front of the goal to give a header, it softened it in (the kick) afro, in the ‘grass’, and the goalkeeper caught it…… I’m talking from the technical point of view.”

João Saldanha plays with a fan's hair
João Saldanha plays with a fan’s hair

While Saldanha made his “speech”, a passerby with an afro stopped to monitor the recording, and the journalist started to use it as an example to complement the analysis.

“Look here (he said as he touched the hair of the fan), it softened the ball, the ball is able to be stopped here. I think it goes like this in the street, I think it’s cool, but on my team it doesn’t play, no.”

Fellaini has been pressured to cut his hair. The coach David Moyes used another excuse and said that the look makes him an easy target for referees. The player, however, hasn’t considered the possibility.

“Cut my hair? Why should I? It looks fantastic. I don’t think I should cut it. I like it, and the fans too,” he told the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Dante never received such a request. If any manager or coach has the gall to try to terminate his trademark, the answer is on the tip of the tongue.

“Nobody has addressed me with this indecent proposal. But I think I wouldn’t cut it.”

Source: Globo Esporte, UOL Copa do Mundo


About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. I think it is important to say that this revival of the afro is not a thing of the soccer players, it is a thing that a new generation of black activists in Brazil started in the early 2000 and that spread to the whole country. Nowadays we have several blogs on internet only to support natural girls in Brazil, even if the media insists in to present a ditactorship of the straight hair. The option of those players are the reflection of a struggle to promote awareness and pride to our people.

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