Indisputable fact: soccer players have the best hair in the entire sports world. Amongst the many iconic hair styles that have bounced across the pitch, the Afro – a look imbued with the weight of identity politics in the early 70s, and eventually so popular people of many races began to embrace it – is by far the most fly.
We took a little trip down memory lane to look at the Latin American futbolistas who sported it best.
Carlos El Pibe Valderrama
El Pibe was part of Colombia’s National team during their golden era in the 90s. He was known for his accurate passing and smart play on the field, but no matter the magnitude of his accomplishments, nothing could overshadow his buoyant blond Afro. To this day, it’s what people most remember him for. And unlike many of his peers, who got rid of their ‘fros as they got older, El Pibe continues to wear his with pride.
It’s impossible to look at Cuellar and not think about the worldwide hippie movement of the 60s and early 70s. For most of his career, Cuellar played for Pumas, but he also spent some years at the North American Soccer League (AKA NASL), playing for the San Diego Sockers and San Jose Earthquakes. He has been the head coach of the Mexico’s women’s national team since 1999, but sadly no longer rocks the Afro.
Gerónimo Barbadillo González
Known for his extravagant Saturday Night Fever-style clothes, Peruvian player González became such an idol for Tigres UANL that the Mexican team retired the number 7 in his honor. He played one season for Udinese (Italy) before retiring and still lives there, where he is in charge of the youth squad.
Colombian legend Iguarán had a very well-kempt ‘fro. Known as el Guajiro, Iguarán played the 1990 World Cup and two Copa Américas. With 24 international goals, he holds the record for Colombia’s all-time top scorer jointly with Radamel Falcao.
Diego Edison Umaña
Looking at Umaña today, one would never imagine he once had one of the coolest Afros in soccer. This Colombian player, who was known as El Afro, comes from a family of footballers (both his father and grandfather played professionally). He played his entire career in Colombia before retiring and beginning a prolific career as a coach, coaching teams in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Jair Ventura Filho
He looks like an actor out from City of God, but he came in 27th on World Soccer Magazine’s list of top 100 players of the 20th Century, just one place ahead of Zidane. Better known as Jairzinho, he won the 1970 World Cup with Brazil, scoring in every single game of the tournament and becoming only the 2nd player in history to have done so.
Estupiñan was one of the first Ecuadorians to play in the Mexican League, where he remained for most of his career. He was considered one of the best foreign players in the league for several years, and was the first Ecuadorian to win a Mexican championship.
Diego Armando Maradona
Maradona’s perm might make him look like a smaller version of Hurley from Lost, but many think of the Argentine as the greatest player of all time. Maradona is and will be remembered for many things; his skills, La Mano de Dios, his problems with cocaine, his off the field scandals, and his antagonistic relationship with the press. Although Diego’s Afro is not as impressive as some of his counterparts, it at least merits an honorable mention in the category.
A strong defender, Tarantini was part of the Argentina National Squad that won the 1978 World Cup. Known for his fiery attitude, Tarantini moved to England’s Birmingham City after having a contractual dispute with Boca Juniors. His time in England ended infamously after 23 games, when he punched a fan in the crowd who had been heckling him during the game.
With such a stand-out last name and great hairstyle, it’s no wonder that Chumpitaz is one of Peru’s most well-known soccer players. Considered one of the best South American defenders of all time, he was chosen as captain for the American continent’s team, and became known as Capitan America.
Probably the best Mexican soccer player in history, Hugol was the top scorer in the Spanish league on five separate seasons, and the leading marksman in Mexico once. He also was named in Real Madrid’s all-time greatest XI. Since the early stages of his career with the Pumas, up until his time with MLS’ Dallas Burn, “El niño de oro” rocked a light ‘fro that is a bit curly.