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Posted by John Brewin on 09/25/2009

Craig Bellamy has never been one of the game's sympathetic characters. He is a grandmaster at stealing PR disasters from the jaws of personal victory - see that fist-fight in Sierra Leone when visiting his own charity foundation last summer - and last Sunday followed the usual pattern.

Written off as a bit-part of the Manchester City project, he proved his playing mettle by scoring two exceptionally taken goals and then besmirched himself by lamping an intruder clearly already under the control of Manchester United's security goons. But that was not the only ugliness on show. His dubious - considering the opposition - aeroplane-style goal celebration featured his wing-span on show and with it one of the modern footballer's most prevalent pecadilloes; the all-over arm tattoo.

Where once, during his Newcastle days, it bore the legend "Cameron", the name of one of his three children, his right arm is now completely engraved in an Indian ink tribute to medieval Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr. It bears resemblance to the gargoyles you can find on any church from that era and must raise the odd eyebrow in the Carrington showers from those not versed in the story of 1402's Battle of Pilleth. Cameron still gets a billing on his dad's arm, he just has to compete these days.

The tattoo artist is now an avowed friend of the footballer. Any Baby Bentley-driving Mock-Tudor dweller must be on first-name terms with a body artist. David Beckham, as ever, has been a trend-setter, with his arms now smeared in the work of needle merchant Louis Malloy, a Mancunian who has also decorated the torsos and limbs of Ricky Hatton and three Spice Girls. Included on Becks' body are etchings in Sanskrit and Hebrew as well as a Knights Templar whose presence was explained as a symbol of a love of playing for England. Who knew that Beckham too is a keen medieval historian? Well, it seems that the tattoo is actually in honour of a character from TV series "Prison Break". That seems a bit more like it.

Beckham's love of the tattooist's needle has been flourishing for some years. Euro 2004 saw him unveil a set of wings on his neck, which, when matched with his skinhead hairdo meant he now resembled the type of bloke you'd avoid at a fairground. In the real world, this type of decoration would preclude one being asked back for a second job interview.

There are plenty of other examples of this growing trend of silliness. Wayne Rooney's right arm reads "Just Enough Education To Perform", apt given his lack of formal academic qualifications yet actually the title of an album by raw-throated Welsh rockers Stereophonics, a personal favourite of Rooney. Stephen Ireland meanwhile chose to deflect attention away from his ill-starred dalliance with wearing a toupée by having his back covered in a bluey-eagle's-wingy type of thing. And who could forget Steve Sidwell's tempting of bitter fate by having his wedding vows inscribed across his spine? At present, Steve and wife Krystell remain happily spliced though he may be relieved he didn't bother to have the words of his Chelsea contract added in there.

And the trend is ever-growing. Envious dressing-room glances are clearly being cast and SMS messages exchanged as to the numbers of tattooists with worrying names like "Painless Dave". Catch any Premier League game and you will see at least one player whose arm is swathed in Celtic bands, tropical insects, mythical beasts and tributes to family members. Body art is clearly not an industry affected by global recession. Once the preserve of heavy rockers, prison-dwellers and able seamen in the Merchant Navy, an expensive and intrictate tattoo is a must have for any footballer who wants to feel part of the game's in-crowd.

I write, of course, as a person with neither the bravery or the physique to desire to show off a tattoo. When considering the current trend for painful decoration of one's body, I am always reminded of a quote from the film "Performance", a 60s zeitgeist orgy of sex and violence, where Mick Jagger, playing a reclusive rock star, is told "you'll look funny when you're fifty". The same, I fear, will be true of many of the ill-advised indian-inked protagonists we watch in today's stadiums.


Posted by Pramod on 09/25/2009

You've nailed it yet again, Mr. Brewin. I don't understand the tattoo culture at all, but it does strike me as immature.

Posted by Anonymous on 09/25/2009

I know, I don't understand it either.

Posted by Anonymous on 09/25/2009

these horseless carriages are frightening and rude, i do say. i don't see how one could sensibly find themselves sitting in such an ugly and loathsome contraption. i for one see walking the streets in my leather boots as the only decent, dignified course of action. these horseless carriage riders will all feel quite silly indeed when this trend is over and they've forgotten altogether how to walk.

Posted by Anonymous on 09/25/2009

When you 50 just get the tattoo touched up. My wife got her first tattoo 15yrs ago and when she got some new ones recently they did some touch ups on it and it look brand new again. She is now 40 and still gets plenty of compliments on them as they cover both of her upper arms. I think they will look great in 10yrs and if they have faded a bit then another session will spice them up.

Posted by Dagur on 09/25/2009

Some people just like to 'live in the now', just doing what ever they want at the moment and not thinking about how it will come out when they are on pension in their elder years.

Posted by josh on 09/25/2009

if you've never been tattoo'd than you cant possibly hope to understand tattoo culture.

Posted by Patrick on 09/25/2009

I think its an attention grab and wanting to be different than everyone else on the pitch. Now that tattoos are more common in society, to be really different, the players need more and more, trying to fashion themselves an identity.

I predict that within a few years, there will be more players with neck tattoos or even face tattoos, as these seem to be becoming more popular in the US sports scene, especially in basketball.

I'm wondering when someone will sell the space on their neck to a sponsor.

Posted by sam on 09/26/2009

ironic thing is, tattoes used to show rebellion from society, these days they show conformity to the crowd.

if you want to be couragous, rebellious, loving etc, why not just do it, and not write over your body that you want to do that. Imagine if Martin Luther king had tattoed all over his body.

Posted by Ayo Peters on 09/26/2009

Bellamy is one of those at City whose arrogance is beginning to rob the round leather game of its artistry. Ferguson posited that City "must win league this season", but they have not won and they are through Bellamy, practicing what they are not preaching. What happens if the league is landed at Eastlands?

Posted by Magnus on 09/27/2009

This has to be the most childish article I've ever read on football.

The thing with tattoos is that if you need to ask "why?" you wouldn't understand the answer.

Wouldn't the world just be perfect if everyone where just like you?

Posted by Gary Talarino on 09/27/2009

I think you're great on the Soccernet Podcast, but this article is a bit much. Did you write it while furiously shaking your cane at some youngsters as you yelled at them to get off your lawn?

I'd suggest you see about applying for a job as manager of a Tesco's grocery store, as the popularity of this "internet" thing probably won't last.

Posted by anonymous on 09/27/2009

I think that Torres, however great a player he is, has a tattoo on his right shin/calf.

Surely getting that done was dicing with his career? Or maybe it makes him an even better player - performing in spite of it.

Posted by MuffinMan on 09/28/2009

Magnus, how come if someone disagrees with what you think they are childish and clearly, in your eyes, not intelligent enough to appreciate why covering your body with art which, in time, starts to look messy and, in many instances, embarrassing.

While many get tatooed for the right reasons, many more do it because they think it makes them stand out as an individual. Unlike personalised ring tones, they spend the rest of their lives looking ridiculous.

Posted by violetpeace on 09/29/2009

"While many get tatooed for the right reasons, many more do it because they think it makes them stand out as an individual. Unlike personalised ring tones, they spend the rest of their lives looking ridiculous."

So, there are "right reasons" to get a tattoo? And these "right reasons" don't include what may or may not be misguided attempts to "stand out as an individual"?

MM, if you and Mr. Brewin are glad to have made it this far through life without being forced to get a tattoo, and if you suspect that many people are getting tattoos for the *shock* purpose of grabbing attention *horror*, it would be wise of you to remember that there's one sure way to frustrate somebody who wants to get a reaction from you....

Write about them in a public forum which is supposedly dedicated to something completely unrelated to what you're complaining about. That'll teach em to make innocuous gestures with their own bodies.

Posted by anonymous on 09/29/2009

If I remember correctly, Torres's tattoo on his right calf is the date of his first date with his girlfriend, now wife. It reads 07/07/2001 in Roman numerals.

I think just as Rooney's "just enough education to perform" tells you what kind of a bloke he is, Torres's does the same.

Posted by An on 09/29/2009

"Unlike personalised ringtones, they spend the rest of their lives looking ridiculous". That may have been true in the 60s, but you know you can have them removed these days don't you? Laser, skin creams, light therapy... It's hardly the end of the world.

Posted by Darren on 09/29/2009

Muffin Man you chastisesomeone else for their one sided view but then you do exactly the same thing. Look I don't have a tattoo but in may look ridiculous and embarassing to you, but guess what the tattoo is not on your body. So really it does not matter how you view tattoos.

I'm sure there are something you have worn who someone else thought was ridiculous or embarassing

Posted by Turks on 09/30/2009

Justifiable opinion John but we mustn't get too swept away by nostalgia. The days of the strapping, clean cut, picture of masculinity footballer are well behind us. The evolution of the football star's image has been underway for a long time now. No doubt a similar column was written on George Best's flowing locks and party lifestyle many a year ago. At any given point in time there is something that seems silly and outrageous that inevitably becomes the norm. We just need to take it in perspective. We wouldn't question a Maori, Hawaiian or even sailor or gang member for that matter about their tatoos... Why? Because it is an established part of their culture. Culture is not stagnant but ever changing and what we are witnessing is just another chapter in the evolution of that culture we all love; football. The professional footballer is not just a guy that kicks a ball around but an entertainer, an idol, a recognisable superstar with a distinct image to uphold. nothing stays the same.

Posted by manutdfan on 10/29/2009

muffin man i think its more emberressing to be judgemental than to have body art. thats just me

Posted by Anonymous on 10/30/2009

The tattoo on Torres' arm I believe says his name in "Tengwar," the language created by Tolkein.

Posted by boogerso on 10/30/2009

Why does the intention have anything to do with whether the tattoo is objectively ok or not? Couldnt someone intend a tattoo to be rebellious, but the public perceive it as beautiful, thereby actually making it beautiful?

Posted by Foo Manchu on 10/30/2009

Is "body art" Political-Correctese for tattoo? You can tell the tattooed people on this forum by their highly peeved remarks. Whence this bitterness, my tattooed friends?

Posted by Ilia on 11/08/2009

To me what's silly about tattoos is this: you want to say something about yourself, but you don't wait for people to ask. You plaster it on your bodies where even people who don't want to know might well be happen see it.
If I want to know something about your life - your heritage, girlfriend, children, favourite tv show etc, I'll look up an interview or maybe I'll ask myself.
And I don't see how putting a tattoo in a 'subtle' area like an ankle or belly is much better. Tattoos are meant to be seen by others. If you want it to be private, you can always start a diary.

Posted by ZACKS ISA on 11/12/2009

craig bellamy is the best player n
in mcfc i love the passion in him . the way he move with the ball he is a fantastic player

Posted by David on 01/07/2010

I totally get why people want tattoos. Depending on who you talk to, a tat can be for any reason, reminder/momento, souvenier or a mark of love. However, what gives me a chuckle is that the real reason, especially amongst the young is "it is an expression of my individualness". Well, it appears that in our generation, one is more individual if one does NOT have a tattoo. I am one of the very few people i know who doesn't have 1. Still, it's up to them and it's their bodies so good luck to em i say.

Posted by Kasui on 01/12/2010

I do not know about you proper Brits, but there are numerous old Yanks who have tattoos. Find a sailor or marine who served during WWII or Korea and I bet he has a tiger or bulldog on his posterior that he is still proud of though he nor anyone else has seen it in 15 years.

I have a tat from 20 years ago and while it has faded I am still happy with it. The key is to find an image, character, design that will mean close to the same thing to you at 40 as it did at 20.

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