Would you ever catch a rugy player wearing longjohns?

by Charlie Coffey

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

For those who haven’t heard, former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben has been under the spotlight in Germany for wearing grey longjohns under his red Bayern Munich kit. “The German Federation want a single colour,” Bayern sporting director Christian Nerlinger said. “We’ll either have to dye them or he’ll have to find another pair.”

This story brings up at least a couple of issues. Firstly, why does Robben need to wear longjohns when everybody else copes without? Secondly, in Robben’s defence, what’s the difference between wearing different coloured longjohns and the spectrum of different coloured boots worn by players around the world?

Robben explains: “I’m an explosive player who must warm up well.” Obviously he is still as modest as he was when his precious attitude and histrionics on and off the pitch persuaded Jose Mourinho to offload him to Madrid. “They are not beautiful but they are functional,” said Robben. Much like himself, then.

Of course Robben isn’t the first player to don extra garments when the going gets tough. Pascal Chimbonda, for instance, seemingly has gloves stitched to his wrists. Chimbonda once said “I am definitely leaving Spurs. It’s all about the money, I don’t care about the [Carling Cup] final”. Like Robben, Chimbonda has had more than his fair share of clubs. Surely there is a correlation of sorts here, namely between wearing gloves and leggings and being sold regularly.

OK, there are exceptions. Thierry Henry regularly wore gloves in England but gave his heart and soul to Arsenal. ‘Gigi’ Buffon pioneered the wearing of what I am told is called a ‘snood’, which is a fleecy scarf, also seen around the neck of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from time to time.

Buffon can be excused because, as a goalkeeper, he stands still for long periods of the game and, well, he is from Italy, the country in which the headband is the accepted norm. Ibrahimovic just stands still for long periods of time.

Many players wear sweatbands on their wrists. Players such as Adebayor wear them in their national colours. One look at the Togo national flag shows that these wristbands do not correspond to the team colours of Manchester City, or Arsenal, for that matter. No-one in England seems to bat an eyelid. Neither do they care when Nani wears his putrid lime green boots or Bendtner wears boots the colour of a regurgitated shish kebab.

So what is the difference with Robben, and why are his longjohns a problem for the powers that be in the Bundesliga? Is it German culture, or is it just to piss him off as he is being such a big girl?

There is one, quite obvious point to make with this whole saga. The only area showing of the offending grey pants are between the bottom of Robben’s shorts and the top of his boots. Players of differing races have different colour skin.

Are these crazy Germans suggesting that all visible body parts should be painted in team colours? Or should Robben go for 20 minute sunbed without cream before every game to match the red hue of his kit?

Some keepers also like to wear something to keep their legs warm, and it is here where the plot in the case of the grey longjohns thickens. My dear Watson, if I may draw your attention to a certain Mr Kiraly Esquire. Gabor Kiraly to be specific, a superstitious Hungarian goalkeeper who used to play for Palace. He religiously wore an old pair of grey tracksuit trousers. A bit of detective work shows that Kiraly recently moved to…1860 Munich.

Is it inconceivable that he and Robben have formed some sort of dark, sordid brotherhood of the grey trouser in the back alleys of downtown Munich? Probably, but it’s a nice thought…

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  • Tef1on

    Buffon wears a neck warmer… and short sleaves…? Work that one out!

  • Paul

    I played against a team who all had ear muffs on once. We battered them 8-0, crazy days

  • dexylongshot

    I’ve got mine on today, an essential when standing down the south bank on cold wednesday night in East London iwatching my club get battered by Birmingham.

    Teflon, forgot about your top, will wash & do at weekend.

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