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When football players take the pitch with the mask on

Protective masks serve to return as soon as possible and at the same time have become cult objects

When football players take the pitch with the mask on  Protective masks serve to return as soon as possible and at the same time have become cult objects

Disguise has always been a classic carnival tradition, but in particular situations even football players have needed to take the field wearing and showing off a mask and not to celebrate Mardi Gras. Not to be confused with the masks we live with because of the pandemic, but they are an accessory that looks much more like the one worn on the face by Zorro to protect his true identity. In the world of football, the function of these masks is to protect players after they have suffered a bruised face, have surgeries to fix a fracture and then want to get back on the field as soon as possible to help their team. 

Modern devices are much less obtrusive than those of the past that clearly disrupted the performance of the players wearing them. They were huge, heavy, did not allow an optimal view of the field and were also very ugly to the eye. Today, on the other hand, the new protective masks are made of carbon fiber, very light, small and made and printed to measure for the player's face. Thanks to these new tools, those who find themselves embroiled in a nasty facial injury don't have to wait too long before they can return to the playing field, but look like a superhero looking for revenge. Over the years, there have been several footballers forced to wear these masks that are now customized for the occasion.

The double mask of Osimhen 

The last prominent footballer in chronological order to have been forced to wear a protective mask is Victor Osimhen. The Napoli striker, victim of a terrible injury last November after a game clash with Inter Milan Skriniar in which he fractured his cheekbone, returned to the field in January wearing two different models of protectors. A larger and more annoying one in the matches against Bologna and Salernitana and then a smaller and lighter one in "high tech carbon" made to measure for his face and which he still wears today. And masked, the Nigerian bomber has scored two goals so far against Venezia and Cagliari. 

The mask of the Pazzo 

It was not his cheekbone that cracked for Giampaolo Pazzini in 2009, but rather his nose, after being punched by Muslera during a match between his Sampdoria team and Lazio. The week after the fracture, the blucerchiato forward took the field against Bologna wearing a very special mask. On the protection there was a "10", his jersey number, all over the right side, while on the eyebrow arch was engraved the writing "Pazzo", nickname of the former bomber. In that first game in a mask, Pazzini immediately scored and at the end of the game joked and declared: "I won't take it off anymore...". 

Cribari, from Lazio to Brazil

In August 2007, former Lazio defender Emilson Cribari fractured his jaw, cheekbone and orbital floor in a match against Dinamo Bucarest. His employment for the return match 12 days after the operation seemed impossible, but the player expressly asked the coach to take the field. Cribari took the field as a substitute during the game, with a fiberglass mask that was later customized with a stylized eagle painted in honor of the Lazio team. In the following matches, the Lazio defender played with a colorful face shield on which the flag of Brazil was featured on the occasion of the Rio Carnival

Paolo Maldini and the "derby fracture

After a nose-to-neck collision in a derby between AC Milan and Inter Milan with Bobo Vieri, the time had also come for AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini to wear a protective mask. The Rossoneri flag bearer fractured his nasal septum and, following the operation, took to the field with an old-fashioned device. Transparent but covering a large part of his face. 

Harry Kane and the diving mask

In 2016, Harry Kane fractured his nose against Crystal Palace thus managing to join the club of "goleaders in a mask". The Tottenham striker wore a clean and unobtrusive device in the facial area, of an inconspicuous flesh color. The peculiarity, however, concerned the lace that held the mask to the Hurricane's face: a transparent plastic band that looked very similar to those of diving masks. The device, moreover, was emblazoned with the number 10, Kane's number, on his right cheekbone. And playing in disguise, the Spurs striker even managed to find the way to the goal in the very popular derby against Arsenal. 

Amauri at the Viareggio Carnival

Another injury to the nasal septum and another bomber wearing a mask. In 2011 it was Amauri's turn to take the field with a protective device on his face. Black and with a large portion of it covering most of the forehead, the forward, at the time in force at Juventus, didn't waste time customizing the mask with the writing "Ama", diminutive of his name. For Amauri, going down in the field like Zorro was not a problem since as a young man he came to light during the Viareggio Tournament, a city famous for its Carnival. 

De Rossi, giallorossi's Zorro

In 2009 a Zorro wandered around Rome dressed not in black but in yellow and red. He was Daniele De Rossi, who suffered a double fracture to his cheekbone against Inter and was forced to take to the pitch in disguise for a few games. A device that covered most of the right side of his face, the side where the player had surgery, while leaving the left side open. The peculiarity of this protection? The lower elastic covered by a sort of rolled up gauze, probably not to irritate the area of the nape of De Rossi's neck. 

Lewandowski version Pulcinella

Exes really hurt. It happened to Robert Lewandowski in 2015 when, following a collision of play in the match between his Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, his former team, he fractured his nose and jaw. After the operation, the Polish bomber returned to the field with a different mask from those seen up until then. No longer Zorro style, but rather Punchinello style with the part of the nose well pronounced. Needless to say, despite the awkwardness of the mask, Lewandowski had no problem seeing the goal with the usual continuity. 

Depay and an almost total mask

In 2014, when he was still wearing the PSV Eindhoven jersey, Depay was hit by the elbow of a Vitesse player. A special protective mask was then created for the Dutchman, which was already special from the moment of creation. In the clinic, in fact, the player's face was wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent the plaster cast from dripping on his face. The device itself, on the other hand, was different from the others as it had a band on the top of the head as well to keep it still and not to make it move during the matches. 

Mandzukic's revolution

Fracture of the nasal septum for Mandzukic as well, during the 2014 match between Atletico Madrid and Olympiacos. An injury, however, that in its own way made history since the Croatian was the first footballer to use a carbon fiber mask from the company Podoactiva, which until now only produced materials for the air force. The device was made in such a way that, even if damaged, it would not create splinters that could endanger the safety of the wearer. Mandzukic's mask, specifically, was customized with the Colchoneros shield on his forehead, the letters "MM" - the Croatian's initials - and the numbers 9 and 17.