Getting inked wouldn’t be at the top of the priority list for most professional soccer teams. But last month MLS club the Philadelphia Union ensured that their players will never have to endure a trip to that shady backstreet parlor ever again when they placed a job advertisement for their very own “Chief Tattoo Officer.”
As unusual as the self-described “revolutionary service” may appear, it’s far from the strangest profession that the sport has recruited over the years. From philosophers and poets to housekeepers and hypnotists, here’s a look at ten soccer roles your career counselor probably never mentioned.
Glenn Hoddle’s offensive comments about disabled people deservedly resulted in his dismissal as England’s national coach. But the foot-in-mouth boss and his spiritual beliefs first began to raise eyebrows a year earlier with the introduction of Eileen Drewery. A faith healer who Hoddle first met while recovering from an injury as a teenager, Drewery was appointed as a consultant during England’s preparations for the 1998 World Cup – a move which perhaps inevitably drew instant derision from the notorious British press. Although Paul Gascoigne, Darren Anderton and Ian Wright all vouched for her unique services, Phil Neville, Ray Parlour and Robbie Fowler were far more sceptical, with the latter reportedly spending the entirety of his session watching TV with Drewery’s husband.
Having struggled to adapt to life in Manchester, Italian maverick Mario Balotelli caused Man City even more worry when he nearly burned down his house after setting fireworks off in his bathroom. Determined to hold onto, and keep alive, their prized asset, the club understandably decided he needed a babysitter: enter an unidentified elderly housekeeper dubbed by the press as the new Mrs. Doubtfire. The move appeared to pay off initially, as Balotelli grabbed 13 goals during the 2011-12 season and helped City lift their first league title since the late 60s. But chaos follows Balotelli no matter who looks after his laundry, and in the same season he also picked up four red cards, a four-match suspension for violent conduct and a club fine of two weeks’ wages.
Of course, the red half of Manchester is no stranger to unorthodox help either. Perhaps the most famous example occurred during the tail end of the 1995/96 season when Alex Ferguson’s men, 3-0 down away to struggling Southampton at half-time, re-emerged from the tunnel with an entirely different kit. Ferguson went on to claim that the gray strip his side played in during the disastrous first half had blended into the background, meaning that Giggs, Sharpe and company had apparently struggled to see each other on the pitch. What sounded like another terrible Ferguson excuse was apparently grounded in some sort of science; the Scot made the bizarre change on the advice of Gail Stephenson, a visual specialist who went on to work with the club for nearly two decades.
Hypnotists have been a surprisingly popular tool for various soccer stars over the years, but relegation-threatened Brazilian team Portuguesa went one step further in 2014 when they hired one to put their whole team under a spell. Hypnotist Olimar Tesser was the man given the responsibility for transforming the fortunes of the Serie B side, who at the time were second from bottom with just 21 points to their name. But his unusual methods (teaching the players how to walk across broken glass and bend iron bars with their necks, for example) failed to produce the desired effect and the club dropped down to Serie C for the first time in their 94-year history.
Everyone knows the true score
and three points are established:
that some stand on the sidelines,
sex up facts and turn their backs,
while some again pass the buck,
but others give it their best shot
even when the goal looks far off
and score a hit, so whatever slant
is put on it, a line’s been crossed.
Poetry and soccer don’t make particularly likely bedfellows. Well, not unless you count football chants such as “John Carew, Carew. He likes a lap dance or two” or “Chelsea, wherever you may be, keep your wife from John Terry” as masterful examples of the spoken word. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Tottenham Hotspur decided to provide a touch of class to the Premier League in 2004 by appointing their very own poet-in-residence. Sarah Wardle, an award-winning poetry lecturer at Middlesex University, was the wordsmith given the tall order, with free tickets to every Spurs home game serving as her reward.
First poetry, then philosophy … who says soccer can’t be intellectual from time to time? West London Championship side Brentford, not exactly the most likely candidates to find the sport’s answer to Aristotle, made headlines in 2015 when they appointed their very own Head of Football Philosophy. Formerly an assistant coach at Germany’s Mainz 05 and manager of Denmark’s Helsingør IF, Flemming Pedersen was recruited by the club to develop and implement a football philosophy for the entire club (from the U9s through the senior team). Unfortunately the bold move didn’t quite pay off: having previously reached the playoffs, the Bees finished the 2015/16 season in ninth and Pedersen was later shifted to B Team Head Coach before leaving the club altogether in late 2016.
You may believe that Joachim Löw, or goalscorer Mario Götze, or any of the other members of the playing and coaching staff were responsible for Germany winning their fourth World Cup in 2014. However, it seems that the art of yoga deserves most of the credit. At least, that’s what instructor Ralf Bauer and his fellow flexible friend Patrick Broome would have us believe. Broome, who joined the German national squad’s behind-the-scenes team in 2005, worked his magic on Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and perhaps most notably, Götze, before the tournament in Brazil, and has also been a regular visitor to the country’s most dominant league side, Bayern Munich.
Turns out that some soccer players are more elegant than you’d think. As well as practising yoga, Ryan Giggs used ballet to help stave off injury following a bout of hamstring problems , an approach which may well have helped the Welshman play for Manchester United into his forties. And in 2003 Ian Holloway took his whole QPR team to train with the English National Ballet for a series of lessons designed to build stamina and speed up recovery times. As with Giggs, a spot of pirouetting worked wonders and the Londoners finished their League One season in second place, earning automatic promotion to the Championship.
Can’t hit a barn door but still dream of signing for a professional soccer club? Well, as long as you’re more skilful with your thumbs than your feet, then such a prospect no longer seems as far-fetched. Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg has given hope to FIFA-playing couch potatoes everywhere by offering contracts to three eSports masters in 2015. Benedikt Saltzer, Daniel Fink and Dave Bytheway are the lucky gamers who can now count themselves as official Wolfsburg players, with the German team hoping to establish a digital league in the near future.
It’s hard to shake the feeling that Swansea City didn’t quite know what to do with Alan Curtis after relieving him of his caretaker manager duties for a third time. The former Welsh international, whose affiliation with the Premier League side dates back to the early 70s, was given the unusual job title of Loan Player Manager after making way for Paul Clement in 2017. Of course, the likes of Chelsea, who famously had a staggering 38 players out on loan at the beginning of this season, would probably benefit from inventing such a position. But with just seven Swansea players currently plying their trade elsewhere, Curtis is now likely to be twiddling his thumbs even more than Wolfsburg’s virtual signings.