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World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014: Famous footballers and their unique tattoos

Published on Jun 20, 2014 7:10 PM
The tattooed leg of Portugal's midfielder Raul Meireles is pictured as he takes part in a team training session in Campinas, Sao Paulo, on June 18, 2014, during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. -- PHOTO: AFP

Many of the world’s most famous footballers are known for sporting tattoos, some of them covering entire arms, legs or torsos. But while it is easy to mistake them for a simple case of vanity, many of these pieces of body art actually carry special meanings to the players.

Here are some of the most unique ones:

1. Sergio Ramos (Spain)

The 28-year-old centre-back has as many tattoos as he does winners medals from international and club duty for Real Madrid. On his left bicep: the dates 9/11 and 3/11 – referring to the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 – with the phrase “lies in the memory of those alive”.

He also has one in remembrance of former Sevilla teammate Antonio Puerta, who died aged 22 from a series of heart attacks during a La Liga game in 2007.

The tribal tattoo on his right wrist is identical to the one his brother has, also inked at the same place. There are also matching tattoos of the Champions League and World Cup trophies on his calves, to mark his rare feat of winning the biggest crowns in club and international football.

2. Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana)

The German-born Ghanaian player got his first tattoo at age 15. He has the outline of the African continent with the words Ghana on his left bicep to remember his father’s roots. Plagued by injury for much of his career, the Schalke star chose to remember his knee troubles by tattooing a cobweb over his left knee. He said: “A spider web always comes back. And so it is with my knee.”

He had a picture of his ex-wife and son tattooed onto the left side of his back, but has since inked over that picture after his divorce in 2011.

3. Darijo Srna (Croatia)

The 32-year-old has the name of his older brother, Igor, tattooed across his left chest. The Croatia and Shakhtar Donetsk captain dedicates all his goals to his brother, who has Down’s syndrome. He also has a tattoo of a deer – “srna” in Croat – on his calf to honour his parents.

4. Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)

The Manchester United man chose to remember teammate Christian Benitez, who died from a cardiac arrest in July last year, by inking his close friend’s nickname “Chucho”, along with his date of birth, shirt number and date of death on his left arm.

Valencia came through the youth ranks and broke into the first team alongside Benitez at first club El Nacional, back home in Ecuador.

5. Jermaine Jones (United States)

The former Blackburn Rovers defensive midfielder carries the most important people and aspects of his life on his body. These include the faces of his twins, names of his other children and best friends and his wedding anniversary. He also has the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” inked down both sides of his torso. 

He said: “I like it. I’m not finished. It says something about my whole life. Sometimes they give me the power to not look back, to look forward.”

6. Dani Alves (Brazil)

The Brazilian has a picture of cartoon figures Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird inked near his right ankle, but not for comedic purposes. To him, the fact that Tweety always manages to outsmart the cat symbolises the upward challenges he has faced.

He said: “The little guys rule in football too. We are in an era where there are so many clever footballing ‘midgets’ who are smarter than the average player and can do something different.

7. Raul Meireles (Portugal)

Already famous for his flamboyant hairstyles, Meireles is also probably the World Cup’s most tattooed footballer. That’s two full sleeves on both arms, his chest, the back of his neck and a colourful Chinese-style dragon adorning his entire back.

The latest in his “collection” – his entire right leg from ankle to thigh covered in ink – was completed in January this year. It includes the faces of three women, a pocket watch and a famous tram in Portuguese capital Lisbon, and a tower in Porto, the last one paying tribute to his hometown.

8. Tim Cahill (Australia)

The Socceroos’ most prolific player is a family man and one needs to look no further than his arm for proof. The sleeve on his left arm reflects his Samoan roots from his maternal family. He inked a symbolic lifeline of his grandmother after she died, linking it with that of his own and his parents. He also has an identical symbol to what his grandfather had, as well as symbols to represent his wife and children. 

He has also inked the names of all his family members, even that of his brother-in-law, and the initials of the two clubs that has contributed to his career: Millwall FC and Everton FC.

9. Angel di Maria (Argentina)

The Real Madrid player has a Spanish phrase inked onto his left underarm which says “to be born in El Perdriel was and will be the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life”. 

He got the same tattoo with six friends – who today remain his close confidantes – before leaving to play for Benfica in Portugal. It was a bond of sorts, to symbolise that no matter how far they were going to be physically apart from each other, they would always have their childhood friends close to their hearts. Because they were only 18 or so at that time, some had to bring their fathers to the tattoo parlour to sign a consent form.

10. Olivier Giroud (FRA)

The Arsenal stud has a tribal design on his right calf, but the ones on his right forearm and left bicep bear greater meaning. A devout Christian, he inked in Latin a phrase taken from the famous Psalms 23 on his right arm. 

The designs on his left bicep symbolises values that are important to him: faith, love, family, friends and health. He has said he does not think he will be getting any more tattoos.