Saturday, March 26, 2011


Is tattoo culture the ultimate outlet for the pros?

Just because you’re a professional footballer, doesn’t mean you can always go out and do the things you want to do. This certainly applies to England striker Darren Bent – currently stuck living in a hotel after his career and life were caught up in the whirlwind of a surprise January transfer window move to Aston Villa.
As such he’s been unable to involve himself in two of his major passions in recent weeks. The first, perhaps unsurprisingly for a modern day footballer, is playing Call of Duty on his Xbox 360 – Bent tells us he is unable to access Xbox live from his room. The second is another common interest among many young pros – tattoos.

“I'd like to get some more done if possible but obviously since I came to Birmingham, it's been 100mph and I’ve not really had a chance” Darren tells us. “I’ll start thinking about it again soon.”
Umbro’s 1350 concept focuses on the 1350 minutes of the day outside the 90 of the match and how the players look to express themselves during their time away from the pitch. Players, like fans, like to do this in a creative and committed way – and how better than to embrace tattoo culture? Darren Bent certainly agrees.

“I probably got my first tattoo when I was 16, it was a cross on my left arm. Since then I've had my whole right arm done, the right side of my ribs, my right thigh.”

But the ink is more than just a fashion accessory – Bent tells us there is a far deeper meaning to some of his tattoos than just looking cool. “I like the way they look, but most of my tattoos are inspired by my Grandma - she's the one who came out with all these religious phrases when I was younger” he explains. “I used to go down the shops with her every Sunday and would give me all this advice and a lot of the tattoos stem from that, really – they’re things I like to remind myself of. They’re pretty personal.”

Despite this emotional element, Darren denies a rumour that he attempted to get over the dejection of being left out of England’s World Cup squad - despite being the top English Premier League goal scorer - by jetting of to Los Angeles for a consolatory inking. “Nah, it’s not true. I did go out there straight away, but I didn’t go just to get tattoos, although I did get some out there.

Going under the needle can be a painful experience, especially when work is being done on an area of skin particularly close to the bone. But is it more to fear that a clobbering from one of the Premier League’s more imposing centre backs? “Getting clattered by a centre-back is bad - but getting my ribs done was the worse pain I've ever felt in my life! Fortunately it healed up before any defenders had the chance to give it a whack. But when I was sat there getting it done, it was awful. It was so painful.”

“One of my old team-mates up at Sunderland went to have a tattoo done on his back, but he said the pain was so excruciating that he couldn’t get it finished. Fortunately for him, because he admitted what had happened, he didn't get that much stick. It didn't look the best - you could tell that it was unfinished if you knew the first thing about tattoos and got a close enough look at it - but he could at least cover it up.”
A lucky escape, perhaps - but nobody wants to not look the part. Umbro 1350 seeks to provide the same advantageous craft and insight to players away from the pitch as they get from their sportswear. After all - after the 90, there are still 1350 minutes left to play.

Of course, with tattoos things don’t always go to plan - fifteen years ago it was the fans who were getting themselves tainted with terrible tatts - with one Newcastle fan infamously getting Andy Cole etched into his calf just days before Kevin Keegan sold the striker to Manchester United - however with so many players now going under the needle, there have been some inevitable disasters.

Who could forget the England megastar with the title of a Stereophonics album written on his forearm, the eccentric Irishman with angel wings resembling shag carpet across his back, or the former Wales international with the Armani logo stamped on his bicep?

“So many players have them now, there are a lot of bad ones pick from,” says Darren. “But the worst one I've seen was on a friend of mine. He’s got a big crown tattooed on his neck. I was there when he was getting it done and I just remember thinking 'why are you getting in done?!' He's also got one of a guy pointing a gun on his arm. They're the worst ones I've seen.”  (FFT asks whether said friend is a certain regal-sounding Milan-based Ghana international - Darren’s laughter says it all…)

During his time with Tottenham, Darren was one of the first footballers to visit the North London tattoo parlour of Lal Hardy. Upon his return to Spurs training ground, his teammates were so impressed with his new work – Mary holding rosary beads – that they immediately wanted the name of the artist.
“I went there, and used Lal and he was really, really good. A few of the guys liked the work so, they were like 'where'd you get it done?' And I sent them along to see him. Lal is a Spurs fan and a really nice guy, but he was booked up for months and months and months. But because he was a Spurs fan, he did us all a favour and several of us went along. All the guys went in there and got their tattoos done – I think six of us went along at once at one point.”

As FFT speaks to Bent, he’s sat in one of the country’s most famous golf clubs – judging from the rate at which heavily tattooed players have become more commonplace in recent years, it seems as though getting inked may be about to take over swinging a nine-iron as professional footballers’ number one pastime.

As the original creator of Sportswear and the world’s football culture brand, Umbro invests as much tailoring skill and football insight in creating their Sportswear apparel as their performance kits. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, it’s always about the game and Umbro Sportswear, inspired by the 90 minutes on the pitch, is perfectly tailored for the 1350 minutes off it. For further information about Diamond Icons and Umbro 1350 visit http://www.umbro.comg/


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