There has been a lot of discussion in the media lately about the masks that some soccer players have been wearing at the FIFA World Cup. Many people are wondering why they are wearing them and what purpose they serve.
You’re dribbling the ball, and suddenly a huge figure in a red suit and a mask charges at you, intent on stealing it. Players in the World Cup who have to face Josko Gvardiol of Croatia may expect it to be the case.
During the competition, the central defender, who is only 20 years old, was one of the team’s standouts. This is even though he plays his games while wearing a mask obscuring his face’s lower half.
The mask is elongated and glossy, with enormous cutouts for the eyes. It is held in place by two thick leather straps that go around the back of his head and have metal buckles. It reminds me a little bit of something a bank robber from an old western movie or possibly Zorro might wear.
However, the mask is not intended to be worn as a fashion statement. It’s a precautionary measure, in all honesty. When he is not competing for Croatia on the international stage, he is a member of the RB Leipzig soccer club in Germany.
Because Gvardiol suffered a broken nose while playing in a German league match on November 10, the day after he was named to Croatia’s World Cup roster, he will be competing in the tournament wearing a face mask.
He might have had to withdraw from the competition because of the injury. There was concern that it might hamper his performance in games for the team from experts. Still, Gvardiol disproved his doubters by playing a crucial role in his team’s World Cup win.
With his help, Croatia only left just one goal across its three World Cup group games.
After the scoreless draw between Croatia and Belgium, Coach Zlatko Dali stated of his team’s defense, “He’s the best defender in the world.” As the saying goes, “Even if he’s not currently No. 1, he will become No. 1.”
Some observers have suggested that the masks may be intended to protect against air pollution, as Mexico City is notorious for its high levels of smog. However, others believe that another reason for their use may be to help conceal players’ identities.
In recent years, FIFA has become increasingly concerned about player safety, particularly head injuries. It is believed that the masks could be used as a form of protection against potential concussions. High-level soccer players frequently use face masks. They shield the eyes and nose from stray kicks or other dangers on the field.
At the World Cup, Gvardiol hasn’t been the only one hiding his face. To cover his damaged eye socket, the South Korean squad captain Son Heung-Min wore a mask reminiscent of Batman’s. After Alireza Beiranvand, the Iranian goalkeeper was injured in the head during a game against England; he also began wearing one during practice.
The Guardian reports that the masks are often fashioned from polycarbonate polymers, with some being 3D-printed to conform to the precise measurements of individual athletes’ faces.
While many people find these masks strange looking or humorous, their use is grounded in sound medical rationale. And for athletes who value their safety on the field highly, they represent a worthwhile investment.