What's the secret to footballing success? A set of eleven massively hairy chins? We will soon see, as the whole Czech team has decided not to shave until they exit the Euros and already, things are looking grizzly. It's only been a couple of weeks, and Petr Cech (above) looks like a man who's been wandering the desert for forty days and nights, practising penalties all that time.
In recent years, football and beards have become ever more closely related (cf the wonderful, though not very often updated, Footballers with Beards blog). It's a way of enjoying sport to which women can find it hard to relate; there is less pride, and less sense of camaraderie, in a neglected lower leg than there is in a fully-thatched face. But the door to the latter is closed to us.
This is a shame, because the beard is a handy way of measuring time. It's a known fact that in the olden days, before paper calendars were readily available, the only reliable way of knowing how many Premiership games there were left in a season was by the length of the FA chairman's sideburns. In many ways, a nobler time.
My driving instructor decided to do an ultra marathon, and stopped shaving from the moment he made the decision until the moment he crossed the finish line. The journey of self-discovery along the way was given greater depth, as well as greater itchiness, by the changes to his face. He was a man on a mission, too busy for trifles such as soap and cologne.
There seems to be something pure about forgoing the razor; it signals a desire to return to a concentration on physical power rather than on the fripperies of modern life. Perhaps the effect on the Czech Rep team will be a primeval banding together, a kind of caveman tribalism that'll translate to play and make them visceral and unstoppable. Maybe it will tap into powerful, deep and long-forgotten early-human instincts for victory. Though Petr Cech did say it was just for "team banter".
Worth a shot, I suppose. He also told the Guardian that his only concern about the plan was that he might scare his children if he still hadn't shaved by 2nd July (the day after the final). Having no knowledge whatsoever of how fast the average beard grows, my concern would be that by then the hair would be so long I would trip over it on the pitch, or accidentally wind it around a goalpost. Or it would mean that the national team was mistakenly disqualified from the tournament for fielding a squad of brown bears rather than football players. I simply don't know.
Clearly, on this matter, I'm underqualified. Anyone care to enlighten me on why, as far as sport is concerned, hairiness is next to godliness? Has anyone ever stopped shaving in the run-up to a fixture? What should the Czechs look out for?