Never the best players on their teams, cult heroes continue to remind us why we love football in the first place.
They play with taped up skulls and blood skipping down their temples. Brilliant beards and sumptuous ‘staches (pre-hipster days) adorn their sweat drenched faces. Their socks crinkle around the ankles, and their boots are black as caves. They tackle like garbage compactors and win headers like rams in heat. Some have a shit first touch, others hands for feet.
Their hairstyles vary. From long thick tufts and horseshoes, to spotless shining domes, no follicle condition is excluded. Some are rails, others fat. But when they kiss the badge we believe them. They play stay-at-home fullback, hyper active midfield or penalty box sniper. Adored by fans, overshadowed by legendary teammates. These are the cult heroes of football.
Watch any match and you can pick one out. Gary Medel — cult hero. Will Johnson — cult hero. Meghan Klingenberg — cult hero. Messi — legend. Cult hero? No.
Cult heroes compete like you and I believe we would if we graced football’s greatest cathedrals. Honest. Determined. Relentless. And with no regrets. Each match leaving our cold beating hearts on the touch line grass, unable to compete any further.
They look like us, and some lived like us once too. Footballing late bloomers who moonlighted as mild mannered carpenters and car mechanics, hiding footballing superpowers in their boots and overalls.
Why do we cherish cult heroes so deeply? They remind us why football is so awesome in the first place: football is for everyone.