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- Cult Figures -

Some footballers are remembered first and foremost not for their qualities as a player, but because something in their personality, appearance, or way they carried themselves held a special appeal for fans. It is these cult heroes we salute on this page.

Gascoigne Lalas
Cantona Adams
Higuita Di Canio
Jones Pfaff



Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne stormed on to the international scene at the 1990 World Cup. His performance catapulted him into the center of English public consciousness. Most memorable were undoubtedly the tears Gascoigne shed when he was handed a yellow card in the semi-final which meant he would miss the final should England reach it. Gazzamania swept the country, with the footballer even reaching nr.2 in the record charts. In the end Gazza proved just as ill-prepared to handle stardom as that other supremely gifted British player, George Best, as problems with boozing and injury overshadowed his career.
In depth profile: ---

Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona
The very picture of Gallic swagger, Cantona was a talismanic figure in Manchester United's revival in the 1990's. He helped them to four league-titles in five years, including two "doubles". And to think he had in fact 'retired' from football in 1991, disgusted by a two-month suspension by the French FA. Fortunately for Man U fans he was persuaded to try his luck across the Channel. Cantona proved that the reputation for short temperdness he had acquired in France wasn't completely unfounded when he dealt out some karate-style justice to a foul-mouthed fan in 1995, earning himself a lengthy suspension.
In depth profile: ---

René Higuita
René Higuita
A truly bizarre figure, Colombian goalkeeper René Higuita would probably like to be remembered for the spectacular 'scorpion kick' with which he cleared a goal attempt in a friendly against England in 1995. However, he is just as likely to be remembered for the moment when his unorthodox style of play cost his country dearly, against Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup. Never content to stay in goal, Higuita had ventured outside of the area when it all went wrong and he was dispossessed by Roger Milla (who promptly went on to score the goal that knocked Colombia out of the tournament).
In depth profile: ---

Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones rose to prominence in the late '80's as a member of Wimbledon's FA Cup winning 'crazy gang', a veritable treasure trove of cult footballers. The hard man defender personified, Jones was responsible for one of English football's most iconic scenes, when he came up with a novel way of distracting an opponent by grabbing Paul Gascoine's testicles. A side-project presenting the infamous 'Soccer's Hard Men' video in 1992 earned him a fine from The FA for "bringing the game into disrepute." After retiring from football, he went on to use his hard man image as the basis for a flourishing movie career.
In depth profile: ---

Alexi Lalas
Alexi Lalas
Lalas was an American defender who seemed never to have truly made his mind up as to whether he wanted to be a footballer or a rock star. He dabbled in both, but proved more successful at the former. To date Lalas is the only American to have played in the Serie A, signed by Padova after the 1994 World Cup and playing for them for two seasons. Though his wild red hair and outrageous goatee must have drawn universal looks of horror in the desperately fashion conscious world of Italian football, he acquitted himself well on the field.
In depth profile: ---

Tony Adams
Tony Adams
The very personification of the stalwart defender, Adams joined Arsenal as a schoolboy and at age 21 became the youngest ever club captain. Though he never failed to put in a performance on the field, his life off it became increasingly overshadowed by his problems with alcohol. In a sense it only added to his appeal, but in 1996 Adams decided to quit drinking and publicly confessed to being an alcoholic. It marked the beginning of a personal renaissance that saw him publishing a autobiography called Addicted in which he detailed his struggle with alcoholism. Adams retired from professional football in 2002.
In depth profile: ---

Jean-Marie Pfaff
Jean-Marie Pfaff
Jean-Marie Pfaff was one of the mainstays of the Belgian national team during their very successful period in the 1980's, which culminated in the Belgians reaching the semi-final of the 1986 World Cup. Though he was an excellent goalkeeper first and foremost, widely recognized as one of the World's best, the secret for his enormous popularity lay in his colorful character. Always prepared to put on a show, 'El Simpatico' was universally loved by the fans. In a testament to the goalie's lasting popularity, Pfaff and his family became the stars of their very own reality-soap on Belgian TV in 2003.
In depth profile: ---

Paolo di Canio
Paolo di Canio
Undoubtedly one of the most bizarre characters in modern football. Di Canio has been capped for the Italian national team, but is most likely to be remembered for his uncanny ability to make himself the centre of controversy. Once famously pushing over an referee after being sent off, Di Canio recently caused an public outcry in Italy by choosing to greet Lazio Roma's hardcore fans, the 'Irriducibili', using the fascist salute. In this era of 'Football against Racism' it earned the self-avowed Duce aficionado a fine and suspension, but also of course eternal glory in the eyes of Lazio supporters.
In depth profile: ---

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