It was in the match between Uruguay and South Korea at the Fifa World Cup 2022 that the Korean superstar Son Heung-Min was spotted with a black face mask resembling that of the DC superhero Batman. But Son was not the only one to wear that as later on, Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, Croatia’s Joško Gvardiol and Tunisia’s Ellyes Skhiri wore similar masks.
A curious universe of football fans wanted to know the answer as to whether it was some style statement, a way to show protest over something or just the personal choice of the player. The answer would surprise most because it was none of the above. In fact, these masks are injury shields, protecting the players from getting injured in highly competitive and high-octane games.
South Korea’s Son Heung Min with his face mask on during Fifa World Cup, Qatar. Photo:Twitter
Son got injured in early November while playing for his club Tottenham Hotspur. It was during a Champions League game that Son had a head-on collision with Marseille defender Chancel Mbemba’s shoulder and fractured his eye socket. He was not even sure whether he could play in the World Cup or not. But then he got hold of the polycarbonate-made and 3-d printed mask which would protect his eye sockets and thus his dream of playing the World Cup was realised.
Croatian footballer Jasko Gvardiol with his face mask in Fifa World Cup. Photo: Twitter
Son was not the only one wearing that mask as a Croatian player, Joško Gvardiol was seen with a similar mask as well in his team’s match against Morocco. He wore a similar mask against Canada too. The reason behind his mask is also an injury that he suffered during a Bundesliga game he was playing for his club, RB Leipzig.
Tunisian Footballer Ellyes Skhiri during Fifa World Cup 2022. Photo: Twitter
Another masked man in this World Cup is Tunisia’s Ellyes Skhiri. His team played a draw against Denmark in their first game. They lost by a solitary goal to Australia in their second game and now play France in their final game. The 27-year-old Skhiri suffered an injury in October this year and broke his cheekbone. To make sure that it doesn’t happen again, the FC Koln player has decided to protect his facial area with 3-D printed masks.
The only player who did not come prepared to wear a mask, but rather was forced to wear one is Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. He got injured in the country’s World Cup opener against England. He had to be substituted very early in the game as his face was damaged. Therefore in the second game against Wales, he came in with a face mask.