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Mauricio Pinilla tattoo: 'Crossbar' design inks in World Cup 2014 as the year of player tattoos

The Chile player has a permanent tattoo inked on his body as a permanent reminder of how close he and his side came to beating Brazil

It is one of the enduring questions of the 2014 World Cup: what on earth was going through Chile striker Mauricio Pinilla’s mind when he got that tattoo done of his shot smashing against the Brazil crossbar?

If Pinilla’s decision to have etched on his back a permanent reminder of the what-if moment of Chile’s elimination on Saturday raised eyebrows, it only underlined the striking fashion trend among this generation of World Cup footballers. If it was perms and mullet haircuts in the 1980s, it is body art in 2014 – from Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal’s initials on his neck via Lionel Messi’s son’s handprints on his left calf to just about the whole of Raul Meireles’ body.

The sight of the heavily tattooed Tim Howard in the mixed zone at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador after Tuesday’s Belgium-United States game offered a case in point, although one of the designs on the US goalkeeper’s right biceps at least made sense after his heroic performance: a Superman logo. “I was a kid, I was 16 – a lifetime ago,” he told The Independent.

Tim Howard in action for the USA


Of course, the thing about tattoos is they can last a lifetime but according to Jair Veloso, owner of the Doga Tattoo studio in Salvador, many footballers are not necessarily concerned about quality but quantity. In the alpha male dressing-room environment, it is about outdoing their team-mates – and, as the uncle of the Brazil and Bayern Munich defender Dante, Veloso should know. “I believe they are a bit vain and when they see that one player is having them, they want to have more,” he says. “It’s about having more than the others.”

Veloso, a laid-back figure with dreadlocks and an arts degree, has already done four tattoos for Dante in his studio – the names of his nephew’s two children, an image of Jesus and a Polynesian tribal symbol. He complains that footballers mix together the symbols of different tribes. “They are not looking for perfection – they get them over their whole body simply to have a lot,” he says.


As for that much discussed Pinilla tattoo, he gives it a mixed review. “I think it is very creative but the tattoo represents Chile’s defeat and it should be a Brazilian doing this.” He hopes to be doing a commemorative tattoo of his own by the end of the World Cup, having met Dante at a family barbecue on Sunday and discussed a possible new design for the defender. “If Brazil win it, he will get one to mark the moment,” he explains. One of Big Phil Scolari maybe? “No,” comes the firm reply. Not even Raul Meireles would go that far, surely.