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Soccer Players and Eyewear: On and Off The Field

Soccer is not a game one would usually associate with wearing glasses. As long balls are launched into the area for an attacker to contest, having eyewear on could be a major problem. Imagine, as Tyler Adams launches into a tackle, looking up and seeing a pair of glasses flying through the air. It feels nonsensical.

That said, soccer players have vision issues like any other normal human. Soccer participation in the United States reached 13 million in 2022, and the figures are expected to be higher once last year’s numbers are confirmed. Combine that with the fact that 62% of the population requires some form of corrective eyewear; you have to consider there is some crossover. There’s also the number of people who need protective eyewear – this could be after an operation for glaucoma or perhaps just sunglasses for sensitive eyes affected by UV rays. All things considered, there’s no surprise that soccer players are often seen in eyewear of some description.

It might not be common, but there are plenty of examples of players wearing glasses and sunglasses on the field and off the field, as we’ll explore below.

Glasses in Soccer History

There are examples of soccer players wearing glasses going back over many years. The game has changed plenty since 1929, but that was the year Annibale Frossi first stepped onto the field for Italian side Udinese. He was quite a player, a right winger who scored the goals that earned Italy the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He also suffered from myopia as a child and was rarely seen without his glasses, on and off the field. Even the famous Italian sports journalist Gianni Brera noted this was a problem, explaining how the player was ‘not good in acrobatics’, doubtless meaning headers. He did win the Serie A title twice while playing with Internazionale, so he must have been half-decent.

Armand ‘Jef’ Jurion is a little more recent – he began his career in Belgian soccer with Anderlecht, also appearing for Gent and Lokeren. He won the Pro League title on nine occasions and was nicknamed Mister Europe after scoring against the mighty Real Madrid. The remarkable thing is that he did it all wearing glasses. Both players wore glasses with no discernible branding, as soccer players weren’t the global icons they are today. Their glasses were standard issues; in most images, they don’t even appear to have a safety strap to hold them in place.

Sunglasses on Soccer Players

Branding is super important to today’s soccer players, and this can be seen in their use of protective eyewear off the field. Many of the game’s biggest names have deals with luxury sunglasses brands, perhaps none more prominent than Kylian Mbappe. He has a deal with Oakley sunglasses that allowed him to help design a product line for them and put his full weight behind the promotion. The same goes for another icon of the game known to US soccer fans – David Beckham. He was one of the first major international fashion icons to come out of the game of soccer, and he is often seen in Ray-Ban eyeglasses, including the classic Aviator design. Beckham sometimes wears standard eyeglasses, sometimes sunglasses, and it isn’t clear whether this is just for fashion or whether he requires corrective lenses. The same goes for pretty much any soccer player seen in sunglasses – brands like Ray-Ban can now put prescription lenses in their sunglasses, meaning there’s a blurred line between looking cool and being able to see properly.

Unlike Jurion and Frossi, moderately successful players are just as likely to get a deal as the giants of the game, and players who are not household names around the world are seen in sunglasses. Take, for instance, Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City. He’s not a household name outside of US soccer, but on his Instagram page, there are images of him in Oakley Holbrook sunglasses and a pair of eyeglasses that look suspiciously like Prada.

Glasses in the Modern Game

Whilst soccer players are getting down with eyewear off the field, instances of them wearing something on the field or rare. However, it does happen, and the glasses available to them have developed significantly since the days of Jef Jurion. The first major example of a player famed for wearing glasses on the field is Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids. Davids helped the Netherlands to a World Cup fourth-place finish in 1998, and twice they finished third in the European Championships. He won the Champions League with Ajax and three Serie A titles with Juventus. He played for Barcelona, AC Milan, Internazionale and Spurs, and he wore glasses for much of his career. In 1999, he started wearing tinted lenses during games following surgery for glaucoma. Often, his glasses had orange lenses, which matched the orange of the Dutch team. Davids became well-known for his corrective eyewear, and he wore them right through until he retired in 2014.

He isn’t the only player to wear glasses in recent times. Like Frossi, the players who wear them will likely be correcting their vision or protecting their eyes after a nasty injury. The glasses have changed significantly – Davids often wore branded Adidas glasses that were tight fit, boasted shatterproof lenses and a strap around his head to hold them in place. The same goes for Javier Montero, the one-time Atletico Madrid player now plying his trade in Portugal. He suffered a detached retina in 2017 and made his full debut for his side wearing glasses in 2018. He even appeared for his country’s Under 21 side wearing the glasses.

Here in the US, MLS star Andrew Farrell suffered a similar injury and wore protective eyewear while playing. He had to wear goggles for a short time and was likened to David throughout the period he sported the eyewear. “Oh my goodness,” he said back in 2019. “So many (people have mentioned Davids). All my friends from Peru, are in the soccer world. I’ll take it, though, he’s a hell of a player.” He certainly was, and he was a trailblazer in protective eyewear on the field.

Conclusion

Thousands of soccer players go through their career not needing eyewear. Far fewer will avoid sunglasses off the field, and some will even be sent pairs to help boost the supplier’s profile. One thing is for sure – at some point, almost every soccer player will put something on the bridge of their nose, and in today’s game, as soon as they do, they’ll be noticed. Oakley, Ray-Ban, Adidas, and any other number of big brands are aching to have their glasses on the faces of top soccer players, and who knows, it might even be whilst they’re on the pitch rather than living their best lives off it.

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Editor
David Whisler, the maestro of editing at Sportycious, brings a touch of panache to the world of sports journalism. With an eagle eye for detail and a flair for enthralling storytelling, David ensures Sportycious remains the go-to destination for readers seeking an exhilarating and enlightening experience. When not juggling commas and semicolons, you'll find David enthusiastically supporting his favourite teams and indulging in his own sporting escapades.
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Brief Information Countries Involved in MLS: United States and Canada  Confederation Aligned: CONCACAF Founded on: 17th December, 1993 Head Quarters: Fifth Avenue, New York City Number of Teams: 22 (USA...