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Footballers and tattoos walk hand in hand nowadays, with it rare for a top-flight game to go by without at least a handful of players sporting some ink on their body.
For most players, their tattoos are a small reflection of their personalities, offering an insight into more than just their public image.
Meanwhile, in the stands, increasing numbers of supporters are also keen to show off their tattoos, particularly those with a footballing theme.
Supporting their club is an aspect of their personalities that these fans are keen to display, so we spoke to four such die-hards to understand the inspiration behind their tatts:
VICE x GOAL: What’s your name?
How old are you?
And how many football tattoos do you have?
Four in total, but it forms one big sleeve.
How long have you had that for?
It started in 2019 and it finished roughly late last year. So, all in all, two-and-a-half to three years.
Why did you get it?
Growing up, I was always massively into football. I always loved Barcelona. When I was a kid, Messi was my favourite player, so it sort of went together.
Where did you get it done?
I got it done by Sammy Kent. She used to work at a different tattoo shop, but she’s opening her own shop soon. She did all of it.
Do you have any funny stories about tattoos?
Erm, more so now I’ve got it finished. All the time in London on tubes and stuff, I’ll be on an escalator and I feel the person behind taking pictures of me, or stuff like that.
That must be annoying?
I’ve been stopped so many times, in places like the Nike shop in London.
How do you feel about that?
It's a bit awkward, especially when they don’t ask. The guy on the escalator, I literally turned around and saw this flash going off. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I really like your tattoo’, which is cool, but he could have asked first!
Do you have any plans on getting anymore of an extension on it?
I think I will be getting the top done at some point, but that’ll be Chelsea-themed, because I support both.
Do you have a design ready for that?
I’ve got a few pictures in mind that I want to get on it. But it’s just a case when I’m sort of free and have the money to get it done.
I can imagine it’ll be quite expensive. How much has it cost so far?
I lost count halfway through! It’s definitely over £2,000 ($2,600), easily. I’m not sure of the grand total.
Have you seen Barcelona play?
I’ve been a few times. I’m actually going in May this year. With lockdown and stuff, it’s been hard recently.
What’s your name?
And how old are you?
So, how many football tattoos do you currently have?
One here (points to his arm), the back of the head and one on this leg. And I’ve got the badge, but it’s all bandaged up on the leg due to an abscess. That's the reason why I can’t get to any of the matches. But I’ll be going next season when it starts, in October-ish time.
You’ve got a season pass already?
Yeah, I've got all of that. Two grand… I’ll go to all the home games and that.
Where do you sit in the stadium?
I sit near the flag, where they take the corner. That’s my area. No one can take that area. I want to see them taking the corners.
When did you get your first tattoo and which one was it?
This one (points at the back of his head) was eight years ago.
What was the reason for it?
It’s not to show people I’ve got a tattoo on the back of my head, it’s just like... Arsenal has always been my team. And this is the only way. I told the tattoo artist to put it there, so now everyone knows.
I’ve got the jacket too in the wardrobe. I’ve got three jumpers of theirs. The jackets cost me £150 ($200) each.
Bloody hell, that’s quite expensive!
Do you go to the same place to get your tattoos done?
Yeah, I go to the same place. I go to London to get it done, up the Angel. It's a man I know there who does it cheap.
Did he do your other non-football tattoos too?
Yeah, he does.
Does he do other people's football tattoos?
Nah, he just did this one as a favour for me. He can’t touch anyone else’s, but he did that for me because I know the guy.
Do you have any plans for anymore tattoos?
No, because I think the prices have gone up.
I guess you don’t really need anymore?
My sister has loads of tattoos.
Is it a family thing?
Yeah, my dad, sister and the rest.
What’s your full name?
How old are you?
I turned 73 on St. Patrick's Day.
What a great day to have a birthday!
It’s the best.
Your football team is...?
How long have you been a supporter of Liverpool?
Since I was 12.
And is there a reason as to why you became a supporter of Liverpool?
Erm, it’s maybe because one of my cousins was a red hot Liverpool fan and I copied them, which wasn’t very nice for my father as he was an Evertonian!
There were seven in my house, they were all Evertonians and I was the only one that wasn’t.
Every Saturday morning, the buses used to go past mine, we had a pub in Scotland Road.
The buses used to go past, they’d stop at the bus stop and they’d all be getting on, all the tough guys except me. I’d be hanging out of the window crying my eyes out. My dad locked me in and then he used to let me out at half-time.
But I thought bugger him, I’m going to go anyway! So, I sneaked out and ran all the way to Anfield, which is quite the journey up a hill.
Were you living quite far from the ground?
Not too far. In a car it would take about eight mins or so.
At full-time, I’d come back down to the pub and my father was sitting in the parlour with customers and friends. I stood with my hands behind my back, looking down. And I’d say to him, ‘Guess where I’ve been dad.'
‘Where you been, girl?’
‘I’ve been to Anfield…’
It was murders, he had me by my hair and swung me all around!
It was serious business. Where I lived as well – the famous road, Scotland Road – that used to be the main road that all the lorry drivers used to go from the continent, from the Liverpool Docks to Scotland.
Is the pub still in the family, or...?
They knocked it down.
Like most pubs?
Yeah, they built the motorway. I think there were 156 pubs on Scotland Road. There’s two now.
Yeah, I was born there and the flat we lived in is now listed. I used to play football there and they had these big black railings out in the street and they’re still there. It was the place we all played footy and that, you know, and they’re still there ‘til this day.
That’s great, it's nice to know there’s something still there that you can remember.
Lots of history in Liverpool.
How many football tattoos do you have?
Just the one.
What was the reason for getting that?
To pay homage to Liverpool Football Club.
Where did you get it done?
I got it done in Clerkenwell – Family Business Tattoo. The manager’s name is David – we call him Elvis because he’s got a big curled quiff!
When did you get it done?
Probably 10 years ago now. I wouldn’t go to anyone else and wouldn’t recommend anyone else either.
How did you find out about the parlour?
He was a customer of mine.
Do you have other tattoos?
No, just the Liverpool one.
That’s amazing, I love that.
Originally, I wanted to get the two birds, one on each arm.
Do you have funny anecdotes or stories about your time supporting Liverpool?
The best time was when we won the Champions League in Istanbul. I went out there… It was absolutely brilliant, the stories – you’d be here all day!
I can imagine…
I had all the players in front me on the plane in first class. It was just amazing. Such a great time.
What’s your name?
And how old are you?
How many tattoos do you have in total?
In total, about 18 tattoos.
And how many are football related?
Six Chelsea ones.
Nice, and can you talk me through them?
The Chelsea emblem on the side of my leg, I had that done when Chelsea won the double in 2010. I got the European Cup one because I went to Munich to watch the final we won in 2012. And the following year we went to Amsterdam, Chelsea won the UEFA Cup in 2013.
Did you get them done in Amsterdam and Munich?
I went to the games, literally came home and pretty much went straight to the tattoo shop.
Do you go to the same place every time?
These three are all from the same place in Sunbury by Jason Davies. He's done all of them.
What was the reason you got the first one? What spurred you on to get your first football tattoo?
I’ve been going Chelsea since I was eight years old. My brother used to take me. As I got older, then I started getting tattoos.
I decided to get a small Chelsea emblem and then the other ones followed really. Going travelling around watching Chelsea and then going to European games and deciding to get the trophies tattooed on me.
Do you plan on getting anymore?
Probably not, no. Now that I'm approaching 50 I probably won’t have anymore tattoos. Well, football tattoos anyways.
Do you have any stories or anecdotes to go with the tattoos?
The trophy ones on my leg are about travelling away to Europe, and I don’t really remember too much about either of the trips!
There is a bit of a story from when we were in Munich. Me and the group of friends spent time just outside of the town in a bar, because in the middle of the town it got really busy, so we stayed most of the day. It got to about 4 or 5pm, and we decided to head over to the game. Went to the train station and it was shut. So, we literally had a bit of panic, there were no taxis available as you can imagine everyone at that sort of time was going to the game.
There was an open top bus going down the road. I decided to jump in the road and stop it. It was a Corona beer promotion bus full of Munich supporters, and after a bit of conversation with them, they let me and my four friends onto the bus and they drove around Munich. We had Chelsea flags on top of the bus and they dropped us at a station, and we just got on the train and got to the game!
That’s funny, it’s kind of the opposite of how you’d want it to play out, jumping on a bus full of Munich supporters.
Yeah, we literally got to the point where we knew we couldn’t get to the game. Obviously, we travelled to Munich the day before and were drinking and whatever. Got right to the last minute and we were sure we’d miss the game.
Head to GOAL to read stories from VICE writers on: football, art and mental health matters for men, the Hollywood takeover of Wrexham, Arsenal’s retro merch boom and football fans and their tattoos.
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