After ex-Arsenal striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, made the controversial deadline day switch to Chelsea from Barcelona, some keen-eyed fans may have noticed an interesting detail; the Gabonese forward was wearing a protective face mask.
In this article, we will look at why this was the case, as well as explaining when and why these protective masks are used in football. We will also then take a look at several other Chelsea players to have recently worn a protective mask whilst playing for the Blues.
Why Do Footballers Wear Protective Masks?
If you watched the 2022 Qatar World Cup, you may have noticed that a variety of players were sporting protective face coverings, including South Korea and Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-Min and the supremely talented young Croatian defender, Josko Gvardiol. So, why is this the case?
Well, typically, protective face masks are worn by footballers who have suffered a facial injury, such as a broken nose, eye socket or jaw, or even a laceration. As these types of injuries don’t typically inhibit a player’s ability to play football, and given the intense schedule of games that most footballers have, there isn’t time for them to have a spell on the sidelines with such an injury. Players will therefore be fitted with a protective face mask as their injuries heal, to allow them to continue playing football, without fear of doing further damage. The attitude is very much one of get masked up and get back in there!
Why Did Aubameyang Need to Wear One?
Whilst protective masks are typically worn because of injuries sustained on the football pitch, Aubameyang’s was actually an exception to this. The striker’s injury was caused by a horrific assault that occurred at his home in Barcelona. Auba’s house was broken into, where thieves stole jewellery, threatened his wife and children and then proceeded to attack the ex-Arsenal star with an iron bar, leaving him with a nasty jaw injury that temporarily ruled him out of playing football.
This sort of incident is all too common for footballers and other sports stars these. After his jaw recovered enough for him to make his debut for the Blues, the Gabonese forward was fitted with a state-of-the-art protective mask by the club’s medical experts, which allowed him to play for his new side.
Which Other Chelsea Players Have Worn Masks?
Over the years, Chelsea seem to have developed a connection with protective gear. Whether that be Petr Cech’s trademark helmet (worn following a depressed skull fracture suffered against Reading), John Terry’s old school, plastic, science goggle-esque face mask, or even the personalised protective masks of Fernando Torres or Ramires, the Blues seem to have a knack for sustaining mask-worthy head injuries. We will take a look at a few recent examples of Chelsea’s masked men below.
A man so regularly forced to wear a protective mask whilst playing football that he often resembles a tribute to Batman when he steps out on the pitch, German centre-half, Antonio Rudiger, first wore the protective gear whilst playing for the west London side in 2020. This was due to an injury sustained by the defender in a Champions League clash with Real Madrid, when Rudiger collided with Madrid right-back Alvaro Odriozola, leaving the German international with a broken jaw.
Because of this, the warrior-like centre-back wore a protective mask for a long period of time, including during the 2020 European Championships. Fans may also have spotted that, since departing Chelsea in the summer of 2022, Rudiger has once again been wearing a protective mask, except now for his new club, Real Madrid.
The no-nonsense defender’s latest facial injury was caused by a horrific collision with Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Anatoliy Tubin in the Champions League, which left Rudiger needing some 20 stitches in his head. Whilst recovering from this brutal injury, the German has worn a protective face mask, including whilst representing his country at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Another ex-Chelsea defender who wore a face mask during his tenure at the west London club is Andreas Christensen, who did so in 2020. It seems that defenders are the players most likely to suffer head injuries, perhaps due to headers being such a fundamental part of their game, making head clashes a frequent occurrence.
In Christensen’s case, his mask-worthy injury was caused by the flailing elbow of Anthony Martial during a clash with Manchester United, which broke the defender’s nose. However, having had his nose broken on a Monday, the Denmark international was back in full training by Friday, now sporting a black face mask, highlighting just how quickly players with facial injuries are whisked back into the action.
Although we could compile a full starting XI of Chelsea players to have worn protective gear, we will instead not bore you, and finish with current Blues club captain, Cesar Azpilicueta. The club legend, who has played nearly 500 games for the west London giants, wore a mask back in 2016.
During a league game with fellow Londoners, Crystal Palace, the Spanish international suffered a double cheekbone fracture after being accidentally kicked in the face by Frazier Campbell. However, despite suffering such a painful injury in the third minute of the game, the committed defender played the full 90 minutes, and then wore a protective mask for several months afterwards.