Robinson Heath's
Technosoccer Clinic

In this first of an occasional series of articles looking at the major technological advances in soccer, I will be investigating the proliferation of facial aids used by players in the game today.

From here in the U S of A, soccer is a new fangled contraption that has us foxed. What with no piles of protective equipment and the possibility of going to the match and leaving without your team ending up as World Champions, well it's all a bit hard to take in. Nevertheless, here at the University of Soccer, Downtown Illinois, my department has made a comprehensive study of all things soccer to make us the world's leading authority on TechnoSoccer.

Watching the English game from afar, I was strangely struck last season when I saw many players seemed to have suffered facial injuries in training. This surely could not have been the case, so then I wondered if I had stumbled across a new sport combining the grace of Synchronised swimming and the power and passion of soccer. Then, I found out about nose plasters.

Although it is widely thought that these items were first seen on American footballer Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, it can be seen in this archive picture (right) that they were tested during World War I to increase the length of time troops could spend in smelly trenches. Many men lost their lives and only a major cover-up has stopped this information coming to the public's attention.

3M, the Sellotape Company, took up on the idea and managed to develop a nose plaster that reduces nasal resistance to incoming air by one third. This allows the energy used to overcome this friction to be used elsewhere. Originally designed as a cure to resolve problems experienced with snoring, they were initially triall ed on Arsenal supporters. The prototype plasters were soon kicked into touch as they were sellotape based and the guinea-pigs wearing them were roundly abused for their ridiculous appearance (Although in hindsight it appears that this may have had nothing to do with the nose plasters). But once the clip type plaster used nowadays came into being they really took off.

However, the development was not without problems. As you can see (left), Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne is modelling one of the Mark VII plasters. This particular variant actually increased the volume of oxygen reaching the brain (something highly necessary in this individual because of the long distance involved.), although as can be seen from the picture right, there were frightening after-effects as a result of using this prototype in a full match scenario. After a long rest break in a comfort zone, this player made a complete recovery and proceeded to play a responsible role in the game.

For many, the introduction of these clips from the game of Rugby has raised many points of debate. Will soccer players turn into lumbering great hulks with a passion for a punch-up? Will England break away from FIFA and negotiate their own Sky TV deal?? Will Tony Adams start havi ng secret meetings with Princess Diana (Heaven forbid)?? There are numerous questions thrown up by the use of these implements. If they increase the amount of energy saved by the drop in air resistance, then why do Synchronised swimmers use them? But that surely must be a problem for the TechnoSyncSwim experts to resolve in their own good time .

One of the first British players to regularly wear the plasters was Robbie Fowler of Liverpool FC. We have heard that Robbie and his pals are 'scalies'(sic), so this initially led us to believe that they had been involved in a fracas at The Cavern or another Liverpool night club, resulting in Fowler receiving a hit to the nose and having to bear the ignominy of carrying the plaster into the match scenario.

It has also been rumoured that the England squad was instructed to wear the plasters during their recent trip to Hong Kong. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, when out drinking bobs wanting to pick a fight with them would think they had a broken nose, so would avoid punching them in the face and thus spoiling the team photos and secondly, the extra oxygen would allow them to assimilate the alcohol into their bloodstream quicker.

With the current focus on drugs testing, how long can it be before FIFA take steps to measure the oxygen intake of players to see if they have been using oxygen enhancing plasters. Quite what would happen at high altitude is anybody's guess, but if Paul Merson would like to take part in trials, I'm sure he would not be in need of any artificial stimulants .

As time goes by, these strips of plaster will no doubt be regarded as a hilarious anachronism, especially when the Japanese further their technoSoccer knowledge and miniaturise them. New concepts will be devised and new products manufactured, but the footballers must have a certain modicum of talent for all of this technology to be of any use.

In the future, players could even be wearing something like this to increase their lungpower!

Robinson Heath

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