A dubious trend has hilariously gripped the World Cup host country, as Russian men, women, kids and even cats are sprouting mustaches in support of their national team.
Everywhere you look, it seems there’s a Borat. There’s a Selleck. Desperate grooming has taken hold among the superstitious and soccer-mad.
At the start of the World Cup, a sense of impending doom had overcome Russian fans. Their team was the lowest-ranked (70th in the world) among the 32 teams. They were participating by virtue of being the host country.
Fearing humiliation as the world tuned in to its biggest sporting event, many Russian soccer fans blamed coach Stanislav Cherchesov as the national team failed to win even one of its seven warm-up matches. Things did not bode well.
Then, on June 6, a week before the opener, late-night TV host Ivan Urgant called on Russians to take up the razor in support Cherchesov, a Soviet-era national goalie whose trademark mustache sets him apart from his mostly clean-shaven compatriots.
“Cherchesov needs our support,” Urgant wrote on his Instagram, according to a translation by Russian state media RT. “Everything is against him, including forecasts, weather, physical laws, some footballers’ anatomy, and even simple logic! We call on all the fans to grow mustache and share the pictures on social media under the hashtag “MustacheOfHope.”
He may have been half kidding, playing on both Russians’ pride and their penchant for self-mockery. But nearly 20,000 have responded to the Instagram hashtag, with often hilarious results.
Some have grown authentic mustaches in the past two weeks. Others have resorted to costume hair or invented other ways to brandish the ‘stache.
And maybe it was just the tension reliever the team needed. In the opening match on June 14, Russia played Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest ranked team. Despite losing their best player to a hamstring injury in the first half, the Russians attacked in blistering fashion, winning 5-0.
Russia plays Egypt on Tuesday at 2 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast live on Fox.