The Lion’s Mane turns 40
© Popper Foto

He was voted Colombia’s Footballer of the Century, appeared in three FIFA World Cups™ (in 1990, 1994, 1998), was capped 111 times between 1985 and 1998 and is thus Colombia’s international record holder: Carlos Valderrama.

Children in Colombia call him by his nickname “el pibe” (the little boy). Apart from his ingenious technique and brilliant abilities as a playmaker, Valderrama is also renowned for his shock of hair, his unmistakable lion’s mane. Rumour has it that he stayed away from the barber’s for over eight years. Although Valderrama turned his back on the national team after the World Cup in France three years ago, the footballer from the port of Santa Marta is still playing for a club.

Since 1999, he has been a constant feature at Tampa Bay Mutiny in MLS and is regarded there as one of the workhorses. No mean feat, considering that Valderrama will be turning 40 on 2 September, making him the doyen player of the US professional league – 23 years older than Santino Quaranta from Washington DC United, the youngest player in MLS.

Valderrama, who used to play for Real Valladolid (Spain) and Montpellier (France), has no intention of hanging up his football boots. “I want to keep on playing for a few years yet,” he says.