Let’s just say that the cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair (US) should please most ladies (and some men). Football stars Didier Drogba (Chelsea FC) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) appear on the cover of the general interest magazine wearing nothing but tight boxer shorts in the colors of Ivory Coast and Portugal respectively. This is a good magazine week for Drogba, who also made the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world.
In a few weeks, the World Cup will kick off in South Africa with thehost nation facing Mexico. This month-long event will captivate more people around the globe than any other event, sporting or not. It will also be the first time that the World Cup is helf on African soil and while no African team is amongst the favorites to go all the way (Spain and Brazil are supposed to be the best teams right now), several of them such as Ivory Coastm, Cameroon and Ghana stand good chances. As England’s 80’s football legend Gary Lineker famously said: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end the Germans always win.” And while Germany remains a strong perennial contender, times have changed thank God!
For this issue of Vanity Fair, star photographer Annie Leibovitz set out to capture some of football’s biggest stars, all wearing nothing but underwear displaying their country’s flag. Besides “CR9” and “DD” (Ronaldo and Drogba’s nicknames) are Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Ghana’s Sulley Muntari, the U.S.A.’s Landon Donovan, Brazil’s Kaká and Pato, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Serbia’s Dejan Stankovic, England’s Carlton Cole, and Germany’s Michael Ballack.
A. A. Gill, in his accompanying June-issue essay, captures just how important football and the World Cup are to the 6.8 billion of us who live on Planet Earth. “Football took to the world pitch at about the same time as the modern independent nation-state,” Gill wrote. It is hard for Americans to relate with World Cup fever (despite baseball’s World Series!), but I am going to end this post the same way A.A. Gill did in his VF piece, quoting from the great Scottish player and coach Bill Shankly: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” ;)
Watch behind-the-scenes footage of Vanity Fair’s June cover shoot below.