Bratislava (AFP) – His first tattoo comprised three Chinese signs — energy, fairness, talent. Marek Hamsik has gone a long way since getting it at 16, propelled by its three attributes.
At 28, the Napoli and Slovakia midfielder is in his prime, having led his national team to the last-16 of Euro 2016 — and scoring one of the goals of the tournament on the way.
Now the man with the Mad Max-style Mohawk haircut and gallery of tattoos will face one of the challenges of the tournament when Slovakia play Germany on Sunday.
In Slovakia’s group game against Russia, Hamsik blasted the ball across the box over keeper Igor Akinfeev and off the post into the net to give his team a 2-0 lead.
Slovakia won 2-1 and, combined with a 2-1 loss to Wales and a goalless draw with England, advanced on four points at its first Euro tournament ever.
“I don’t know if it was my most beautiful one but it was definitely one of those,” Hamsik beamed after the game.
“In any case, it was very important.”
“The adrenaline rush was extreme. I scored into a goal behind which I saw thousands of our fans,” added Hamsik, who has scored 19 times in 89 internationals.
Hamsik fans abound in Naples and in Slovakia — kids copy his spiky haircut, while an Italian singer wrote a song about him, a Gangnam Style cover called ‘Marekiano Style’ which has gone viral on Youtube.
Born on July 27, 1987 in the central Slovak city of Banska Bystrica, Hamsik started playing at the age of four with the Jupie Podlavice club, which now bears his name.
“My grandpa bought me a pair of boots before I was even born,” Hamsik once said.
At 11, he scored 16 goals in a regional game, setting a still valid record.
– Vesuvius might go off –
But the regional competition soon turned out too small for Hamsik who moved to the Slovak capital in 2001 to play for Slovan Bratislava.
His father Richard sold his Skoda Felicia car to help finance the move.
Hamsik made his top-flight debut with Slovan in 2004, just before moving to Brescia in Italy where he first tried Serie A before even turning 18.
At 19, Hamsik played his first game for the national team, then moved to Napoli, where he has so far won the Italian Cup.
Last season, Napoli finished second behind Juventus, just like three years earlier. Its two Italian titles date back to the time when Diego Maradona was the star.
At the 2010 World Cup, Hamsik captained the Slovakia team that stunned Italy 3-2 in the group to make it to the last-16 where they lost to the Netherlands.
Naples has become an ideal home for the man with a red Ferrari and a passion for cars, watches and fashion — illustrated by his tattoos, earrings, round glasses and the trademark mohawk.
Married to former handballer Martina, with whom he has sons Christian and Lucas, Hamsik has brought a part of his family to Italy — his sister Michaela is married to teammate Walter Gargano.
Media have linked Hamsik to AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United or Real Madrid, but the man in the red Ferrari stays calm, hoping for success with his current club.
“When we won the Italian Cup, more than 100,000 people were waiting for us, squares were full, the entire city lived this achievement.”
“I can’t imagine what would happen if we won the title — maybe Vesuvius would go off again,” said the five-time Slovak footballer of the year.
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