Story highlights

Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, kicks off on Friday June 9

Poland will play Greece in the tournament's opening match in Warsaw

A number of Euro 2012's star players will be sporting extravagant tattoos

Academic Ellis Cashmore believes footballers have tattoos to blend in with their colleagues

CNN  — 

Euro 2012 is almost upon us and Europe’s finest footballers will be marked men – in more ways than one.

The tournament will decide which is the continent’s top football team, but it will also showcase a tapestry of tattoos – the body art that has become the chosen mode of self-expression for any self-respecting footballer.

Euro 2012: By the numbers

“I don’t think footballers are too different from other members of their generation – except, of course, they have a lot more money,” says Ellis Cashmore, professor of Culture, Media and Sport at England’s Staffordshire University.

“They’re also people who have an awful lot of time on their hands. What do they do after training in the morning? Play on their PlayStations, shop for new cars? Or stop by the tattoo parlor and wile away a few hours?” he told CNN.

Footballers are on display to the world, with a global audience of millions expected to tune in for the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

But rather than a desire to distinguish themselves from the crowd, Cashmore believes getting a tattoo is more footballers wanting to fit in with his peers.

“The majority of tattoo-wearers decorate their bodies because is it voguish, almost a membership to the Y-generation,” said the academic, who is conducting research into how people view the future of Britain.

“It’s less a desire to stand out, more an eagerness to blend in. As I said before, it functions as a permanent bodily membership card.”

Cashmore says there is no one type of person who is more likely to get a tattoo than another, because different people have varying reasons for deciding to get ink done.

“There’s no single impulse,” he said. “I have a friend who approaches tattoos like a collector: one he had carved in LA, one from Tokyo, Stockholm and other points on the world map.

“Others commemorate the birth of children, weddings or other notable days. Or their affiliation: my gym is in West Bromwich and West Bromwich Albion tattoos are abundant.

“At my gym, there is hardly anyone under the age of 45 – and a few older – without some tribal marks on their arms.”

Cashmore thinks the apparent rise in people getting tattoos is closely linked to the importance that modern society places on the body and personal grooming.

“We care and tend for our bodies now in a way that would have been regarded as obsessive as recently as 15 years ago,” he said.

“Think about the rising number of cosmetic surgery procedures in the UK, the money we spend on grooming products (especially male), the time we spend in the hairdressers, at the gym, tanning salons.

“We depilate (the removal of hair), oil, and pierce our bodies – not for any specific function, but just because we are narcissists.”