Giving Jose Mourinho a trim on the day he was sacked as Chelsea manager, cutting the hair of the France team on their way to World Cup glory, and crafting Paul Pogba’s latest style sensation; Ahmed Alsanawi is the barber to football’s biggest superstars.
“That was probably the proudest moment of my life,” he tells The Sportsman in an exclusive interview when we ask him of his work with Les Bleus last summer.
“They won the World Cup and, in the changing room, Pogba went live on Instagram [with Benjamin Mendy] and they’re saying I won the cup, wanting to dedicate it to me,” Alsanawi reveals of their amusing celebratory post for him. “It’s the World Cup! I’ve grown up watching it. They made that effort, it was unreal.”
So, what’s it like cutting Pogba’s barnet and creating the most recognised hairstyle in the Premier League?
From flashes of red and white to shocking blue, and messages and symbols shaved into the side of his head, the Frenchman isn’t shy to go all out when it comes to style.
“He’ll give me what he’s looking for and I’ll put it into action or tweak a little thing here and there because if he had it his way, he’d draw a building on his head!” jokes Alsanawi. “I’m a barber not Picasso.”
As Pogba marauds across the pitch with his striking barnet on show, he often becomes a target for online trolls and irate football supporters if his performance is not 100%.
Having worked with the Frenchman for UEFA’s respect campaign, shaving #Equal into his hair which went viral, Alsanawi, owner of A Star Barbers, has known Pogba for a long time and doesn’t understand the hate for a hairstyle.
“People say ‘What’s the haircut?’ Think about it, they’re always on TV, millions and millions of people are watching them. What would you rather look like? S***, or good? People don’t get that and it winds me up sometimes,” he admits.
“Hair is the crown you wear. If I’m going out, and my hair is messy and my beard is all over the place, my confidence isn’t going to be as good as if I have a proper decent fade and I’m feeling myself.
“That’s every aspect of life, anything; if you feel confident in yourself and the haircut makes you feel that way, you’re going to perform better.”
Based in London, he travels up to Manchester when Pogba needs a fresh trim and the two are good friends.
The pair can be seen having a laugh on social media, showing off another finished article in the ‘Paul Pogba Arena’ at the star’s home.
However, he admits football rarely comes up in conversation.
“With Pogba, we’re just pals, it’s normal,” he says. “It’s like if me and you were to go for a pint, it’s just normal conversation.
“I’m not that interested in just talking about football because he’s my friend. With football, I might get them to give me tips on playing but it doesn’t go beyond that.
“We chill, have something to eat, keep-ups, I beat him at two-touch,” he laughs. “I’m kidding.”
Just last week he was at Real Madrid, stood on the balcony watching training, in the Spanish capital to cut the hair of another client, one Eden Hazard.
Now travelling the globe as his business continues to skyrocket, he also cut the hair of the France World Cup squad who would be seen on the grandest of stages. He says that was his toughest but most rewarding of assignments.
“At the World Cup, I cut 18 of the France players’ hair and, honestly, I got ill after that,” he admits. “I didn’t even eat.
“I was travelling, leaving early morning and squeezing 18 people in in about four or five hours, and all the while needing to stay at that high level.”
Moving to England from Baghdad at the age of nine, Alsanawi got into the profession after he’d had enough of barbers ‘messing up’ his hair.
“I went and bought a set of clippers and started shaping myself up, cutting my hair and then my first victims were my brother and my Dad, my neighbours, and then I worked in the shop,” he says.
Soon, his work was creating a real buzz and word soon got round the Chelsea training ground.
“We were in Chessington and all of the Chelsea youth players would come into the shop,” he explains.
“You do one of them and give them a good haircut and they tell their friends and it spreads about. It’s not love, you’ve just got to be good at what you do, and if you’re good at it and it happens to be a footballer in your chair and he likes the haircut, it’ll spread.
“Suddenly, my name was going around the Chelsea training ground—that’s how John Terry heard about me. He brought me into Chelsea’s training ground and I was doing that, going in for three years—that’s how I gained Eden Hazard and all the big footballers.”
It was cutting the hair of Blues defender Kurt Zouma which caught the attention of Pogba.
Having been such a success after a difficult start in life, he and those close to him rightly take great pride in the business.
“They’re really proud of me,” he says of his family. “Coming from a third-world background, I was a troubled kid when I was younger and got kicked out of school, but I turned my life around.
“I’ve got my beautiful wife who helped with a lot of it and having my kids, that motivated me into what I want to do. I have big plans for the brand,” he revealed having just launched his own style range and A Star coffee.
Pogba, Hazard, Champions League final goalscorer Divock Origi, Terry, they all go to him to look sharp but only one has left Alsanawi pinching himself. He admits that he is rarely blown away or fazed by meeting such high-profile names from the world of football:
“John Terry, the first time I met him at Chelsea, is the only time I was star-struck. I’m just used to it now, I don’t get all buzzy.
“I’ve been doing it for 12 years, dealing with celebs and athletes, it’s just the job. Let’s say I met an actor though, like Denzel Washington, then I’ll be like ‘What?!’ I’ve grown up watching him and it’s a different feel to what I’m used to.”
We had to ask, is there anyone’s hair he is desperate to get his scissors onto. He didn’t need long to answer:
“I would love to do Messi and Ronaldo’s hair. Whoever they’re going to, I don’t know man…”
He really doesn’t rate the hair of two of the greatest players to grace a football field?
“Nah, terrible, terrible! No disrespect to their barber but to have that profile and not have a good haircut is annoying.”
So, Lionel, Cristiano, if you fancy a change, A Star Ahmed is the man.