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SPICE BERGER? NO, I'M A FAMILY MAN AT HEART.

His thick, shoulder-length hair is wild and unruly. So wild that Patrik Berger is forced to wear an unbecoming female hair band to keep it out of his face during matches.

The band has become his trademark and he insists on wearing it - even though he is teased mercilessly by fellow players.

Yet it wouldn't be so difficult for Patrik to get himself a trim. He is, after all, married to the hairdresser he fell in love with five years ago at home in Prague.

"Jaroslava was so gorgeous," he says. "So ..." He desperately searches for the right word in his as yet stilted vocabulary. "Fit. I had to ask her out.

"I remember I was 18 and I liked her so much that I just walked into the salon where she worked and asked her if she wanted to see me."

Five years on, Patrik still clearly adores the blonde, 27-year-old Czech beauty. He is happiest at home playing cards with his wife or bathing his children - Patrik, two, and eight-month-old daughter Valentyna.

"I'm very lucky," he says. "I have my wife and children and I love them both. So long as they are here, I don't miss Czechoslavakia.

"I love spending time with the children, playing with them or taking them to the park. I get up with them in the morning and I take Patrik to nursery school three times a week.

"Then, in the evening I like to stay in with Jaroslava. We cook for the children, bath them and put them to bed and then at about 7pm we have our rest time together. We play cards or listen to music.

"The only thing that would make me even happier is more children. It could be a boy or a girl - it doesn't matter which."

THE tight-knit family have settled in well apart from a few early difficulties with the language. "We did find learning English a problem," Patrik admits.

"Every time I said 'no' I meant 'yes' and once, when I spoke to my wife on the mobile phone, I say 'Fakt' - which means 'really' in Czech - but now I know sounds like 'f ***'."

Off the field Patrik, who arrived in England last August on a pounds 3.25 million transfer, is shy and fetchingly modest about his good looks.

He quickly brushes aside labels that he is Liverpool FC's newest Spice Boy, alongside hunky team-mates Jamie Redknapp and David James. But it's his face - and his mean footballing skills - that have been his fortune.

He has been playing since he was five when he used to kick a ball about with the local boys and his dad in the streets of Prague.

He played for his country against Germany in the final of Euro 96, scoring a penalty. And he's already netted his fair share of goals at Anfield, winning the Carling Player Of The Month award for September last year.

His looks and feet have helped land him a pounds 1 milllion, four-year boot deal with Nike and now his latest project - promoting new Clearasil Complete spot facewash. Looking at Patrik's smooth, olive and very unspotty skin, he seems an unlikely choice. But he laughs as he explains it wasn't always like that. "Yes, I had spots when I was 15 or 16. I still get them sometimes, I used to do this ..." Grinning, he mimes squeezing a spot between two long fingers.

But he looks embarrassed when I ask what he thinks about being voted in the "ten most fanciable males" category by teen magazines.

"Me? Sexy? No!" He looks around the room in genuine surprise.

His adoring fans aren't convinced. Patrik admits that even a routine appearance in Liverpool city centre can leave him under siege.

He shakes his head, looks bemused and says: "English girls are different from Czech girls. They are not shy. Sometimes they ask for autographs." Now he is bracing himself for a new wave of attention as he braves Clearasil publicity tours at branches of Superdrug in Sheffield and Liverpool.

For their part, Clearasil are thrilled with the signing. Brand manager James Eadie says Patrik was the "perfect choice" for the product.

He says: "He is aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and regular routines which is central to using Clearasil Complete.

"With his sporting achievements and his looks, he is an aspirational role model for our target market."

You can see why Patrik's not fussed about his trademark "girlie" hairstyle - it's turning into a band of gold.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Words:755
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