Fellaini: Referees are scared of my hair
Everton player Marouane Fellaini believes English referees are 'frightened' of him and has pointed to his unmistakable hairstyle as the cause of concern.
Fellaini's 6' 4'' frame, topped by his thick afro, marks the Belgian as a focal point on the pitch for his team-mates; the 25-year-old is the club's leading scorer with 11 goals this season.
But standing out in a crowd has its disadvantages and Fellaini is concerned his physical proportions have made him a target for over-zealous referees.
Fellaini's last tangle with officials - a headbutt on Stoke's Ryan Shawcross - resulted in the midfielder invoking a three-match ban.
"During my first season at Everton I got 12 bookings," Fellaini told The Sun. "At the end of it a delegation of referees visited the club to explain why I had got so many yellow cards.
"But they ended up admitting some of the bookings were unduly harsh. I ask myself why they get given to me.
"No doubt it's because I am not someone who can pass by unnoticed. I am tall, and my hairstyle is easily recognised. I know how to give defenders problems. I can see them keeping a special eye on me - they are frightened of me."
Fellaini also finds it hard to stay inconspicuous off the field, with football fans, just like match referees, drawn to the towering midfielder. And, just like referees, not all of the fans' attention has Fellaini smiling.
"I like the fact that Everton fans wear wigs in my honour. It shows they identify with me, and it is pleasing to be recognised," he said. "(But) the English are crazy about the game. It's good, but it exceeds the limits at times.
"For example, a guy stopped me in the street to show me the Everton tattoos on his back. And sometimes there is trouble with fans of other clubs if you go out in the evening.
"On one occasion a Liverpool fan had nothing better to do than pull my hair - once, twice, five times - and it got annoying. I felt it best to go home in order to avoid any trouble."
And Fellaini admitted his penchanct for attracting trouble has taken its toll, both personally and professionally.
"I found the (Shawcross) ban hard to take. I felt disgusted and I cut myself off from the world for 10 days," he admitted. "I stopped reading the papers and watching football on TV and retreated into a bubble.
"I am not angry with Shawcross. He tried to stop me, and was just doing his job. But his hands were all over me the whole time. However, nobody said a word against him.
"He is English after all, so no problem! Afterwards I couldn't even go back to Belgium for Christmas. David Moyes made me train on my own as I had penalised the rest of the team. Luckily for me Everton won two of the three games while I was suspended."