Sheffield’s football clubs have had their share of Italian stars over the years, but one import has proved a cut above.
Having arrived as a free transfer, Alfredo Barbetta has spent nearly 60 years at the top of his game, styling the hair of the city’s great and good.
During that time, he has kept many stars from his beloved Sheffield Wednesday and a few from the Blades looking sharp, and even enjoyed a spell on the touchline translating for the Owls’ Italian contingent.
Don Megson and his son Gary, Johnny Fantham, Wilf Smith, Johnny Quinn and of course his compatriots Benito Carbone and Paolo Di Canio are just some of the Wednesday legends whose locks he has cropped over the years.
The 78-year-old grandfather will bid farewell to customers at Alfredo’s 2, in Chapeltown, which he has run for the last 20 years, when the salon changes hands on February 4.
But he is not ready to hang up his scissors quite yet and plans to help out on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Barbetta’s Barbers Shop in High Green, which is run by his daughter Luciana.
“It breaks my heart to retire but when I woke up one day and had a problem lifting my hand my children told me ‘you’re nearly 79, it’s time to pack it in’,” he said.
“I’m still fit to work and still enjoying it but now I’ll be able to spend more time in Italy and chasing the sun.”
Alfredo learned the trade as a 10-year-old fresh out of school, shaving customers with a cut-throat razor at a salon on the outskirts of Perugia, Italy, where he grew up.
Within four years he had progressed to cutting hair and was just 18 when he opened his first business.
He was 20 when he arrived in Sheffield in 1958, having joined his older sister on these shores primarily to avoid national service as he says ‘I didn’t want to shoot anyone’.
He worked at Scotts hairdressers in Attercliffe and Fantham’s salon in the city centre, before opening his own business on Galsworthy Road, Southey Green.
He claims to have been the first Italian to open a hairdressers in the city centre, where his salons included one at the old Black Swan pub, now the Boardwalk, on Snig Hill.
Alfredo has been a staunch Sheffield Wednesday supporter since arriving in the city and counts former Owls chairman Dave Allen as one of his closest friends.
He even helped out as a translator for a spell in the late 90s and early noughties, when Carbone, Di Canio, Michele Di Piedi and Francesco Sanetti were at the club.
“All the Wednesday players and even some of the United players used to come to me. I used to cut Gary Megson’s hair when he was a young boy,” he said.
Alfredo wasn’t bad himself with a ball at his feet. As a forward for various teams, including his own outfit New Barbetta FC, he was known for cutting through opposing defences before sweeping home.
He has run 27 half marathons, and boasts how he completed the Derby Ramathon marathon nearly an hour ahead of former Owls player David Ford.
He met his wife Maureen at the old Locarno dance hall and they had three children together.
Once he retires, he is looking forward to spending more time with their four grandchildren and with his extensive family back in Italy, where he was one of six siblings and has some 40 nieces and nephews.