Off The Ball

Football stars in search of souvenirs

(FIFA.com)
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk of Bayern Muenchen (L) dismantles the goal netting as he celebrates
© Getty Images

During the course of their careers, the stars of football devote all their energies to winning titles and trophies, yesterday evening being a case in point, as Real Madrid’s players celebrated the club’s 11th UEFA Champions League triumph. And on such nights, the game’s big names look for mementoes to remember their achievement by. 

Take Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who went to the length of cutting the nets at Wembley as a keepsake of Bayern Munich’s victory in the 2013 Champions League final. The Ukrainian midfielder has a thing for souvenirs, having worn an armband that once belonged to Lothar Matthaus under his own armband when he was captaining Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St. Petersburg.

“I started to wear it when I was the skipper at Shakhtar,” Tymoshchuk told FIFA.com. “The former Moldova international Alexandru Spiridon was the assistant coach at the time and he swapped armbands once with Matthaus. When he found out that I loved the great players, he gave it to me.”

The cherished armband is now locked away in a safe, alongside the Wembley net and other treasures Tymoshchuk has picked up during the course of his career. “I’m particularly attached to the Zenit shirt I wore in a key game against Saturn in 2007. My astronaut friend Yuri Malenchenko took it with him into space. It means a lot to me.”

A time-honoured tradition
Many a football supporter would like to take a look in Tymoshchuk’s safe, though quite how many shirts are in there now is anyone’s guess. One player who recently fulfilled the fans’ wishes is John Terry, via his Instagram page.

The Chelsea and former England defender does not only collect trophies. Just like any other fan would, he has picked up caps, boots and shirts worn by the greats, though his is hardly a unique case in the world of professional footballers .  

The post-match act of swapping shirts goes back many years, to 14 May 1931 in fact. It was on that day that England beat France 5-2, with the French players so impressed by their opponents that they asked them if they could keep their shirts as souvenirs of the occasion. Shirt-swapping took on a new dimension, however, at the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico™, with Brazil’s 1-0 defeat of England in the group phase ending with Pele offering his jersey to Bobby Moore, who promptly gave the great Brazilian his in return.

Collectors’ pieces
Pele’s shirt always remained a treasured item, with New York Cosmos printing between 25 and 30 jerseys with his name on for every match, to make sure that no one went without at the final whistle. 

Just as Pele did in 1970, and on two other occasions, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have both lifted the most coveted trophy in world football. And while their shirts are much sought-after, the Spanish central-defensive duo are not averse to a little collecting themselves, with Pique returning from South Africa with much more than a title and his winners’ medal, having acquired an opposing player’s shirt at the end of every game.

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*Here there are the jerseys I exchanged during the World Cup 2010. The one of the Final was with Huntelaar, but I framed it with mine *

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“I’ve always loved Francesco Totti. After the match, he wanted to swap shirts with me. It’s going to be the centrepiece of my personal museum,” said the Real Madrid defender after a Champions League game against Roma this last season, perhaps the Italian playmaker’s final appearance in Europe, the kind of thing that makes such prized possessions even more valuable.

Balls, shoes and more besides
Côte d’Ivoire international Salomon Kalou is another of football’s souvenir hunters, as he explained to FIFA.com. “The most precious piece in my collection is a Lionel Messi jersey, which I picked up at the 2008 Olympics. It’s strange because he wore 15 on his back at the time, but now he’s a No10. It’s weird to see his name with a different number. It’s unusual.”

The former Lille man has more in his collection than just shirts, however: “I’ve kept a few balls, including one from the 2012 Champions League final and the balls from games in which I’ve scored hat-tricks in the Netherlands, England and France.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another ball hunter. After scoring four in a French league match against Troyes, the Swedish striker made off with the match ball and then tweeted a message explaining the importance of the memento to him.

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Players from the world’s less fashionable clubs have been known to make off with a token or two when facing more famous opponents. Following their 3-1 defeat of Atletico Mineiro in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013, Raja Casablanca’s players were visibly delighted to have reached the final of the competition and to have come up against Ronaldinho. When the final whistle blew, the Moroccan club’s players converged on the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year to request his boots, shirt, shinpads and even his headband.

Titles and awards aside, souvenirs are often all that remains of a career when it ends. Granada forward Youssef El Arabi is evidently planning for the future by getting his photo taken with the opponents he comes across. “It’s amazing to have the chance to meet a living legend like Zidane,” said the Moroccan international. “Photos are souvenirs. When I see a player or coach I like and who excites me, I don’t see why I shouldn’t go and ask them to pose for a photo with me, even if we’ve been on opposite sides for 90 minutes. After all, I was a fan before I was a footballer.” 

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