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El valor de la camiseta

The value of the t-shirt

On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the League title won by Athletic in Las Palmas, I had the chance to interview several players from the team coached by Javi Clemente, then in his thirties. One of them was Andoni Zubizarreta, who in addition to explaining that in the old Insular Stadium he spent the longest minutes of his life while Madrid's defeat at Mestalla was certified, who clairvoyantly went on to detail what "the weight of weight" means for him. of a T-shirt”. He knew what he was talking about, since the man from Aretxabaleta inherited the "1" from Iribar at Athletic, from Arconada in the Spanish team and from Urruti at Barcelona. In what is perhaps the best lineage of Basque goalkeepers in modern history.

And indeed, some jerseys evoke much more than a number, they cross the barrier of time to settle in the collective memory of the fans, the place where memories are still alive. The retina and the palate savor the best, which is why everyone knows that the 10 for Brazil and Argentina, the 14 for the Netherlands or the 7 for Manchester United are not just any shirts. They were worn by some of the best and their respective successors will always be in quarantine until they prove otherwise.

Until now no one has been able to match Pelé, despite the fact that Zico or Raí were also worthy 10 for Brazil. Now, in full involution of her Jogo Bonito to reinforced concrete, the canarinha is betting on 11, Neymar's now and previously worn by Romario, Rivaldo and Ronaldo Nazario. The myth and mystique that depressed local fans after the Mineirazo or global fans cling to. Everyone knows that when Brazil appears through the changing room tunnel they are in the waiting room to see what has been the best team in history play.

If there is a footballer with a life like a movie, it is Diego Armando Maradona. From Villa Fiorito to smoke a cigar with Fidel Castro. From a pasture to the ecstasy of San Paolo in Naples. From success to failure, from addiction to resurrection. In Argentina they searched for a successor anxiously, even obsessively. Something that placed a huge magnifying glass on Burrito Ortega, Muñeco Gallardo or Little Witch Verón. Until Messi arrived. So much so that at the level of individual and collective successes, El Pelusa has become an edition surpassed and improved by La Pulga . A footballer who has been able to surpass all his records, except one. The one to go down in history with the 10 of Argentina. That is why Maradona, who was able to score "the goal" for England and lead a fair team to win the World Cup, continues to be the reference with the albiceleste. No middle ground, from heaven to hell, hero and villain. It is the flag of the people, the one that now prefers Tévez as a popular icon. Time will tell if Messi is capable of also obtaining that popular fervor. Soccer, without a doubt, has it.

More than 40 years ago, the Dutch national team amazed the world with their Total Football during the 1974 World Cup. With footballers capable of playing in all positions, in constant movement and evolution to alter the norms of what was established in the post-war game . His main reference was Johan Cuyff with his striking orange shirt with the number 14 on the back. They could not win the World Cup in Germany and also succumbed in the 1978 final. A decade later, also with their characteristic elastic orange but already with eighties psychedelic overtones, tulips in their multicultural version won the European Championship on German soil. Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten were the exponents, but the style was maintained thanks to the presence of Rinus Michels on the bench. More than a quarter of a century has passed since then, the Oranje has once again had great generations of footballers but it has not been able to lift a title again. However, the betrayal of the legacy of Cruyff and Michels, eliminating the bands from the game scheme, together with a lack of relief in the lower categories, has caused their absence from the next Eurocup. The fans will miss the Dutch elastic, because what it represents for football far exceeds a list of 23 players for a championship. Quite the opposite will happen in Albania or Iceland, who will participate for the first time, which makes their current shirt and players the symbol of a historical era for their respective teams.

There will also be the inventors of football, where the fervor extends from the Sunday leagues to the Premier League. They say that football was born in Sheffield, a city that suffered and still suffers the scourges of the crisis in England. It can be said that many of their people had everything taken from them, including their clothes as seen in “Full Monty”, but there is one thing that they keep intact. The love for his two teams, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, far from the Premier League, but close to some fans who claim the feeling of belonging. The pride of a t-shirt.

It is not the only place, because the value of a shirt and its shield are well above the current categories of a team. It is not necessary to play the Champions League for a shirt to mean something special. The boys and girls who receive the gift for the first time with the shirt of their respective squads know it well. It will form part of their DNA, of a transmission where word of mouth is the key and in which family liturgies will have a vital importance. They know it well in Sheffield but also in Leeds, Nottingham, Derby, Dresden, Parkhead, the Sankt Pauli neighborhood, Bari, Oviedo, Mendizorrotza or El Sadar. You can live in the shadow of a local giant or undertake competitive epics like Athletic.

Football feeds on the past to build its epic and story, all the clubs and national teams do it, but it lives on the present. Voracious, so much so that yesterday is worthless, crushing coaches and generating headlines or tweets. The referents grow or are born at all times, it goes from the disaster of Karlsruhe to the debacle of the Camp Nou in 90 minutes. From everything to nothing and vice versa, as in the legendary Champions League final between United and Bayern in 1999.

Positive examples of improvement, integration or respect represent a leap forward. The Alex Morgan of today will be a benchmark for tomorrow, she will have a shirt hanging to remember that she left her mark and that thanks to her many girls have started to play around the world. Because the shirts, with the passage of time, are what the fans want them to be: The legacy of a passion. Nothing better than showing them off in style.

Benat Zarrabeitia
Journalist and Communicator

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