Tradition of swapping jerseys after matches fades away

2018-07-22 05:57
SWC 2018 (adidas)
SWC 2018 (adidas)

Johannesburg - The total prize money shared by the 32 nations after the World Cup in Russia was a whopping $400 million (R5.7 billion).

But the camaraderie between players swapping jerseys, for many generations a symbol of respect, was missing this time around.

History shows the first time jerseys were exchanged was in 1931 when underdogs France beat mighty England 5-2 for the first time in a friendly match. After the game, French players asked for their English counterparts’ jerseys.

Since then, it has become the norm, showing a great spirit of sportsmanship in success. This practice continued and happened for the first time at a World Cup in 1954 in Switzerland.

In 1966, England manager Alf Ramsey made his disapproval of the practice known when his players beat Argentina in the quarterfinals. He described the Argentine players as “animals” and stopped striker Geoff Hurst from exchanging jerseys with goalscorer Alberto González.

The most iconic exchange between players happened when one of the world’s greatest players, Brazilian Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, and Englishman Bobby Moore swapped shirts after the Brazilians’ 1-0 victory at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The two legends were nearing the end of their careers and this exchange of kit further popularised the custom.

It has continued in all the World Cups since 1954.

A lot of shirt-swapping took place in the North American Soccer League matches, particularly between 1975 and 1977, when Pelé played there.

The Brazilian star joined New York Cosmos after 18 seasons with Santos.

The Fifa website reports that everyone wanted to exchange jerseys with the legendary player to the point that the team had to give each of their opponents a shirt after every match.

“Pelé was the main attraction,” said former Cosmos coach Gordon Bradley. “Sometimes we had to take 25 or 30 shirts with us to a match – otherwise, we’d never have got out of the stadium alive.”

But judging by the latest World Cup it seems the practice is fading away.

Players now seem to be keeping their jerseys. When Spain won the World Cup in 2010 at FNB Stadium, they changed the navy blue kit they’d worn during the match to their traditional red to lift the trophy. Almost all of the members of the team did not exchange their shirts with the Netherlands team.

Earlier in the tournament, Bafana Bafana marksman Katlego Mphela exchanged his jersey with Frenchman William Gallas after South Africa beat France 2-1 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

In 2016, after Portugal drew 1-1 with Iceland in their Uefa Euro match, a visibly upset Cristiano Ronaldo refused to swap his jersey with skipper Aron Gunnarsson.

At the post-match press conference, the peeved Portuguese star said: “Iceland didn’t try anything. They were just ‘defend, defend, defend’ and playing on the counterattack. It was a lucky night for them. We should have three points, but we are okay. I thought they’d won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end.”

Recently, Mamelodi Sundowns defender Wayne Arendse was ridiculed on social media after he swapped jerseys with Barcelona’s superstar Lionel Messi after the Spanish giants won the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup match earlier this year 3-1. People accused the Sundowns player of being star-struck.

Jomo Cosmos boss Jomo Sono said he had collected a lot of jerseys from legends of the game throughout his playing career.

“I have so many jerseys, including those of Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff and Pelé,” he said.

The South African legend said people should not read much into players not exchanging jerseys during this World Cup because sometimes players agreed to send one another their jerseys later.

“If they kept on exchanging jerseys while they were away from home playing in Russia, they might have run out of them, so they might have agreed to send them after the tournament,” Sono said.

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