Friday, April 03, 2020
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Gone, it seems, are the days when a football shirt meant something. The good ol’ day of yore, when your colours meant more than just which team you supported. When a football shirt was a symbolic representation of class, social status and even religious and political beliefs.  


That of course was when fans didn't actually wear replica football shirts. Look at a black and white photo of the crowd in times gone by. You’ll see only a sea of parkas and flat caps. The only indication of a fan’s affiliation is a bi-coloured scarf wrapped around their neck. These were the days before fat people walked around with an advert for a telecoms giant on their stomach and their nickname above a number one on their back.   


Today, shirts are the marketing horse upon which a large portion of a club’s fortunes are built. There are home kits, away kits, third kits, fourth kits and even training kits. The release of each is staggered, so, in theory, you can shell out for a new technically advanced piece of emblazoned nylon at least a couple of times a year. And a club’s colours don’t come cheap. You can’t expect to get any change from GBP40, and with a number and a syllable heavy foreign name on the back, you’re looking closer to GBP60.    


There has, however, been one particular smiting of the kit. That is the tendency for sponsorship and manufacture deals to do away with their identity. For them to become nothing but a lowest common denominator marketing ploy bereft of their integrity. Two of the world’s most iconic club teams are guilty of this. AC Milan’s away kit is an exact replica of Real Madrid’s home kit. Both white, both sponsored by online betting site Bwin and both manufactured by Adidas. Both exactly the same. Nothing to distinguish between two of the most distinguished clubs in the world.  


So don’t be alarmed to see Paolo Maldini trotting around in a Real Madrid kit. And no, neither has Raul finally had enough of the constant upheaval at the Bernabau. But look a little closer when David Beckham turns out for his new club, AC Milan. Only the smile lines and the small crest on his chest that will be able to tell you when the photo of this Trojan marketing horse was taken.   

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