Read My Vest

A new book cel­e­brates the now-dead art of the foot­baller’s hid­den mes­sage... yeah, thanks, FIFA

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

Phi­los­o­phy and foot­ball rarely mix. It’s hard to imag­ine toe-driller Dar­ius Vas­sell delv­ing too deeply into Jean-Paul Sartre’s sem­i­nal works on ex­is­ten­tial­ism, while Rob­bie Savage is ei­ther post-mod­ernism’s purest of thinkers or a shouty berk who would prob­a­bly ar­gue with a tree – if only it knew how to an­swer back... “You’re wrong,” the for­mer Le­ices­ter mid­fielder-turned-pro­fes­sional wind bag has al­most cer­tainly never shouted at an in-bloom larch, “it’s not sum­mer.” A new book, how­ever, is look­ing to prove that the av­er­age foot­baller has more in their locker, via the medium of clan­des­tine T-shirt the­ol­o­gis­ing. Dis­gusted by FIFA’s ban on play­ers dis­play­ing any form of mes­sage in 2014 – Edin­son Ca­vani was booked for un­veil­ing a T-shirt in sup­port of Chapecoense af­ter a re­cent goal – graphic-de­sign duo Craig Old­ham and Rick Banks were keen to re­call the of­ten deeply per­sonal, po­lit­i­cal or philo­soph­i­cal mean­ing be­hind home­made un­der­gar­ments. The re­sult is I Be­long To Je­sus, a book ded­i­cated not to re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism, but Kaka’s 2007 Cham­pi­ons League-win­ning tribute to his maker and other trend-set­ting foot­ballers with a mes­sage. “Kaka’s mes­sage re­ally stayed with us,” Barnsley fan Craig tells FFT. “Foot­ballers are peo­ple with mes­sages and the rule change is a cer­tain form of cen­sor­ship. I thought, ‘well what a f***ing shame.’ “Play­ers are per­ceived as rich, self­ish t***s, who are dis­con­nected from the fans. This was a foot­baller’s last line of raw self-ex­pres­sion; they ac­tu­ally care about things other than them­selves. It felt like a land­mark mo­ment if this cre­ativ­ity was go­ing to stop.” So, Craig and Rick set about col­lat­ing the best T-shirts, shin pads and masks with which play­ers have used to cel­e­brate. For $40, you get the book (which clev­erly opens top to bot­tom to mir­ror tak­ing off a shirt), as well as an I Be­long To Je­sus T-shirt and a cap­tain’s arm­band. But not, sadly, Nick­las Bendt­ner’s Paddy Power pants. “Re­search­ing it was like an emo­tional trig­ger, like when mu­sic takes you back to the time you first heard a song,” says Craig. “They weren’t al­ways just flip­pant gags, or ‘I love you mum’, but there are per­sonal sto­ries to be told.” Billy Sharp’s touch­ing “that’s for you son” tribute to his new­born Luey, who died aged just two days old in Oc­to­ber 2011, springs to mind. “That one is un­be­liev­ably poignant,” ex­plains Craig. “The ref­eree used some com­mon sense and didn’t ac­tu­ally book him. That’s what this book is all about. Why pun­ish him? “I like Rob­bie Fowler and the dock­ers, as well. It’s rooted in Liver­pool and the com­mu­nity. “Then there’s good old Mario Balotelli’s. The kit man at City didn’t have any punc­tu­a­tion, so he started cut­ting up let­ter Ps to make ques­tion marks.” Ah, Mario. Why al­ways him?

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