Matchworn (player unknown)
14.12.1994 MDA U21 🇲🇩 : GER U21 🇩🇪 1-1 or 07.10.1995 GER U21 🇩🇪 : MDA U21 🇲🇩 3-1
Source: Carsten Ramelow's personal collection
Moldova might be the most neglected place in Europe. While it’s certainly the less visited country of the continent, it seems that many people are unaware of its mere existence.
The people that do know about it, mostly picture it as a Borat-esque eyesore with horse-drawn carriages used as the main means of transportation. Hell, even Google’s image search primarily yields pictures of hideous Soviet-style prefab buildings when googling “Moldova” or “Chișinău”, the country’s capital.
In 2019, while visiting the country, I had an utterly different experience:
Moldova boasts with natural and cultural beauty and even Chișinău turned out to be well-maintained, clean and pretty city, offering great food and diversified activities.
As a relatively young country - Moldova gained independence in 1991 – its footballing achievements are rather meager. The team had their most successful qualification campaign in 2014, when they amassed a total of 11 points, yet finished second to last in the final group table.
Currently ranked 177th in the FIFA rankings, Moldova, as of 2021, is among the four weakest teams of the UEFA countries.
It’s a small world!
I found this shirt on eBay and immediately saw that the seller was based in the small town I grew up in. After a quick chat, he turned out to be the kitman for Bundesliga club Bayer 04 Leverkusen – my favorite club for more than 25 years. He told me that the shirt used to belong to former German international Carsten Ramelow, who swapped it in an U21 match against Moldova and, , after clearing-out his cellar, now wanted to get rid of it.
When the shirt arrived, I immediately recognized the address of the seller, as he lives just 15 meters away from my parents’ house! It’s a small world for sure!
The shirt is the first shirt by German manufacturer Reusch in my collection. And what a shirt it is! It emits some serious Barça-vibes, due to the color-selection and features a yellowy embroidered FA badge as well as a bunch of arrows, pointing towards the nether regions.
After doing some research, I found out that there have been various versions of this model. While mine feature the Reusch logo on a sewed on “bar”, there are versions with a transferred logo as well as a variation with shiny badges inside the fabric. My version, however, seems to be the first issue of this shirt, making it one of the oldest, if not the oldest Moldova shirt, since the country joined UEFA.
It is also prominently featured on the cover of the German edition of the EURO ‘96 Panini sticker album (which I completed, of course). I can vividly remember my 9-year-old self wondering, which team Germany was playing against, when I saw the cover for the first time. Now I know!