Besides my interest in football and learning about foreign countries and cultures, one of the main reasons for me to collect football shirts, is the challenge of acquiring the really rare shirts. The whole process of researching a shirt, contacting the federation, the staff and the players, which more often than not leads to interesting conversations with people from countries, I will probably never visit.
Along the lines of the saying (and Motörhead song) “The chase is better than the catch”, the journey of obtaining a rare shirt or even a “holy grail” is truly an exciting one and one that genuinely requires a good amount of work.
The 2019 Seychelles shirt was such a “holy grail” for me. After the first pictures of it surfaced, collectors were intrigued by its “map” design and the colorful shoulder stripes.
Many collectors started researching mysterious manufacturer logo – simply a stylized “R” – but to no avail. After Danish collector Frederik was finally able to obtain two specimens of this elusive jersey, a few questions were answered, yet, getting more of them still seemed like a tough challenge. Since the Seychelles Football Federation is notoriously difficult to contact (full Email inbox, no social media accounts…), for a long time, no more shirts found their ways into anyone’s collection. After countless messages to players and staff, Seychelle’s FA president sent me the number of their General Secretary. And, indeed, an awkward call later, I was finally promised a shirt – a promise that was never kept, however…
Ultimately, it took the diplomatic connections and persistence of fellow collector Fred, to eventually obtain six of these coveted pieces of polyester. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky few to get one of these beauties, hence being finally able to cross this “holy grail” off my wantlist.
This sounds like a true happy ending to the Seychelles-shirt-journey, yet, there’s a twist to the story…
Three months after I was able to get hold of a Seychelles jersey, more of them suddenly appeared on vintagefootballshirts.com – available for everyone, add-to-bag, no hassle, no awkward phone calls with a General Secretary required. While this is certainly fantastic news for every shirt collector and a great opportunity to get such a rare shirt, it rekindled an ongoing discussion among collectors:
Are once rare, now “add-to-bag”-shirts a blessing or a course for the collecting community and are shops like “Classic Football Shirts” or “Vintage Football Shirts” destroying the challenge of getting the real “holy grails”?
I love my Seychelles shirt. I like the color, I like the design and to be honest, the aspect of it being a super rare shirt made it even more special for me. Seeing it being available to buy in an instance, somehow degrades it from one of my “holy grails” to a mere replica shirt, available for everyone.
Upon reflecting about it for a while, however, I asked myself if my reasoning was selfish or hypocritical, since more than once have I been the profiteer of a once rare shirt being available to buy in an instance. Did I ever have any regrets or second thoughts, when I put a Yemen or Anguilla shirt in my “shopping cart”? Of course not. It was a welcome addition to my collection and a hassle-free step towards to goal of 211 FIFA shirts.
There are people working at those online shops, that probably have to put just as much work into sourcing those shirts than I or other people had.
A football shirt collection is individual and unique, so are the rules that every collector sets for his/her own collection. While a Seychelles shirt might be easy to get now, it will become increasingly scarcer, as the stocks deplete and the shirts vanish into people’s collections.
And if “add-to-bag”-shirts do not awaken your hunting instinct, there’s always the route of trying for a matchworn shirt – an endeavor that could potentially keep you busy for years.
Ultimately, there’s a silver lining to the story: The shirts on Vintagefootballshirts turned out to have quite a few major differences compared to the ones that surfaced before, making my first Seychelles jersey still a unique part of my collection. And I have to admit, I like the design of this new Seychelles jersey even more than my old one. It might even be one of the best designs of the last decade. And thanks to sites like Vintagefootballshirts, it doesn’t have to carve out a miserable existence in a dark cardbox somewhere in the Seychelles Football Federation’s headquarter, but can be enjoyed by football shirt enthusiasts around the world.