Friday, 29 November 2013

Holy Grail No.2 - Argentina 86 Home Shirt

The first ever article that appeared on the Attic was billed as “Holy Grail No.1”. The numbering would clearly suggest that this was perhaps the first in a series and to that, I would say that yes, it was…I just never quite got round to writing about no.2. Until now!

So sit back and wallow in what will turn out to be yet another tale of obsession and ultimate futility!

It’s 1986 (really? What a surprise!) and the 11 year old me is standing in Devlins’ newsagents, unsure as to whether he should spend 42p of his 50p pocket money on what would be his first ever copy of Shoot! In the end, he / me / I buy / buys it, drawn by the World Cup Review inside, the cover of which features Maradona cradling the inspiration for Holy Grail No.1.

It’s possible that my obsession with football kits in general was started by my love of Maradona’s shirt, but whether that’s true or not, it certainly captivated me at the time. It’s hard to say what exactly I loved about it, but I distinctly remember being impressed that the middle stripe was white and not the usual blue. Moreover I loved the holes! This wasn't just an aertex thing, t-shirts at the time were made from what was known as ‘tea bag’ material – I had a lovely camouflage one…and later some fetching Y fronts with tea bag (settle down) inserts…


I was aware of course that replica shirts were available, but such was my naivety and newness to football, I had no idea that my local Intersport wouldn't stock such an item. Never mind the fact the Falklands war and the Hand of God made the possibility of seeing an albiceletse shirt in ANY sports shop in England virtually nil!  Having confirmed the unavailability of said artefact and this being pre-internet days, I scoured the ads in the now purchased Shoot! and once again drew a blank.

In the coming years, I would religiously check every available sports shop or ad I could find and always got nowhere. I seemed destined to never obtain any of my holy grails. As time wore on, I realised that Argentina would surely be changing their kits for the World Cup due in 1990 and sure enough, when Maradona et al stepped out at the San Siro against Cameroon, they had indeed changed their outfits…and what an abomination they were! The blue stripe was now firmly back in the middle of the road and above it some kind of comedy V neck from the late 70s! With heavy heart I accepted the beauty of that Le Coq Sportif shirt was gone forever.  Looking back at old magazines of the time, it seems you could buy a version of this shirt, but I just didn't care for it.

Sorted! Respect Due!
By USA 94, a decent design once again adorned the AFA squad, but also, once more I could find nowhere that sold one! I’m sure it may have been available from a mail order outlet somewhere, but I never managed to find one and so it fell to Score Draw to provide me with my first ever Argentina shirt the following year. OK so it was an unofficial one and it had wide stripes (with the blue one in the middle), but it was only £19.99 and by now I just wanted something!

My first proper AFA shirt would be in my possession a mere 12 months later with the beautiful 96-97 design. I’d seen a slightly different version at the Atlanta Olympics earlier in the year and had loved it on sight! And now, finally, I had my very own Argentina shirt!!! I still didn't have a 1986 one though…
By the time eBay was a part of my life, I’d trebled my collection by purchasing both the home and away World Cup 98 shirts. I would have had even more but the AFA selected Reebok as their supplier for some godforsaken reason and the designs they produced were possibly the worst ever seen - the WC06 one gives them a run for their money!

1990...sort of...
It’s now 2003 and the 28 year old me has discovered the joys of eBay! What a great way to spend money!!! The first obvious search is for Argentina shirts and straight away there was a whole load of 86 shirts available wasn't there? Of course not!!! There was a whole load of Reebok crap, a bunch of 2002 shirts and some 1990 ones (the ones with the plain neck) available, but nothing of any real…oh hang on, what’s this???  A 1990 shirt, but this one has the 2 blue lines in the neck just like the actual shirts at the time did!!! My first taste of eBay last second bidding success and £57.50 later and I was a happier man. Yeah I know the badge isn't right and it too should have holes...that's for another time...

Still, there was that emptiness inside, a holey-shirt shaped hole. Surely eBay was my best bet? Over the next 12 months I saw a few gems, all way out of my price range of course. I even saw a shirt from the Eng V Arg Mexico 86 ¼ Final, but I think the list price was around the 5K mark. Around this time, I began to realise that it was almost certain that proper replicas were never produced, meaning ultimately that if I was ever to obtain one, it would have to be player worn and given I had a child and a mortgage by now, that was obviously not going to happen.

This left me CRESTfallen
So…where did that leave me?  Pretty much without hope…until suddenly there started to appear newer retro shirts…proper looking ones too! Well, almost…3 different versions appeared. One had a sort of tea bag material, but the badge just had ‘86’ on it instead of a proper AFA one. Another had a proper badge, but was bereft of holes. The third was the worst of both of those…86 badge and no holes! Nevertheless, they were better than nothing and I promptly ordered one each of the former two. There were also some away shorts appearing as well with again, several different versions, none of which quite got it exactly right!

Would someone PLEASE make one with a decent badge and some holes??? Was it too much to ask??? Would I ever get my Holey Grail??? HA!

Finally!
The answer would come only a few weeks later. On a cold November day (I assume it was cold, it was November), I chanced upon yet another 86 retro shirt, which were by now, quite common. It looked slightly different though. I checked it out and…OMG, HOLES!!!! And a proper badge!!!! Not only that, but the material was decent quality and the holes were…well, proper holes!!! Not like the other one I had which just had…the wrong holes (oh come on!). The one slight issue was the price. I think there were 2 available, a medium and a large and both were on for 140 euros…approx £100 (the seller was in Switzerland).  I contacted him and managed to agree a price of 99 euros, which made it a total of £83.46. It was the most I’d ever spent on any shirt by a long way (well, by £25.96), but it was entirely worth it!

A week or so later and it was mine! Oh happy day!!! I had found peace at last…weeeeelllll. You should know me better than that. While it was as near perfect as I could possibly hope to get without hunting down an original squad member, it wasn't quite right…yes it had holes, but they weren't as large as the actual shirts. And the neck wasn't perfect…and the badge etc etc…

The "right" holes
As such, I still continue my hunt, which led me to purchase this 1989 beauty earlier this year. Yeah the badge is a bit high and it’s not an 86 one, but look at the holes…

JUST LOOK AT THE HOLES!!!!

I need help…

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