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!|
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!
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|
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!
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|
JUST LOOK AT THE HOLES!!!!
I need help…