Swapping jerseys is a common tradition in soccer, where players of opposing teams exchange shirts with each other at the end of a match as a sign of mutual respect.
It is a sign of respect and admiration towards an opposition player. Most of the jerseys are kept by the players who got it.
The first-ever shirt swap in soccer occurred in a match between France and England on May 14, 1931; the French team lost and asked to keep the English team’s shirts as a memento.
The first-ever jersey swap at a FIFA World Cup took place at the 1954 World Cup.
Famously, at the 1970 FIFA World Cup, soccer greats Pelé and Bobby Moore swapped shirts.
Thereafter, the tradition is still maintained to date.
Some of the reasons why soccer players swap jerseys include:
1. Fair play
Exchanging jerseys by footballers is regarded as a symbol of fair play. It is an especially good gesture to make towards a player from a losing team.
As part of fair play, shirt swapping also proves that soccer doesn’t tolerate quarreling, hatred, contempt, racism, pride, etc.
Exchanging jerseys can be seen as a gesture of sportsmanship after a hard-fought match, so it’s not uncommon to see players swap shirts after a game to acknowledge each other’s fair play.
Exchanging jerseys between soccer players shows that they mutually respect and recognize each other.
Players don’t just walk off the pitch after matches, totally neglecting the opposition. Instead, they appreciate, talk, encourage, joke, help, and swap jerseys with each other.
The versatile French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who has long admired Cristiano Ronaldo, seized the opportunity to request Ronaldo’s jersey. After the exchange, he took to Snapchat to share a post with the caption, “I won’t wash it”.
3. Celebration of milestones
During milestone appearances or matches, like when a player makes their 100th, 1000th, or final appearance at a club, in a league, or as a player, the shirts they wore on that occasion become memorable, and another player may like to keep it.
Likewise, it might be a milestone game for a team in a league, cup competition, derby, or at a particular home stadium.
Jersey swaps could also happen in cases where a youngster gets to exchange his jersey with a renowned superstar who may have been a role model for the youngster while growing up.
Moreso, as a signal of admiration, it might be a way for players to publicly showcase their appreciation for their opponents.
For example, Lionel Messi has never asked any player to swap a jersey. However, the only player he has ever asked for jersey swap was French legend, Zinedine Zidane, out of his admiration for him.
Soccer jerseys essentially bear a player’s name and number, as well as a team’s badge, so they serve as memorabilia.
Several players love collecting jerseys from different games. They keep these jerseys as a memento of an important match or of a particular player.
These collections serve as a representation of their own successful careers and are passionately preserved.
For example, after a significant match such as a World Cup final or a player’s last international match, jerseys are often exchanged and kept for personal collections.
BONUS: To serve a commercial purpose
Although less common, there might be instances where players swap jerseys for promotional reasons, perhaps orchestrated by sponsors or as part of a charity event.
Nowadays, memorable (especially classic) soccer jerseys are being auctioned and sold for significant sums. Some passionate fans and admirers love laying their hands on such shirts.
Frequently asked questions:
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the swapping of soccer jerseys by players and their answers:
Must soccer players swap jerseys?
Soccer players are not obligated to exchange jerseys after a game. So whenever they do so, it is simply because both players mutually consented to it.
Players from clubs with bitter rivalry hardly swap jerseys because of the bad blood between their teams.
For instance, throughout his career, Steven Gerrard never swapped shirts with a Manchester United player because he hated the club so much.
Nevertheless, even in cases of such rivalry, especially derbies, if two players are on good terms, they do swap jerseys.
Ironically, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have never swapped shirts. This may be due to personal ego because who will approach the other first?
What happens when two teammates want the shirt of the same opposition player?
There are some funny cases where arguments will ensue between teammates when two or more players want the same rival’s shirt.
In such scenarios, they will have to settle it between each other through effective dialogue.
Or the rival player will simply give it to the first person who approached him, or he chooses who he prefers between both, especially if he also wants the jersey of his preferred player!
Must jerseys be swapped at full-time?
While shirts are usually swapped after full-time, sometimes soccer players are also spotted exchanging shirts at half-time.
Summarily, shirt swapping is a very admirable culture among soccer players, and it is one of the reasons why football is generally regarded as “the beautiful game.”
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