Starry Night

Why I got into collecting football shirts? The same reason as the one I hear from almost every other collector just starting out on the road to redemption, as I call it…because my mother threw my original ones out. I don’t want to understand the psychology behind it, nor do I want to just “grow up and move on”. I just want to fill that void in the metaphorical wardrobe that exists in my heart.

Sure, at the time I thought Manchester United’s now infamous grey third kit from 1995/96 was an eyesore, and I was even reluctant to pay the £5 clearance price for it, as it sat at the bottom of the bargain basket. And the same can be said for Ireland’s away kit from the same period with the orange and green ribbons down the side of a white body, which I purchased from the exact same basket for the same price. I did not appreciate them then, but I most certainly do now. In fact, I love them. Because of the personal memories they evoke. The iconic players that wore them.

It is for this reason that I am drawn to Juventus’ away strip from 1995/96. That celestial canvas of deep blue and bright yellow stars. Specifically, with the Champions league sleeve badge, and the Scudetto and Coppa Italia winners patches on the chest, adorning the shirt like military honours. On the back, VIALLI, in that old typewriter style black italic print on a white background. This, for me, is the epitome of 90’s football, just as 90’s football, to me, is the golden era of the beautiful game. Juve wore variations of this shirt for three glorious seasons – 1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97 – during which they won the UEFA Cup, Champions League in that 1995/96 season, the UEFA Super Cup, the Coppa Italia and Serie A twice…and when they were not winning, they were thereabouts as the close runners-up. You would think that it was too much of a good thing. Not a chance. Ferrara, Conte, Di Livio, Deschamps, Zidane, Baggio, Del Piero, Vieri, Ravanelli and of course, Gianluca Vialli. What a list of characters that go a long way to defining that decade of football. Juve, Champions League nights and that shirt just seemed to go together like a dream. The yellow stars on the upper sleeve were like a nod to the Champions league logo itself – the eight stars forming a sphere.

In truth there are scores of shirts, if not hundreds, that I could speak as passionately about. Football is about moments. Moments of absolute ecstasy, and moments of complete despair. They often come and go in the same game, but they live with us forever. Etched into our memories, for better or worse, and I believe that it is the football shirt that acts as the identifier. The trigger to recall those moments. If somebody shows me the Italy 1990 shirt, I can immediately visualise Toto Schillacci side-footing past Packie Bonner, after he spilled a speculative shot from Roberto Donadoni. The Brazil home 98 – I think of Ronaldo, the Nike TV ad, his countless stepovers during France 98, and his failure to claim the final, through a cruel twist of fate. Any Fiorentina kit from that decade pretty much, and I see Batigol leathering a ball and looking as cool as it gets. Football is art, and the history of football shirts is it’s tapestry.

I am still on the lookout for this specific 1995/96 version of this Juventus classic, with the chest and sleeve badges and the late great Vialli printed on the back, but I have managed to get my hands on the 1994/95 and 1996/97 away shirts, so they are of some consolation for the moment. Maybe

when I do find it, it will fill the void in the little wardrobe in my heart…in the meantime…happy hunting!

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