This guy just completed his collection of football shirts from all 211 Fifa nations
There are some special shirts in this collection.
If you walk into Sports Direct of an afternoon your eyes will be met with a plethora of football shirts, both club and international – but you won’t see a Madagascar shirt on the wall.
However, should Joe Johnston invite you into his home, you’ll find that and a whole host of others you’ll struggle to find almost anywhere else.
That’s because Joe has just completed his collection of shirts from every single Fifa member, with Madagascar being the last piece in his enormous football puzzle.
As Joe explains on his meticulously maintained blog about his journey, the Madagascar shirt is a prime example of how difficult it has been to accumulate such a collection.
“One thing I learned fairly early on in the quest is that typing ‘Madagascar shirt’ into eBay is utterly useless, as you just come back with a billion T-Shirts covered in pictures of hilarious talking cartoon animals from the Dreamworks film of the same name,” he wrote.
But let’s rewind – how did such an idea come about? After all, we all like an international football shirt, but to collect every single one?
“After the World Cup in 2010 I got an Argentina away shirt, and then I went into a charity shop and found a Slovenia shirt and a Scotland shirt for around £1 each,” Joe told the Press Association.
“I got them home and thought ‘I’ve got three international shirts here – that’s a collection.’ I got into this idea, started looking around on eBay, and before I knew it I’d bought a few cheap Croatia shirts.”
But of course while some teams’ tops are easy to get hold of, the vast majority are not.
“The first half of the quest is kind of easy because a lot of those countries do official replicas,” Joe said. “But then you’re left with 100 or so countries that, due to lack of finances in the population or a lack of interest in football, don’t produce official replicas.”
“The only way to do it is to track down player shirts, so I’ve spent a lot of time messaging players on Facebook.”
One of the most heart-warming stories in Joe’s journey comes courtesy of Prince Oniangue, who sent him a Republic of Congo shirt which had appeared in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
“I messaged him on Facebook and it took a while,” Joe explains. “But eventually a shirt turned up before Christmas in the post with a signed postcard from him wishing me well. I thought that’s awesome, because he didn’t have to do that.”
But while that shirt carries a great deal of sentimental value, surely the most prestigious is an Azerbaijan youth team shirt that comes with an intriguing back story.
“I’ve got an Azerbaijan under-17s shirt that used to belong to Pope Benedict XVI,” says Joe nonchalantly. “It was being sold on eBay but it was signed by the squad, it’s got a place name and a date on it, and a message in German that basically translates to something like ‘with the hugest amount of respect’.”
Joe continued: “I like to know what I’m buying so I looked into it, and basically ended up discovering that it’s a shirt that was presented by the squad to the Pope.”
You won’t find that in Sports Direct anytime soon.
But now the collection is complete, what would Joe like to do next?
“I’d like to have an exhibition,” says Joe. “You do think ‘what am I going to do with all of these?’ So many people have been interested that it would be really nice to show them off publicly.
“I don’t know where I’m going to find a space to show off 200 football shirts, but I’m sure it’s something people would be interested in.”
Joe eventually got hold of not one but four Madagascar shirts. One was enough to complete his collection, so the other three now have a journey of their own to go on – one to Mexico, one to Canada and one just across the English Channel to Belgium, where they’ll be part of other football fans’ collections.
It seems Joe’s not the only one to have set out on a football shirt odyssey.
To read more about Joe’s story, visit his blog, The Global Obsession, by clicking here.
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