[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lways on the lookout for like-minded people and projects that share our passion for the number 10, fantasista10 was more than happy when Cexiang Foo contacted us to let us know about his fantastic project, MWS Museum, which showcases the private collection of match-worn number 10 shirts he’s amassed over the years.
Match-worn shirts of the greatest number 10s
Ever since he was captivated by Roberto Baggio in 1994, (ironically) aged 10 years old, Cexiang was taken by how one person was able to send an entire stadium – and indeed, nations – into rapturous joy through moments of genius.
“It was the epitome of how the hopes of a people could be put on the shoulders of one person, and through him, find fulfilment.”
This was the start of his love affair with the number 10, but it was almost 15 years later until he developed it into a hobby of collecting match-worn shirts, worn by the most famous number 10s and playmakers.
“Funnily enough, it was actually a book which got me all started. I remember buying the book ‘The Perfect 10’ by Richard Williams, simply because Baggio was profiled. But as I read through each and every one of the profiled fantasisti, I realised that all of them, at one point or another, had their nation’s hopes placed on them, and within the different stadiums all over the world, had brought such happiness to people.
“It hit me hard, that to the many working-class people of the world, football was not just a form of leisure, but something to carry their hopes and anticipation, and how their weeks could be brightened up just through the magic of one of these number 10s.
“It was then that I realised football was an integral part of the social history of the modern world, and these players were the architects of happiness.”
Onto the collection, and fantasista10 wanted to know more about his wonderful project, posing the following questions:
So, what was the first shirt you collected, how many shirts do you now own and which shirt means the most to you?
“After buying my first match-worn Baggio shirt in 2008, others soon followed. I have 25 shirts in my collection, including Maradona, Zico, Pele, Platini, Zidane, Messi, even Eusebio, David Silva, Kaka and Messi.
My favourite shirt however has to be my Roberto Baggio Italy national jersey, which he wore in the match against Holland on 9 Sept 1992 and scored a goal! Baggio is my all-time favourite player, ever since he brought Italy single-handedly to the World Cup final in 1994. I know some people only remember him for missing the penalty in the final but to me it somehow adds to his legend – a bit like to tragic hero, still my greatest hero nonetheless!”
Which outstanding shirt do you most covet?
“I would love the shirt Baggio wore in that final . The one in which he missed the penalty. That shirt is woven into history, as the image of Roby, head sunken, hands on hips is probably one of the greatest World Cup images. The shirt from 1992 I have is the closest thing I could find to this and is in the same style. Besides the Italy shirt, I actually have quite a Baggio collection, including his shirts from Fiorentina, Juventus and Brescia. He’s simply my favourite!”
If you could have any shirt in history, which would it be and why?
“Besides the Baggio shirt, I think if history is to be considered, Maradona’s Hand of God shirt would have to be the most coveted. I don’t think its whereabouts are known however. I do have two Maradona shirts, one from his Napoli days and another from the game where he scored his first ever home goal for Argentina, versus the FIFA All-Stars on 25 June 1979.”
What is your process of finding a shirt, and tracking its authenticity?
“I actually started off more than 5 years ago on eBay. My first sports memorabilia was actually a signed ball from Enzo Francescoli which I won in an online bid for charity. Mainly now though, I only buy or swap shirts with my key contacts in UK, Italy, Spain, Brazil.
“Most of my shirts have Sotheby or auction house authentications while the rest all come from very reputable collectors in the collection circle. There are various ways of tracking authenticity and the most common is to check for the right design, patches, sizes, basically details which separate the real shirts from the replicas, or worse still, fakes.
“However, to tell between the shirt which was issued for the player, versus one he actually wore, you would look for evidence of play marks, but that is hard to come by. There needs to be an element of trust with the reputable collectors who know kitmen and even players themselves.”
Have you any favourite/interesting stories to share, when finding a particular shirt for your collection?
“I don’t exactly have a single favourite story, but I thought I should say that I love the process of making friends from all over the world as I search for shirts. I have made good friends in Spain, Italy, UK, Brazil; friends who are serious collectors and who know actual footballers or ex-footballers personally.
“More often than not, we start sharing stories of our hometown and other more general conversation, and so it’s more than just football or shirts – it’s really an international cultural get-to-know!”
Have you met any of the great number 10s whose shirts you own?
“I would love to. Maybe when I visit these countries!”
Finally, what are your future plans, and what would be your ultimate dream for your collection?
“I have always wanted to set up some sort of Football Café, where we can screen LIVE matches, and where families and friends can come together to enjoy a good evening!
“The shirts will be displayed in the café, as customers can come face to face with a piece of history, literally! Perhaps the café could even host visits or events involving some players even! It is still quite a farfetched idea though, but I hope one day it can happen!
“I feel that with these shirts, I am collecting a piece of history and I hope that one day, through these shirts, people will be able to think back to the magical moments that were created when the players wore the shirts.
“Sitting all the way in Asia, while none of the best players in the world play here, football is still the ‘opium of the people’, and every weekend, families and friends come together to watch the action, week in week out, and continue to discuss the games at school and work the next day. I believe this is the same for many parts on the world.”
Excellent, Cexiang, we wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope you attain your dream – we’ll certainly be first in-line to visit! How can fellow fans of you collection, or perspective sellers, get in touch with you?