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Hakuna Matata #10: Peter Shilton and the cult of the replica

By Matt McMahon

Italia ’90 is the first World Cup I can remember, I watched a lot of the football and I remember being allowed to stay up late for the England games, I completed my World Cup wall chart immaculately, detailing every scorer and completing all the group tables.

Shilton's experience provided solidity to England at Italia '90

Shilton's experience provided solidity to England at Italia '90

Unfortunately being only 9 years old it’s the extra peripheral stuff I remember more clearly. Our school ran a competition to design a World Cup poster. I didn’t win, I have never won anything to do with art, I’m not blessed in that department, but I remember a selection of the best ones being in the corridors for the entire build up and throughout the world cup. This should be introduced in my office during major sporting events, I plan to pin up an Olympic planner in my office next summer so everyone can stand around it and plan their evening’s TV viewing.

I remember the stick man mascot (Ciao) coloured in the Italian flag being on every possible merchandising item – badges, pens, t-shirts. I remember the really small and annoyingly difficult to control Coca Cola World Cup emblazoned and country affiliated footballs. I went through loads of those, spending weeks and weeks worth of pocket-money on them and losing them over the back garden fence, never to be seen again.

Ciao was one of the most iconic and memorable World Cup mascots

Ciao was one of the most iconic and memorable World Cup mascots

Being a young goalkeeper, I already had my hero firmly in place in Neville Southall, but Shilton’s performances during Italia ’90, nearly dislodged the Bin Man, if Shilts had not been near retirement, I think he might have done and I even picked the Shilton England Goal Keeper Jersey for Christmas that year ahead of the Everton one.

I was so excited to have the proper England Goal keeper jersey, I thought I was the only other person in the world wearing it, and like every school boy wearing Beckham, Rooney or Messi endorsed products, thought I could play to the same level as said endorsing professional. I wore the jersey for all of Christmas day – including dinner, there are pictures to prove it, me sat eating my turkey wearing a bright yellow goal keeper top!

I wore the top to the first training session for my junior team after the Christmas holidays, it was January and cold, very cold. I had previous experience of playing in goal and being cold, so I checked with my Dad what I should wear – “my England top will be warm enough won’t it Dad, Peter Shilton doesn’t get cold during a game” “yeah that will be fine, you’ll be really warm in that” he confirmed.

So off I trotted 9 years old to train outside in January wearing nothing more than a long-sleeved t-shirt. It pissed it down. I stood in goal with not a great deal to do, cold, soaked to the skin, shivering and close to tears. My dad and Granddad came to the end of the training and still laugh to this day at the site of me soaking and shivering standing between the posts; “like a drowned rat” my Granddad confirms through burst of laughter.

That remains the coldest and wettest I have ever been playing football. The experience confirmed that replica shirts are not warm enough to be worn as the only layer a 9-year-old is wearing in January, Peter Shilton does not get cold because he’s a professional athlete and isn’t 9 years old.

It’s a special feeling you have when you see the “actual” kit your hero wears, I remember being extremely jealous of a kid in our team who had bought Walter Zenga’s gloves (another keeper competing for the title of Matt McMahon’s boyhood hero during Italia ’90), I tried them on and remember thinking I wouldn’t let a goal in for all the time I was wearing them. My brother wore Gary Lineker’s Quaser boots, and I was convinced his scoring ability was largely down to his wearing of these special, famed and surely lucky boots.

Eventually, not even the shirt can stop the inevitable from happening

Eventually, not even the shirt can stop the inevitable from happening

To wear the same kit and equipment as the professional gives the average wearer a brief inflated sense of super ability, this is often bought for an extremely inflated price. The feeling the Shilton shirt gave me can’t be replaced, I was convinced I would be invincible, but like all over priced artificial feeling, it can’t last forever; it may last until the first sitter missed, the first clanger dropped, or in my case in the winter post Italia ’90, until your first dive into a puddle only to emerge soaking wet and a goal down.

You can follow Matt on twitter @TheYoungMcMahon and his writing is housed at the wonderful blog The Dubious Goals Committee – check out his mid-honeymoon trip to Allianz Lima in particular, not many men can get away with that request.

You can click here to read more posts in the Hakuna Matata series. We are accepting submissions from anyone willing to donate some time to the site, so please pick up your pen and send something in.

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