What do you do when you may have almost 3,000 soccer shirts in your possession? In case your identify is Arjan Wijngaard, the reply is allocate a room in your own home as an exhibition area and log each single shirt in a complete on-line catalogue.
Just lately, These Soccer Instances spoke to Dutch soccer shirt collector Arjan Wijngaard, the person behind www.voetbalshirts.org and the proprietor of one of many largest retro soccer shirt collections not simply within the Netherlands however the entire of Europe.
For almost 25 years, Arjan has been accumulating soccer shirts from across the globe, starting with an Everton shirt that was given to him as a present in 1997. With such a permanent fame, we requested him what drew him to accumulating kits within the first place.
“The primary query is probably the most tough,” he says. “In fact, I appreciated soccer within the first place. That is a vital factor if you wish to gather soccer shirts. There isn’t a explicit cause why I selected shirts, although. Some folks select scarves (I’ve some scarves as properly as a result of if I can’t get a shirt once I go to a stadium or a sport, I attempt to purchase a shawl as a substitute). Truly, possibly I’d higher have chosen for scarves or pins; they’re loads cheaper and don’t want that a lot area!”
Take a wander into Arjan’s shirt showroom and it’s simple to see what he means. From ceiling to ground, the partitions are fitted racks that groan beneath the large weight of his assortment. The door is an incongruous rectangle of white in an in any other case ubiquitous banquet of color, whereas within the window two mannequins stand sentinel in inexperienced and blue raiment. It’s a veritable sacrarium to shirts – from golf equipment each grand and meek.
“Typically I like to gather shirts from golf equipment that aren’t very simple to search out,” Arjan explains. “Like decrease and non-league, for instance, steps 9 and 10 of the [English football] pyramid or golf equipment from international locations that aren’t referred to as well-known soccer international locations like New Zealand or Tanzania.”
Not that anybody can flip up and take a tour round his showroom, nevertheless. Arjan makes in depth use of the web to show his assortment, for he runs a web site – whereby he catalogues the shirts by nation, membership and division – in addition to Twitter, Fb and Instagram accounts all underneath the banner of Voetbalshirts.org. However what impressed him to start this on-line odyssey within the first place?
“There have been just a few causes. Firstly, it’s to indicate others what I’ve. Secondly, for the insurance coverage to show I had all of the shirts if there’s a hearth or theft. Additionally, having my assortment on-line makes it simpler for me to see what I’ve already acquired, particularly when I’m in search of new ones on-line and when I’m in (fan) outlets overseas.”
These are the 2 primary avenues via which Arjan acquires the overwhelming majority of his shirts. Previous to the continued international pandemic, he was enterprise round 5 journeys a yr to international international locations with the intention to develop his assortment, with two or three of those visits occurring throughout the North Sea in Britain. However with flight restrictions hampering his potential to acquire shirts from the golf equipment themselves, he has made growing use of the web.
“I choose to get them personally from the membership store close to the stadium, however that’s not at all times attainable with over 2,700 shirts,” he admits. “Different choices are on-line membership outlets and, in fact, eBay but in addition teams on Fb and different collectors right here within the Netherlands, overseas and on Twitter. Through the years, I’ve made some contacts all around the world and that’s additionally a enjoyable a part of accumulating.”
Certainly, Arjan is embedded deep within the soccer shirt neighborhood the place he enjoys a outstanding and lively position as certainly one of Europe’s most devoted collectors. He presides over a soccer fiefdom of 6,000 followers throughout his three social media channels, whereas his web site has attracted in extra of 200,000 guests. However, he attests, the shirts themselves usually are not truly probably the most rewarding aspect of being a collector.
“All of the issues that include accumulating are possibly even nicer than having the shirts. The visits to the stadiums, looking out on-line, getting in touch with folks, assembly different collectors and in addition volunteers which might be pleased with their membership and wish to assist me so as to add a shirt or their membership to the gathering is nice. Shirt accumulating acquired me numerous optimistic issues in addition to the shirts themselves. A lot of speaking about shirts and soccer and serving to one another via our mutual ardour of soccer shirts.”
As a lot because the neighborhood advantages are pleasurable, Arjan should have a favorite shirt, so we press him for a solution, exhausting as it could be to decide on only one from 2,800 choices. “There’s one previous FC Groningen shirt that may be a favorite,” he admits eventually, “as a result of it’s a uncommon one, matchworn and virtually 40 years previous.”
Such a uncommon and vintage shirt is the pleasure of his assortment and, like most of his clothes, Arjan refuses to put on it for leisure functions, though not essentially for the rationale most individuals may anticipate. “I have a tendency to not put on my shirts as a result of not all the shirts are in my measurement (anymore)!” he says. “I don’t put on soccer shirts fairly often. I don’t wish to harm them. However, truly, some I’ve double: one for the gathering and one to put on.”
Even with such an in depth and useful assortment, Arjan nonetheless has his sights on increasing it additional, regardless that his showroom seems to have reached the purpose of saturation. Even the door bears host to quite a lot of caps held on pegs hammered into the wooden. He has a shortlist of kits he’s working via and he reveals to us the one shirt he covets above all others.
“There’s one shirt I actually wish to add to my assortment, a matchworn Groningen cup ultimate shirt from 2015. Groningen is my native staff and so they solely received one trophy. The Dutch cup. And as I stated earlier than, I like shirts from non-league golf equipment I don’t have but. So, if there are people who find themselves studying this and suppose they can assist me with a shirt from their native non-league membership, don’t hesitate to contact me!”
Located as he’s within the Netherlands’ north-east, Arjan’s native staff and the one he professes to help most keenly is Groningen, finest identified in recent times for being the boyhood membership of Arjen Robben. It was a love affair that started round 30 years in the past and which served as one thing of a gateway into his lifelong affinity for the game and the kits related to it.
“Groningen is my native staff. I’ve had a season ticket for nearly thirty years and the stadium is simply ten minutes away by bike. My opinion is that you just at all times must help your native staff. However Everton was my first shirt. I suppose I wish to help folks’s golf equipment. Everton, Groningen and Feyenoord actually are folks’s golf equipment.”
Although the growth in shirt accumulating has been a comparatively current phenomenon, and one which was little question exacerbated by a lockdown that allowed folks to speculate extra money and time in beginning or increasing their collections, Arjan has been lively on Twitter since 2010. He’s, for all intents and functions, one of many previous guard, however what does the longer term maintain?
“I’ve no plans to cease!” he confesses. “So long as I prefer it and have the area to proceed, I shan’t cease.”
By Josh Butler @joshisbutler90