Swapping shirts is nothing new in football. Players swap shirts as a mark of respect for one another after a match has finished; a symbol of unification for two men on opposing teams.
One of the most iconic world football images is of Bobby Moore and Pele swapping shirts at the end of a World Cup match. Brazil won that game but you wouldn’t know it from the photograph, two great players smiling and acknowledging one another’s ability.
This weekend saw a slight change from the norm however. This weekend was the first time I have seen a player ask an adversary for his shirt, at half time.
But that is exactly what Arsenal defender Andre Santos, and I use the term loosely, did to Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie as the two teams made their way towards the tunnel at the interval.
If getting turned inside out all afternoon by Antonio Valencia wasn’t embarrassing enough for the Brazilian, Santos felt it necessary to make sure he got first dibs on Van Persie’s shirt before any of his team mates.
It was like watching a star struck youngster lucky enough to be on the same pitch as one of his idols.
This wasn’t the 3rd round of the FA Cup where some semi-pro had been lucky enough to play at Old Trafford remember; it was the Premier League, a game being contested by two of the top teams in English football.
That Santos would even consider asking for Van Persie’s shirt before the final whistle is, quite frankly, embarrassing.
What was even more embarrassing was that Van Persie did not ask for Santos’ shirt in return.
By asking for an opponent’s shirt at half time you are telling them that you are in awe of them, letting them know that they are better than you.
Robin Van Persie deserves all the praise he gets, he is at the top of his game, but he shouldn’t be hearing that from a supposed opponent.
Santos did little to cover himself or his team in glory this weekend. His performance was poor, but the shirt stunt just smacked of desperation.
A professional footballer playing in the top league in the country shouldn’t get star struck by another player.
It was bad enough when referee Graham Poll asked for Zidane’s shirt when he officiating a Real Madrid match once.
Zidane’s response; “If you’re good” let Poll know who was in charge that day.
I don’t think there is any doubt over who was in charge during Saturdays match.