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All photos: Nicholas Yong

If My House Caught Fire, I'd Save My 200 Football Jerseys First

Yes, you read that right. I own over 200 football jerseys from various teams and leagues, and while I have other prized possessions, I can’t imagine what would happen if I were to lose this collection.

Every year in the lead-up to the new football season, the first thing I always look out for are the football jerseys – teams usually release a new home, away and alternative/third kit (to make money off gullible fans and idiots like myself, of course). It’s an insane hobby to upkeep but I’ve eased up on it as I’m planning to settle down. Still, many of my football shirts hold fond memories. It sounds corny but looking back at my collection is like reminiscing about my life journey.

Here’s the story of how it all began:

My first (fake) jersey: Manchester United Away 1996/1997

I was seven years old when I started supporting Manchester United and Eric Cantona was my hero. I aspired to be like him and was extremely surprised when my dad took me to buy a Manchester United jersey, the 1996/1997 away kit. Granted, it was fake, but it held the most memories for me. The Umbro wording was replaced with “Fly Hawk”, but it looked the same and it was all that mattered. I remember wearing it constantly. When my dad left the country to work overseas, once every few years, he’d get me another (fake) Manchester United kit. I did find the original jersey much later in life, but “Fly Hawk” is unforgettable.

My first (real) jersey: Inter Milan 2010/2011 Away

I wasn’t interested in getting new jerseys, especially since my dad passed away. That is, until I saw my brother coming home one day donning the Inter Milan 2010/2011 away kit. It was fake, but it blew my mind – there was a dragon across the side of the jersey! (In actuality, a snake – an important symbol of the city of Milan). Instantly I scrambled to buy a fake version of my own, but I found a shop selling the real deal and decided to own that masterpiece instead. My jersey is plastered with winners’ patches worn by the players during that season too. And thus, my football jersey collection began.

My 10th jersey: Portugal 2012 Away (Euro 2012)

By then, I'd already purchased several more jerseys, mostly belonging to Manchester United. Then Euro 2012 rolled on, and several teams had really chio jerseys. I liked the Netherlands and France Away kits (which I did get, too), but my utmost favourite, and 10th football shirt overall was the Portugal away jersey. Pure white, with a green and red cross design representing the national symbol of the country. They would later replicate this jersey in an all-black monochrome offering.

My 50th jersey: Urawa Red Diamonds Home 2014

Whenever I jiak hong in Tokyo, I always allocate one evening to watch a live J-League football match with my favourite Japanese team, the Urawa Red Diamonds. I’ve known them for a very long time, because I once mistook them for Manchester United as they had similar jerseys. This year’s Urawa Reds home kit was incredible – an all-over camo print, with little hearts in some spots and the number 12 in it, the Reds’ homage to their die-hard fans. I remember getting caught in the rain (my seat had no roof) watching the game “live” with the fans, chanting the team songs and celebrating together when they scored. Oh and the jersey also came in black, too, but I didn’t get it because J-League shirts burn a hole in my wallet. They are so much more expensive than your regular EPL team jersey.

My 100th jersey: New York City FC 2016

I attended my first overseas press junket this year. It was my first time stepping foot in the USA, so, wanting a souvenir, I stopped by New York City’s biggest Adidas store to take home the New York City FC jersey. To be honest, I was already eyeing the shirt on my flight to the Big Apple – love the ripple effect emanating from the team’s logo. Since then, I buy the football kit of the local team wherever I’m holidaying in.

My 150th jersey: Manchester United Away 2017/2018

By this time, I’d slowed down buying jerseys, picking and choosing only the ones I liked. One thing remains till this day though – I always get all three Manchester United jerseys every season, and the away kit for the 2017/2018 season was a beauty. Adidas started manufacturing Manchester United jerseys again from 2015 (they were the makers from 1980 to 1992), but this black shirt was reminiscent of the Adidas final 1990/1992 away one. The best part of this year: they reissued the original early ’90s kit officially, which I copped, too.

My 200th jersey: Liverpool Home 2019/2020

One of my most recent acquisitions is extremely controversial – for the non-football readers, Manchester United and Liverpool are bitter enemies, and the rivalry between fans even in Singapore is extremely heated. But, the love of my life is a lifelong Liverpool fan ­– and this is the only jersey we can wear together in public (so I have to swallow my pride). I got the recent FA Premier League winning kit to add to my collection, sporting the World Champions 2019 badge across the chest. The last New Balance kit gives a nod to the retro style of the past with thin pinstripes and the Liverbird across the chest. Sadly, the new Nike offerings for the 2020/21 season aren’t anything to shout about. 

And hey, at least my significant other is crazy about the sport, too! The only time it gets rocky in our relationship is when Manchester United beats Liverpool…

Some personal hall of fame kits I own and adore:

Manchester United Home 1999/2000

The treble season Manchester United kit was the one I wanted so much because I remember growing up watching the team winning all three titles way back then. It was the first (and only time) a jersey came with a zip up collar. The new Manchester United 2019/2020 is a subtle tribute to that season.

East Tokyo United

You’ve probably never heard of this team, and that’s okay – it’s fictional! This is a team from the manga/anime “Giant Killing”, which gives a more realistic take on league football (compared to superpower moves like “Captain Tsubasa”). The story is quite popular among Japanese football fans, so much so that Adidas made actual jerseys for ETU for sale only in Japan.

Real Madrid 2014/2015 Third

Hypebeasts know Yohji Yamamoto of Y-3 fame, but I didn’t know who this fella was until he worked with Adidas on the Real Madrid 2014/2015 third jersey. The coolest thing about this shirt was the double dragon motif across the chest. No idea how that relates to Real Madrid, but this is one of my most prized kits in my collection.

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