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Azul y Oro
The Many Social Lives of a Football Jersey

Claudio E. Benzecry

HE RELATIONSHIP between an object and its uses has been an


elusive one for studies of culture, identity and practice. Sometimes
objects are presented as markers of identities (Bray, 1997), at other
times as signs of distinction and the prize for winning the battle to appropriate the social product (Bourdieu, 1984; Veblen, 1935). They are used as
a bridge for communicating and integrating social relations (Gell, 1998;
Molotch, 2003; Redfield, 1941), or as the central pieces of a ritual process
that attaches and fixes meaning in an ever changing social world (Douglas
and Isherwood, 1979). At some point, most of these debates have structured
the discussion through the distinction between the value an object achieves
in its use and its value when it is exchanged. In contemporary debates, the
dichotomy is usually expressed by the distinction between commodification
and authenticity, thereby asserting that globalization and commercialization
undermine claims of authenticity.
This article analyzes the different circuits of fabrication, production
and consumption of a specific object the jersey of an Argentinean football
team, Boca Juniors to show not only the diverse logics that structure its
uses but also to assert that sometimes global forces, usually perceived as a
dissolving agent, underpin new forms of identity that come to be seen as
authentic. While objects can always be considered inherently polysemous,
tracing their meanings is a project that requires us to acknowledge that
meaning is built through diverse networks of practice and attached to the
objects themselves (Chartier, 1994; de Certeau, 1984).
A football jersey is a worthwhile site for a discussion of many of these
issues. While football has been a global practice for most of the last century
(Archetti, 1999; Giulianotti, 1999), in recent years we have witnessed a
hyper-acceleration of the flows of capital and labor between center and
periphery, and a changing geography of scales (Ben-Porat and Ben-Porat,

Theory, Culture & Society 2008 (SAGE, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, and Singapore),
Vol. 25(1): 4976
DOI: 10.1177/0263276407085158

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50 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

2004; King, 2000). While these studies mainly focus upon Europe, Argentinean football serves as a complex and pertinent case that can illustrate
how a cultural object is circulated and used. To wit: a strong team from an
economically peripheral yet footballistically central country, evinces a
unique cultural flow due to the transnationalization of the sports economy,
which, in turn, affects the way in which its main representation, the football
jersey, is used. Boca Juniors the most popular team in the country, and a
team historically associated with the working class and poor internal
migrants, and which has enjoyed a recent wave of success including winning
the Club World Championship Cup twice over the last five years is
emblematic in just this regard. Through this case, we can observe all these
processes at play as they inscribe a particular object with meaning.
This article presents and discusses the many circuits in which a
football jersey achieves value. First, it shows the transformations of the
jersey design process that occur because of technological innovation as well
as the influence of a group of transnational corporations (TNCs) that have
attempted to control the local sports apparel market. This has resulted in a
tension between design convergences and the advertisement on the jersey,
and hence its perceived authenticity. Second, it shows the uses of jerseys
prescribed by a football team, in association with the regulations of national
and international federations and the firm that designs them. Third, it
explores the uses both players and fans make of the object. The article
concludes by showing how many of the tensions at play are solved by the
production of vintage replica jerseys made by the TNCs themselves, and
how advertisements have come to guarantee the authenticity of the jersey.
This work is based on a thorough archival research of Argentinean
sports newspapers, magazines and websites, as well as financial information
gathered from diverse economic sources and sports apparel trade magazines.
Further, the article offers an analysis of the local equivalent of Ebay. It also
builds up part of its arguments from participant observation of Boca Juniors
fans through years of attending both home and away games.
La Camiseta de Boca se Tiene que Transpirar
In 1998, two years after taking over the production of jerseys both for the
professional team and for the avid football fan market, Nike launched its
biggest gamble in Argentina: a Boca jersey that changed its traditional
design by making the yellow horizontal stripe wider (from its original 15 cm
to 33 cm) and incorporating dry-fit technology in its production process.
Until then, most jerseys were made of a mixture of polyamide and cotton.
New technology, based on polyester micro-fibers designed to control
humidity, has given players better ventilation and has eliminated perspiration through the use of two layers: the first one touches the skin and absorbs
perspiration, which is transported to the second layer, where it then
evaporates. The fabric also included a SPF 30 Sunscreen against UV rays.
Obviously these are innovations that helped the professional player and
made the shirt more appealing to the eye, tighter to the body, and available
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for going out since the jersey does not get imbued with the sweet smell of
sporting efforts. With such improvements, why then was the jersey so
resisted by teams fans?
The change of the traditional design is not enough to account for the
strong opposition and the passions the jersey awakened. In 1996, while
preparing its first jersey for the Argentinean market, Nike had scared the
fans by adding two small white lines (1 inch wide each) to separate the
yellow stripe from the blue background. Diego Maradona, the most important player in Argentinean history and a symbol of Boca, complained and
campaigned against the jersey saying: It looks like Michigan Universitys1
shirt not Boquitas jersey (Aldoa, 2001). Yet, in 1998, the opposition
became even stronger as people seemed to challenge the new jersey with
regard to two basic features represented by it: nationhood and effort, as
signified in the first case by the fluctuations in design since the transnational
company took over and, in the second case, by the technologically enhanced
fabric. About the first new jersey Maradona complained:
This is unbelievable. How can they make a different jersey! Today they
include the white stripe, then they widen it, tomorrow they put red and black
and it becomes Chacaritas [another Argentinean football team] jersey! If
Americans come and give us US $200 million we are not going to change the
national flag. In todays world everything is money, but there are some things
we should defend. And Bocas jersey colors is one of those things. (Clarn,
2000c)

I will return later to the conflation of nation with football, and to the idea
that the jersey works in one of its circulation phases as a totem (see
Douglas, 1966; Durkheim, 1965; Durkheim and Mauss, 1963; Mauss, 1990).
On the second feature, Senator Cafiero (a former governor of the state
of Buenos Aires, the most important of the country) wrote a fiery opinion
column in Clarn, Argentinas main newspaper, called Lets Sweat the
Jersey! (Cafiero, 1998). In it, the Senator wondered about the paradox of a
team whose fame was built on effort, stamina and dedication (the word
garra in Argentinean Spanish) having an anti-sweat jersey. He said:
We want to see the players soaked in sweat. Can you imagine Tano Pernia or
Little Lion Pescia [two players best remembered for their effort and rough
game] leaving the field with an immaculate jersey after 90 minutes of coming
and going? By these means, all the solidarity and the effort spilled over by
Cagna and Fabbri [two of the players during 1998] will be in vain, or better
said, in an anti-perspiration jersey!. . . How can we demand or implore our
players to give everything on the field and soak their jersey with sweat if the
jersey itself precisely prevents them from doing so? What will be next?
Jerseys with automatic wash and dry or suede shoes for night games?. . . No
Sir, I do not want for my team this kind of light, dispassionate, postmodern
and anti-perspiration costume. I want a shirt that leaves a puddle on the
locker room floor. That shows, with no shame, the result of honest work and
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being worn out. By these means, if we do not like our team we can always
start chanting: la camiseta de Boca se tiene que transpirar [Bocas jersey must
be perspired!]. (Cafiero, 1998)

Cafieros lament evokes the opposition between community/tradition


and technology, between authenticity and global modernity. Nevertheless,
the relationship is more complex. It involves a contested design process, the
public representation of the power of the team, and more than one logic in
the two circuits of use by professional players and enthusiasts and a
paradoxical incorporation of technology and advertisement in the production of authenticity.
In the next section I will start untangling the transformations of the
design world and will briefly address a history of the diverse looks of the
team jersey.
A Short History of the Jersey Design
The first jersey ever used by Boca Juniors in 1905 was pink. It was used in
a local neighborhood match. It was hello and goodbye to the color because
of teasing by players from rival teams (pink has a long history of signifying
gayness). The second design was a jersey with thin vertical black and white
stripes. Later during the same year, 1906, the black became light blue. There
was no consensus about that color, either. There were many meetings,
attended by more and more locals. A year later, Juan Brichetto a Genovese
immigrant, like most of the local population of that time, proposed how to
solve the issue. Because of his job (he was in charge of granting permission
to all the ships that passed through the docks of the nearby city port) he
decided that the colors of the club would be those of the flag of the first boat
that passed by. The idea was so well received that the participants went to
the dock to wait for the first ship. It was a Swedish tanker. Almost everybody
liked the blue and yellow cross design of the Swedish flag. The first jersey
had a diagonal yellow stripe over a blue background. In 1910 the club started
using the one it still wears today: blue with a wide horizontal yellow stripe.
Stories of origin like this one abound in Argentinean football
(Platenses colors came from those of the jockey who rode the horse that won
a bet, the proceeds of which were used to buy the first jerseys; San Lorenzos
came from the jerseys provided by Father Lorenzo Massa for the neighborhood kids; Chacarita Juniors red and black came from the socialist affiliation of its founders, while the protest of a neighboring parish made them
include a white stripe; Argentinos Juniors was founded by Russian
Anarchists who wanted to call the team Martyrs of Chicago but settled for
having a red jersey; Velez Sarfields colors came from some free rugby shirts
donated by a storekeeper because whoever ordered them did not collect
them) (Urquiza, 1997). Rather than uncovering the true cultural roots of the
football jerseys, the place of these stories within the team narrative is understood as part of a process whereby their authenticity was invented and
cultivated. Its an example of what Eric Hobsbawm (Hobsbawm and Ranger,
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1983) and Richard Peterson (1997) have called the invention of tradition
and fabrication of authenticity, respectively. Anthony King (2004) has
developed this perspective to discuss the way in which UEFA has linked
the glorious past of European football with new signs of Europeanness to
highlight the continuity in time between the European Cup and the new
Champions League.
The Boca jersey went unchanged from 1926 to 1982, even though
some minor details were added: in 194950 the number on the back of the
players was put in place; in 1955 the team badge of the Argentinean
Football Association was incorporated; in 1981 the club added four stars
(representing the number of South American and Club World Cup Championships won) on the left side of the jersey, or over the players heart. Later,
in 1993, the clubs team badge was placed directly over the heart too.
Tradition was presented as the guarantor of identification (complaints about
the changes are usually presented in the form of a We look like . . . [another
team] comment, for instance the 2003 jersey was received with: We look
like Brazils Cruzeiro, or Italys national team but with yellow numbers. This
is treason to the clubs main symbol. It is like River in the 80s when they
did not have the stripe on the back and looked like Huracan [Clarn, 2003])
and associated with the continuity of the power of the jersey (a common
phrase is Les ganamos con la camiseta, we beat them just with the jersey).
Being misidentified or misrepresented dilutes the powers and prowess of the
jersey in the eyes of all those involved.
Jersey design, then, is not merely the whim of designers, nor club
administrators and fans. It is also regulated by the Argentinean Football
Association (AFA) and its international controlling body, the International
Football Federation Association (FIFA).2 As Molotch (2002: 674) explains,
there is interplay between the desires and knowledges of the designers of
objects, the local regulatory bodies and cross-regional influences. It does
not matter how much you want to do a white and blue striped Boca jersey,
it can only be the third jersey for the team, since the home and away
jerseys have to have the colors of the traditional design according to the
local football association. Only the third jersey can be left to the imagination of the new designer (see Figure 1). Actually, FIFA demands that the
third or alternative jersey be made using colors other than the original ones.
The first Boca jersey always had the blue background and a yellow stripe,
and the second, used in away games or whenever there was any color conflict
with a rival team (like Rosario Central, which has the same colors), some
combination of the original colors (historically a yellow jersey and blue
shorts, now an inversion of the regular model, with a blue stripe over a
yellow background).
The transformation in the field of design in Argentina can be first
explained when we observe the process of the plebeianization of the arts
in Buenos Aires during the 1990s. In this process the minor arts, called
plebeian, became the focus of attention and the more traditional arts
became plebeian.3 Graphic design, fashion and artistic design were
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Figure 1 Alternative jerseys without the official colors: Boca 2002 by Nike, Boca
1994/5 by Oln, Boca South American Cup 1997/99 by Nike, Boca 2003 by Nike

preferred to the fine arts; and journalism, comic and video to film-making
and literature. The center of attention was the production of objects with
industrial appeal that were linked to the mass media (Quevedo et al., 2000).
The relationship between art and design was thereby changed, a new
outcrop of studies emerged (the School of Architecture opened Graphic
Design, Fashion Design and Image Design Departments, the School of
Social Sciences began a Department of Communications), and a huge influx
of students went into them.
Designer Marcelo Rojo, aka Prince, is perhaps the most famous
example of this development with regard to the topic at hand. Playing with
the nicknames of clubs, Prince conceptually redesigned the jersey of several
teams. He changed the blue and red vertical striped jersey of San Lorenzo,
usually known as the Crows, into black and yellow. Taking literally the
name milrayitas (thousand little stripes) of the Los Andes team he made a
jersey with a thousand white and red vertical stripes. Following the international trend into silver jerseys (Arsenal, Boca, Barcelona, all of them Nike
teams), the second alternative design for San Lorenzo was a silver jersey
with a curved vertical blue stripe and a second red one. He believed it
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added glamour and style to the clubs (Clarn, 2000d). Unfortunately,


people are not so open-minded as to support such a jersey, he complained.
In this passage we can observe the tension that sometimes exists, as Norman
(1988) shows, between the focus on the diverse aims of a product for the
consumers and the players, and the ideas shared by the community of
designers when considering the design and imagining an audience of peers.
Yet the story would not be complete unless we also understand the
tensions that arise from the transnationalization of the market. In the 1990s,
Nike, Oln and Reebok came to Argentina. While Adidas is also a TNC
originally based in Germany, its long history with Argentinean football is
attached to its local franchise (Gatic. S.A.), and the jersey design and
production have always been located in Argentina. Nike also franchised at
first (through a local company, Alpargatas), but soon after its 1994 entrance
into the market, the company split from the franchise and became a
subsidiary of the international brand. After this economic move, Nike
Argentina became third in the shoe market and second in sports apparel
sales behind the Adidas franchise. Nowadays, it employs 121 workers (there
are no local factories) and has sales of over US $100 million a year.
The entrance of Nike into the market coincided with a new model for
administering football clubs, one more akin to the professional sport franchise than to the direction of a civil society association, professionalizing
most of its functions and orienting them towards profit. While, historically,
rich people had directed the most popular club in Argentina (starting in
1937 with Jockey Club president Sanchez Tesoro), the entrance into football
of Mauricio Macri, a famous local capitalist, resulted in the invention of
Boca as a merchandising brand for 500 products (from lollypops to a
Porsche car) and, following in the footsteps of Real Madrid and Manchester United, the creation of its own cable network. One of the key decisions
of Macris administration was to form an investment fund quoted on the
local stock exchange, with outside investors to buy players. This quest for
profit also resulted in tours around Europe, and especially Far East Asia,
to establish the Boca Juniors brand. Currently, a local Japanese firm has the
franchise rights for most Boca products in both Japanese and Chinese
markets. The club has also signed an international corporate communication
firm, Miamis Burston-Masteller, to associate diverse global brands (Burger
King, Pepsi, Nextel) to the clubs image.
Boca signed its first contract with Nike Argentina and, in 2004, signed
an even bigger one with Nike International. This enabled Boca to incorporate the international commercial network of sports apparel and to produce
the jersey anywhere in the world that was deemed convenient by Nike. In
doing this, it deepened the process of transnationalization of the steps
involved in the jerseys manufacturing process.
The issue of convergence (the notion that the transnationalization of
capital and technology causes design patterns to look similar) did not arise
until Nike made its entrance with a splash by producing Boca Juniors
jersey. Arjun Appadurai (1990) has challenged the long-sustained idea of
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centerperiphery relationships, in which different scapes or structured sets


of flows channel the disjuncture of flows of information, capital, migration,
technology and media. The entrance into Argentina of Nike for a long time
appreciated as a symbol of status display among upper middle-class highschool kids brought about a transformation in the scapes of technology (new
techniques and fabrics) and ideology (concepts of design, innovation and
function for the jersey). The design concept is also a result of a process of
consultation between Nike Argentina and Nike International, while other
companies only work with Argentinean designers in Buenos Aires and Las
Flores. Finance is also a transforming influence: unlike Adidas, Nike
Argentina is not a franchise but a subsidiary of Nike International. The jersey
also works as a display for low-class job migration (as it is not made in Las
Flores, a rural town where Adidas, Oln, Puma and Signia produce the jerseys
signaling a pattern of vertical aggregation,4 but in Thailand, in conditions of
exploitation denounced by the international community).5 It also meant that
international team jerseys started to be really accessible at any of the major
sports shops in Buenos Aires and that, in turn, Argentinean team jerseys were
commercialized in several European countries, especially Spain and Italy, as
their leagues were filled with Argentinean players.6 I can clarify this point
by showing, for instance, how the jersey design of Barcelona (Spains top
team and one of the international treasures of Nikes football portfolio) and
Boca diverged and converged before and after Nikes takeover.
If we look closely at the design by Kappa for Barcelona and the design
by Oln for Boca and then take a look at the Nike design for both teams,
we can point to some convergences (Figure 2). One is the team insignia, not
over the heart but centered and above the Nike swoosh: a challenge to
convention, as Norman (1988: 169) would put it. Additionally, the sides of
the jerseys are of a different color than the predominant one (yellow for
Boca, red for Barcelona). Second, the V-neck. Third, the dry-fit concept for
the fabric, which also results in a jersey that fits more tightly to the body.
Another important point of convergence is the third alternative jersey for
both teams, which not only had the same colors (gray and blue), the main
difference being just a small hint of yellow for the Boca jersey and of red
for Barcelona.7 The notion of convergence is further underscored when one
considers how the new Boca jersey was proposed: according to the clubs
administration, who had to give the seal of approval to Nikes designs, the
new jersey was proposed by Nike after Bocas friendly 1999 match against
Barcelona (Clarn, 2000c).
As indicated earlier, Nikes involvement in the garment market fueled
the technological transformation of the jersey material. Nike has heavily
advertised the dry-fit concept for the Argentinean market (soon to be
replaced by the cool motion design, already in place internationally), yet
the jerseys sold on the general market are 100 percent polyester; nevertheless, this is very different from the cotton that was the predominant fabric
of the jerseys during the pre-Nike era (Adidas used a formula composed of
50 percent cotton, 50 percent polyester, until Nike began to compete, which
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Figure 2 Top: Boca 1996 jersey by Oln, Boca 2001 jersey by Nike; bottom:
Barcelona 1996 jersey by Kappa, Barcelona 2001 jersey by Nike

forced the former to go with a polyester formula as well). Nike also transformed the way in which products are presented in stores, resulting in
several tags attached to the jersey and written in English in order to demonstrate the originality of the product. This was pivotal, since counterfeited
jerseys with fake Nike logos are sold on the street at a quarter of the price
(Figure 3). Auyero (2000) describes the behind-the-scenes labor conditions
under which these objects are produced: payment by piece, outsourcing and
competition among potential employees, which drives down labor costs, and
14-hour shifts with no holidays.
The Argentinean production of jerseys has a long history, including
early technological innovation. The first ones were made out of wool and the
stripes were attached with safety pins. Yet, as I said before, the domination
of cotton and the maintenance of the original colors was unaltered until
1981, when San Lorenzo, considered one of the Big Five of Argentinean
football, was demoted to the Second Division. In order to avoid a significant
economic crisis, the club sold its stadium to a supermarket chain and
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Figure 3 Tag authenticating the Nike Boca Juniors jersey and card
authenticating Huracans jersey by Signia

opened its jersey to advertisements by a confectionary firm, Mu-Mu. Boca


followed soon after as Maravilla Wines (a cheap wine label) stamped its
name on the jersey in 1983.
I will discuss later the implications that advertisements have for the
authentication process of the jersey in its everyday use. However, in
economic terms, the use of advertisements in order to maintain the financial stability of a football team also resulted in changing the dynamics of
how the power of the team has been represented: typically through the
amount of money involved in the contract, and the way the logo of the sponsoring firm is displayed, not only on the jersey, but in a longer series that
puts the jersey in a continuum of other jersey presentations, from those
involving fashion models to wall-to-wall advertisements at the stadium. For
example, when Racing the other team among the Big Five that was relegated to Second Division went into bankruptcy, one of the key issues was
that they could not find a sponsor for the jersey Brazilian firm Topper did
not want to have its name attached to the jersey of a sinking franchise nor
an advertiser for the front of the jersey. As a result, Racing started the 1998
season with a self-designed jersey that had no advertisement, and no
training equipment (which the sponsors normally would provide). Its jerseys
bore the inscription of the internal club political line of the newly elected
President: Frente Grande Racing (Clarn, 1998a, 1999a). Similarly,
Huracn went into 1998 with two sponsors for the jersey, one on the back
and one on the front, which was perceived as a fair representation of the
dwindling power of the football team (Ruchelsman, 1998).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bocas contract attracted Nike, a
big fish in the sports industry compared to Oln, which had the previous
contract. Nike paid US $30 million to provide Boca jerseys for six years.
Doing so guaranteed an immediate impact and presence in the local market,
and, not so coincidentally, also meant attracting the largest constituency of
fans. Quilmes, Argentinas main beer producer started advertising on Bocas
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jersey in 1995 for US $3 million a year, replacing Parmalat,8 whose decision


to sponsor the team jersey coincided with its entrance into Argentinas milk
market. Quilmes included among its portfolio of sponsored teams River
Plate (the most successful team in Argentinean history, which received US
$2.95 million) and Velez Sarfield (the most successful team during the
1990s, which received US $1 million a year) as well as the national team.
In doing this, Quilmes wanted clearly to identify its product with both the
nation (by means of an operation that included identifying its packaging
with the Argentinean flag) and football (by synecdochically identifying
football with the most popular and successful teams: Boca, River and Velez).
Quilmes did this in recognition of the sport as a metaphor of Argentinean
nationhood in the international context. This started in the early 1930s,
when Argentinean football developed its own style of play, which was based
on skill, wittiness and dedication, as opposed to the more mechanical and
effective European style (and subtly differentiated from the Uruguayan near
other) (Archetti, 1999, 2001).
Quilmes didnt renew its contract and Budweiser (which was trying to
enter an Argentinean market dominated absolutely by Quilmes) became
River Plates new sponsor. Bocas replacement sponsor was Pepsi International (which was allied to Quilmes in the production of Pepsi for
Argentina). As Paul Knox (1995) says of the Irish replica jersey, the buyer
of a Boca jersey may acknowledge that the manufacturer of the jersey is an
American company (and perhaps even that it was produced in Thailand for
the international market), it is much less likely that he or she would know
that the sponsor is part of a larger conglomerate (in the case of Pepsi, one
that includes an alliance between Pepsi Co., the Bemberg Group of
Argentina and English-owned Cadbury). Is it possible to read globalization
from a football jersey?
The naturalization process by which advertising becomes an integral
part of the jersey caused one more change. If we compare a late 1980s to
an early 1990s Boca jersey, the texture of the sponsor is different from the
jersey fabric in the 1980s one, the result of the patch being ironed onto the
jersey. On the other hand, Bocas 2003 Nike jersey has the sponsors logo
printed directly on the jersey (Figure 4).
The last important point showing the jerseys transformation is to
examine the existence of contracts, which require teams to use the newest
company designs, sometimes against the wishes of the clubs own administrators (this happened with Bocas South American Cup Nike, with Bocas
Nike third jersey and with some of Princes designs for San Lorenzo). Here,
the opposition between commodity (a product made for exchange) and totem
(an unchangeable product that shows the boundaries of a community) is
once again at play. Usually, the sponsors come up with a new design
annually, according to the cycles of fashion. Nevertheless, as I will show in
the next section, the cycles of fashion and the decision as to which jersey
is used and how, constitutes a larger process that involves negotiation
between the team and the sponsor, which introduces other logics at work.
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Figure 4

Boca Pepsi 2003 by Nike; Boca Parmalat 1992 by Adidas

We Cannot Lose with This Shirt: Why, When and How


Teams Decide which Jersey to Wear
There are two logics other than the contractual obligation to the sponsor
behind the decision by the teams concerning when and how to use which
jersey. While the distinctions are not so clear-cut in analytic terms, they
start making sense when viewed in relation to the jerseys uses as distinctive products and their circulation in an extended market. On the one hand,
the appeal is to sameness and continuity for the sake of authenticity and
tradition, and, on the other hand, there is interest in rarity or uniqueness.
Behind the appeal of the first, is the notion that traditional colors are
endowed with special powers, or that on an occasion like the match against
the classic arch-rival, players should be dressed in the traditional colors
of the team. While they are obliged contractually to respect the designs
provided by the sponsoring firm, they usually oppose some of the designs
in public statements or news reports. Another example of this trend is the
blessing of the team jersey by the Pope (Diario Dportivo Ol, 2001), making
explicit the transition into a sacred object and, as such, outside the realms
of circulation and change.
Behind the appeal of the second, which is actually in a continuum
with the appeal to tradition, is cbala or luck. This is the idea that certain
unusual or rare objects are blessed with a special power that makes them
extraordinary. In the case of the football jersey, players and fans often feel
that luck at times assists a team to victory. Among fans this means that they
will wear the same shirt or jersey every time they attend a game, or watch
a game on television, or listen to one on the radio, under the impression that
a different shirt would jinx the team. (Such superstitions are not confined
to clothing: the same could be said for listening to the same broadcasters,
or watching a match with the same people.) Such feelings are not present
only among the fans: teams might decide against wearing a jersey if they
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lost the first time they played with it, if they have lost an important game
in it or if the history of games against the other team they are playing does
not favor them in a specific jersey. By these means, San Lorenzo rejected
the crows design (Clarn, 2000e) and River decided on an old design they
seldom used but which, on special occasions, has provided them with an
unexpected victory (Clarn, 2000f). In the first case, the lack of use
conspired against the luck of the jersey that, in its first week, had sold more
than 3000 (Bossio, 2000); in the second case, both of Rivers alternative
jerseys are among the best-selling ones because of the combination of
cbala (luck attached to the object) and rarity (being alternative jerseys they
were seldom used).
From an official standpoint, the jersey can be also a site of commemoration and, when placed in a different context or in a different meaningproducing series, a site for the production of political meaning outside
football. This happened when Belgrano, a team from Cordoba, Argentinas
third state, which is in permanent competition with Buenos Aires, launched
a jersey in 2001 remembering recently deceased popular singer Rodrigo,
who died in a tragic car accident when he was 29. In an operation that
involved identifying the distinctive classification of being from Cordoba
with taking part in a set of cultural practices language patterns and
accents, music genres, dance steps, modes of wine drinking, that included
the team since Rodrigo sung he was celeste (the colour of the team) up to
his balls9 the jersey was made for a single match against River. The club
officials hoped for a sell-out crowd in order to raise funds for a museum that
would commemorate the singer showing the extent to which the jersey
worked as an extension of the politics of exhibition and display of the future
museum. Because of him, many young people, even from other states,
became fans of the team.
Another example of this type of commemoration was the gift of a jersey
to Havanas Museum of the Revolution by a group of fans associated with
Rosario Central. The jersey was a team jersey with the number 11 and the
name Guevara printed on its back. Ernesto Che Guevara, the Argentinean
hero of the Cuban Revolution, was a big fan of the team. The number 11
signals the position farthest to the left on the football field, an obvious
reference to his political affiliation. In this case, the jersey is both a site of
political affirmation and nationhood, as well as an object to be displayed in
a different context, in a showcase that integrates Argentinean football into
the Cuban Revolution for both Party commemoration and, lately, tourism
consumption.
There are some smaller ways in which the jersey becomes a site for
commemoration. The obvious example is putting stars on the jersey representing the number of international championships won (as Boca and
Independiente do), or championships in the previous, amateur era (as is the
case with Huracn), which has the added benefit of increasing regalia. As
many social theorists (Bourdieu, 1990; Hobsbawm, 1990; Hobsbawm and
Ranger, 1983; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998) have pointed out, the past is
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62 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

the result of an active construction that is practiced in the present. Another


pertinent example is the origin of one of River Plates alternative jerseys: in
1949 a plane accident killed all of Torinos players (at the time, Torino was
the top Italian team and supplied the national team with a great many
players) and River gave away its players to the Italian team for whatever
they needed (benefit matches to raise money for the victims family, players
at lower transfer fees, etc.). Since then, on special occasions, River uses a
jersey similar to the one worn by Torino in 1949.
This is precisely where the appeal to tradition and memory meets the
demands of the sponsor in trying to dictate the rhythms of fashion in a way
that involves and combines uniformity and variation (Peterson and Berger,
1975; Scott, 1999). That precise River jersey is also one of the lucky ones
and, because of its scarcity and special character, it operates as a sign of
recognition both for consumers interested in the jersey and a more disinterested consumer. For the former consumer, the jersey signals a special time
in the teams history (like the Japanese character Boca jersey made by Nike
after the team won at Tokyo the Club World Championship, or Adidas
production of Racings 2001 Champion jersey, or the one celebrating that
teams centenary, or Banfields retro 1951 jersey commemorating the 50th
anniversary of the last match they lost against Racing when they played
against Racing again in 2001). The disinterested consumer is distracted
from the regime of value (Appadurai, 1987) achieved by football-induced
symbolization, and is instead looking for a cool, rare and distinguishing
design.
Clubs and teams are not the only actors involved in this process. As
we have come to see how consumers inscribe their practices in the object,
we also cannot ignore the real players: those who actually put their sweat
into those jerseys. What are their relationships with this cultural object?
If My Dad Sees Me with that Jersey, I Cannot Go Home!
Professional Players, Unprofessional Practices?
When we think of a professional, images of highly skilled mercenaries
might come to mind people whose primary ethic is to efficiently and disinterestedly fulfill a job that they were hired for. In the development of their
work these mercenaries will sometimes avoid bonds with their patrons in
favor of a loyalty among other hired agents: a principle that structures their
practices (Robbins, 1992). In sport, the difference between an amateur and
a professional is easily understood typically according to whether the
player receives a payment for his performance or not. In the case of
Argentinean football this is best expressed by the phrase por amor a la
camiseta (he plays out of love for his jersey, where jersey stands for team).
In the discursive repertoires of Argentinean football, then, the jersey
stands as an object that distinguishes a performer as a mercenary and the
player as someone attached to something greater than money: the team. In
a way, this is what would bring him closer to the unconditional love offered
by fans.
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A stadium song might better demonstrate this core distinction: Pasan


los aos, pasan los jugadores, los dirigentes, nosotros estamos ac, queremo
al clu, queremo a la camiseta, los dirgentes solo quieren robar (Years pass
by, players pass by, team officials go by. We are always here, we love the
team, we love the jersey, the owners just want to rob us). In this song, players
and team administrators are equated with regard to their interest in money
and their lack of love for the team and attachment to it. But is that always
the case?
The way in which the jersey mediates the distinction between a
committed player and a professional one can be presented by forming a
typology that distinguishes between the two. The first type is usually characterized by two practices: one is a totemic practice that involves saving or
keeping the shirt to mark a special occasion as a player for the team; the
second is a gift-giving practice, in which the player gets involved in the
supporter community but distinguishes himself from it hierarchically by
throwing the jersey into the stands or giving it to a supporter who asked him
for it beforehand and to whom he had promised it. This practice is even
closer to potlatch, since the gift will never be returned and the team fines
players who do this (including charging them for the lost piece of team
equipment). The second type is characterized by two further additional
practices: exchanging the jersey at the end of the match with other players
thus forming a community that involves the professionals showing
appreciation and respect for each others work despite competition10
and simply taking the jersey with him and returning it at the end of the
game.11
Juan Romn Riquelme, a talented midfielder from Boca Juniors who
is currently playing in Spain, can be used as a fine example of the first type.
When asked in 2000 by his friend from the Junior National Team, Pablo
Aimar, to exchange jerseys (they shared a public and mutual admiration for
each others play) he answered: I cannot, Pablo, if you want to, we can
exchange the national team jersey but I can never exchange it with Rivers
[Bocas nemesis]. I would not be allowed back home (Clarn, 2000a). As
the family is such a common trope for understanding the reproduction of
football affiliations (for instance, Archetti, 1992; Gil, 2002), the jersey was
seen as a member of the family that could not be exchanged with a rival
group (Gell, 1998).12 By denying the gift exchange, the player builds a totem
that excludes the other professionals from the community and puts him on
the same symbolic stage as the supporters. As a result, he is perceived as
giving a special extra something to the team, a symbolic surplus that goes
beyond what the team pays him. While playing for Barcelona, Riquelme was
about to take a corner kick when somebody threw the Boca jersey to him.
He grabbed it and kissed it, even though he had been out of the club for
two seasons and Barcelona owns his federative rights. The complete
opposite case was that of Claudio Borghi who, coming from the same social
background and the same junior club, never played up to his talent and
played for several teams during his long career, turning his game up a notch
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64 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

only when he was about to become a free agent (the word closest in the
sports lexicon to mercenary). He was never perceived as dedicated and was
famous for not engaging the fans in his game. This interpretation is articulated by yet another phrase used by fans and commentators: le pesa la
camiseta (he cannot handle the weight of the jersey), meaning that he is
unable to control or sustain the power of the team transmuted in the form
of the jersey.
Borghis case is not unique, though. Argentinean football since the
1990s has been characterized by its integration to the world market, and as
such by the hyper-mobility of its players. Though historically Argentina has
sold players to the main international (Spain and Italy) and Latin American
(Mexico and Colombia) markets, the crisis of the late 1990s has brought the
conquest of new markets, with many players ready to chase after dollars or
euros in previously untested markets for Argentinean players such as
Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Croatia, Japan, England,
Scotland, France, the lower divisions of Spain and Italy, Germany, Portugal,
Greece, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia. This meant that most of the young
players who constitute the core of the national team were sold abroad
before they were 22 years old (Aimar, Figueroa, Riquelme, Coloccinni,
Mascherano, Cambiasso, DAlessandro, Tevez, Milito, Messi, etc.) to big,
mid-level or small markets. Big teams like Boca then proceeded to buy
players from smaller teams, establishing a cadre of ever circulating players,
and a large portion of a clubs budget is oriented around selling or loaning
its own players. Boca, for instance, received almost 100 million (Argentinean) pesos in 20023 (some US $35 million), of which 54 million pesos
were fees received for sold or loaned players. The team that won the Club
World Championship in 2000 sold its players to Turkey, Mexico, Spain,
Greece, Italy and Colombia.
Players are also users of the jerseys in a way that excludes both the
supporters and their colleagues, and that is aimed at more intimate or more
inclusive forms of solidarity. Since the mid 1990s, in order to celebrate
goals, players started to wear the team jersey as a curtain for another shirt:
one that conveys an altogether different message. Nobody was shocked
when, in the 1998 World Cup elimination game against Holland, Claudio
Piojo Lpez displayed an undershirt that said Happy Birthday, Daddy; or
when Gustavo Lpez celebrated the 1994 championship with Independiente
by showing to the cameras a jersey with a picture of his parents. Or when
Diego Cagna revealed a shirt with the face of his 7-month-old daughter and
dedicated a goal to her. Some players went even further and started showing
the shirts even when they did not score the goal but were involved in the
celebration.
But players also engage in inscribing time and place in their clothing
in ways that go beyond family. Some players have legends where they
declare the love for their home-town; some have the jersey of a smaller or
less important regional team, usually from their locality of origin. Others
choose to pay homage to ulterior beliefs by playing with a shirt with a picture
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of the Lujn Church Virgin Mary, or with a picture of Christ, or the legend
Thanks God or Jesus is My Lord. An equally religious but more proselytizing usage was provided by the Athletes of Christ, an evangelical group
made famous in Argentina by Brazilian player Paulo Silas, who helped San
Lorenzo to win the national championship after almost two decades of failure
that tried to attract a large population to the gospel through sports.
La de Sanyo: Sponsorship and the Quest for Authenticity
An article on the uses of a commercial product would not be complete if it
did not ask what consumers do with their goods. What is the social life of
goods after they are acquired? How do users react to attempts by the
producers/designers to dictate cycles of fashion? What is the precise activity
of consumption?
The answer to these questions lies in the explanation for the sudden
increase of sales for Bocas 2002 jerseys, despite the lack of any design
intervention by Nike. To both the purists and the designers eyes, the jersey
looks exactly the same: the colors are the traditional ones, the neck is
exactly the same, the fabric is dry-fit, the stripes are not widened, the
insignia is in the same place and there is no new team inscription (like when
Nike included the word Xeneixe on the back of the jersey, a nickname that
reflects its Genoan past). The sponsor of the team is the only element that
changed (Figure 5).
If we think of the fluctuating ways that sense is made, and meaning is
affixed in the world of consumer goods (although really allowing for very
little room for variation, since the colors have to remain unchanged according to both the team and national/international regulations), the importance
of the sponsor as a sign of authenticity does not come as a surprise. I asked
an interviewee which Boca jersey he had; he answered: I have a Parmalat,
circa 1992. The one used by Manteca Martinez and Mrcico. In a way, while

Figure 5

Boca 2001 by Nike, Boca 2002 by Nike

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66 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

describing a moment of time in the ever changing cycle of football fashion,


he referred to the players who marked that era but also identified the object
according to its advertisement. It was easier than referring to the maker of
the time, Adidas, since there have been Adidas jerseys with other
advertisements. It was visually more compelling and obvious to refer to the
advertisement, since the brand appears in every TV and print image but
stays also in our memory in ways that made a River Plate supporter tell me:
I have the glorious [jersey], the Fate one. Fate sponsored the team when
it won its first and only Club World Championship in1986.
But not only do these supporters frame their references to jerseys and
points in history by means of a vocabulary that refers to, and reduces them
to, the name of the sponsor. A quick look at the website Mercado Libre
(Argentinas poor mans eBay) supports our hypothesis: La de Sanyo. Autntica (The Sanyo one. Authentic) is the header for the link to Adidas 1994
River Plate design. The advertiser for that season was a Japanese appliance
brand, Sanyo. In this context, the usual way of phrasing the product is to list
the team, designer and advertiser in that order. The year of the jersey is
optional, and is usually used to refer to minor variations. When the past needs
to be symbolized, advertisers do so either by including the name of a player
of that era or by a reference to an advertiser that lasted a short period of time
(like Sanyo for River Plate). Out of 144 entries on the site search, Boca
jerseys had roughly 40 references to the advertiser in their headers.
The reference to advertisers became such an important way of guaranteeing the authenticity of the product that facsimile producers have
incorporated advertisements into their jerseys. If what had previously distinguished originals from copies in the not-so-distant past was less the technological differences in the production process as the presence of an advertiser
as an incorporated part of the jersey, then one of the few ways of trying to
maintain the privilege of dictating the codes of use of a particular product
and its availability was shattered. Because of this competition with counterfeiters, legitimate producers are left with the technological components of
production (the dry-fit or the cool-motion system, the brand, stamps, etc.)
as one of the few ways of maintaining the patina of the product (McCracken,
1988). We can observe in these changes in the production cycle, the attempt
to maintain authenticity, and the extent to which production and consumption are just cycles of a continuous process.
This is an interesting enough phenomenon: that the reluctant commercialization of an object, which only exists due to the economic crisis of
particular clubs, has become for the public the attribute that dictates
authenticity and regulates most of the changes in the consumption process:
when a team unveils a new sponsor, there is a public ceremony in which
models and players wear the new jersey which is usually just the old
design with a new advertiser, rather than there being any changes in design
or color. While a change like that produced by Nike in 1998 made supporters spend money on the new product, the design variations of Boca from
2002 to 2003 (movement of the insignia to the heart, different neck) cannot
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offset the more spectacular change of sponsor that happened during the
2001 to 2002 seasons.
There is a last realm of sacredness for the football jersey: the national
team jersey. Argentinas national team has many sponsors (Quilmes, MasterCard, Coca Cola), yet they do not grace the jersey, but appear on stadium
advertisements, team caps and at corporate appearances by the players. Just
as in rugby, where the coming of advertisements provoked a major debate
that involved the many meanings of what professionalism is, the tainting
of the national jersey with money, the selling of souls and the loss of
innocence (Clarn, 1998b, 1999b, 1999c; Gallo, 1999; Mamone, 1998),
sponsorship would immediately raise complaints about the fakeness of the
jersey.
There are other moments, other tournaments of value, outside the
realm of everyday economic exchange (see Appadurai, 1987: 21) that assist
the understanding of variation in consumption: the football championships
themselves. Understandably, jersey consumption peaks whenever a team
wins a championship (a process over which the producer has little control,
save for selecting which teams to sponsor), as was the case with Racing in
2001 and Independiente in 2002 (Puyol, 2002). What is less obvious is that
jersey sales increase in periods of impending disgrace as well, as when a
team descends to the Second Division. When the value of the team and
supporters loyalty are questioned (which happened to San Lorenzo in the
early 1980s, Racing in the late 1980s, Huracn in the early 1990s and
Argentinos Juniors in 1997), the meaning, value and status of a team is reaffirmed when jerseys are bought.
Football has been a constant presence in Argentinean literature and
Argentinean writer Roberto Fontanarrosa (1997) speaks eloquently of it:
The love for a jersey is related to your personal history. You cannot exchange
it for anything or with just anybody. It is the memory of having gone to the
stadium with friends; of meeting after dinner to watch the goals; of remembering the absent ones who would love to be there.

As Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood (1979) remind us, goods are used
as a system of classification; they help us make sense of the social world
and allow us to share those meanings. A big part of the enjoyment of the
process of consumption is the sharing of the names. In this process, the
jersey is the centerpiece of a larger set of goods that includes caps, headbands, body painting and flags called trapos or rags (which, in a way,
transforms a stigma into an insignia) that are made and inscribed by the
supporters with their name and place.13 In that sense, the community is
not formed by the identification with the team but rather by the identification with fellow loyal supporters of the club.14 They are also the only
stable presence in an otherwise hyper-commodified market, in which
players cycle between international and local teams. A good way of understanding this is the increasing auto-referentiality of the stadium songs,
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68 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

which are more about the specific qualities of the supporters drawn from
a vocabulary of force, strength and hyper-masculinity rather than particular players.15 This is best expressed by the common phrase, El Aguante,
which is jargon that denotes persistence, endurance and physical force
achieved more through natural ability rather than through training and
effort.
Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning (1986) note the connection between
a society with a high degree of functional bonds and the legitimacy of certain
forms of ritualized violence as a specific and reserved space for catharsis,
spaces that are enclaves for socially approved arousal of moderate excited
behavior in public. In a way, disputes among supporters of rival teams, when
they are confined to the limit of ritual or mimicry, are a ritualized substitute for more overt forms of social conflict and violence. In this war flags
and jerseys become special trophies that help to forge bonds and enmity
within groups of supporters. They are also the central goods in political
alliances between the enemies of an immediate rival team or the teams worst
enemy. Argentinean fans have a special way of referring to these political
alliances, they call them hacer la amistad (to do the friendship). The
supporters of big clubs like Boca usually sing that they do not do the friendship, implying there is a relationship between their colors and their totemic
or non-circulatory character. Alliances are signaled by exchanging flags or
jerseys, and non-ritualized forms of violence usually include stealing jerseys
and flags from the rival team, only to then put them on display as a way of
stealing the rival teams own turf and symbolic power.
Extreme cases of this are the shootings and ambushes of rival supporters while going to or coming from the stadium. Archetti (1992) argues that
as can be seen in the growing violence and death toll of Argentinean
football in the last 20 years fan culture has mutated and highlights more
the tragic than the carnivalesque character of football as a ritual. For
Archetti, unlike DaMattas (1991) analysis of Brazilian culture more
focused on the suspension of reality and hierarchy through comic performances football is built both in its tragic and comic character by the moral
and metaphorical hierarchization and differentiation of its participants, by
the father/son, adult/child and macho/homosexual categorical dichotomies.
His presentation helps us make sense of football as a ritual in which
communication is achieved among the supporters of the same team, and
different levels of retribution and of inclusion/exclusion are constructed
among its multiple participants. A more symbolized case of this type of
alliance was the huge sale of Boca jerseys in Brazil during the 2000 season
of the South American Cup, best explained by the presence of supporters
of Corinthians, the arch-rival of Palmeiras, who were playing in the Cup
Final against Boca (Clarn, 2000b).
Even though the tension between a logic that uses the vocabulary of
tradition and loyalty and the logic of professionalization seems to organize
most of the relationships and the disputes about the meaning of the jersey,
there are other contexts in which the object is deployed as a carrier of
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meaning and, as a result, other meanings are conveyed. One example is


living or traveling abroad and seeing people wearing a Boca jersey (rather
than the national teams jersey) as a way of communicating their nationality. In the European context, where there are usually two big teams per city
and one has been historically the citys elite team and the other the working
classs team, wearing one jersey or the other communicates a relationship
or ascription to class, or sometimes a political affiliation.
Appadurai (1987) talks of complex social forms of the distribution of
knowledge. On the one hand, there are knowledges of production and
consumption, while on the other hand there are competing interpretations
of what it takes to consume a commodity properly. Different interpretations
and possibilities of use arise from detachment, indifference or ignorance of
the things trajectory (which includes its socially inscribed meanings). A
good example is the use of the jersey because of its aesthetically pleasing
design or colors. An interesting case is the popularity of Dutch National
teams retro Adidas jerseys among young gay New Yorkers, because of its
tight fit and fashionable color (orange). Another example is the fabrication
of retro 1970s replicas of Boca jerseys by a German firm,16 or the late 1990s
fad of wearing international football teams jerseys to school in Argentina
(Barone, 2001). As Molotch (2003: 6) says, this sort of usage is the immediate stimulus for new products, to match those changing tastes. Some people
explain the tightness of the football jersey and the success of the dry-fit
concept not so much on the basis of professional or amateur athletes interests but rather on how the jersey can be used in different contexts: it doesnt
smell like it used to and it looks good on the male body (La Nacin Revista,
1998).
Knowing this, and after a local company Cdigo Futbol recreated early 1930s, 1950s and 1970s football jerseys with considerable
success, Nike launched a Boca 1935 jersey for this niche of nostalgia
consumers (Figure 6). It followed the example of some other late 1990s
alternative jerseys which had incorporated the colors first used during the
amateur era (red and green for Velez, some traces of pink for Racing and
the red and white striped jersey for River). In a way, this does to the
jersey what Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (1998) sees as being done to objects in
a museum: display forecloses what it shows. Nike is an active participant
in the hyper-professionalization of football and in the commodification of
the jersey process: it puts on display the product of an imagined pastoral
past that it has, in fact, helped to destroy a past of amateurism, of skill,
loyalty and dedication, an invented past when certain goods were not
allowed to circulate, a past with no sponsorship of the jersey. In some
sense, it is a restoration that helps Nike to deal with the powers of
tradition and nostalgia, and to solve the tension between commodity, gift
and totem that has been articulated throughout most of this article, by
working on the tension between the competing regimes of value, by going
against a cultural pessimist diagnostic that massification means the death
of variation and creativity. It also means knowingly accepting the fact that
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70 Theory, Culture & Society 25(1)

Figure 6

Boca 1935 jersey produced in 2003 by Nike

objects do not carry universal instructions of use as Bourdieu believes


(1984), but are rather the site of contestation over meaning and possibilities of usage all for a mere $79.
By Way of Conclusion
The main goal of this article was to show the different ways in which an
everyday object achieves value, is transformed against its current valorization, and produces and generates new ones. Against the simple dichotomies
between community and market, totem and commodity and reciprocal
versus market economies, this article integrates the many circuits in which
value is attached to a football jersey in many different forms. In so doing,
this article integrates the existing literature on how value is achieved by
means of gift exchange, by marketing or simply by being attached to identity
in a way that allows us to see each explanation as just a part or instance of
a larger process.
The relationship between these diverse circuits shows how an object
can navigate the stormy waters of contradiction by shifting its meaning
according to context and diverse institutional forces and power relations that
shape the interactions between objects and their users, and between the
users themselves. As one last example, we can see this when we think of
how Rosario Centrals number 11 jersey is linked to no fewer than seven
different articulations: the Cuban Revolution (a sign of political commemoration), el Chelito Delgado (the last famous player who wore it), the
national scooter brand Zanella, the German Puma brand, a sentiment of
regionalism (according to national cultural politics, wearing it identified you
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as someone from Rosario rather than someone from Buenos Aires), the claim
of belonging to one of the two halves of the city (the other one being the
fans of Newells Old Boys) and a marker for one of the internal factions of
the fan base. A jersey that at some points stands just as a trace of social
relationships, is in other circuits the centrerpiece that balances both the
exchanges and the representations of power in the community and, when
moved from one circuit to another, its loses its non-circulatory, sacred character. In that sense, I take Molotchs (2003: 10) phrase, objects are social
relationships made durable.
The key point where we can see how the distinction in football between
commercialization and community has been blurred, and how it no longer
makes much sense to maintain it as a basis for analysis, is the fact that the
authenticity of the jersey, its sacred character, is only achieved when the
logo for the latest sponsor of the team is built into the jersey itself, and the
brand becomes a sign for commemoration, as people refer to it when trying
to make sense of a specific era of a team. While this dichotomy is still the
basis for most of the categories of practice, and as such we should take it
seriously, it would be foolish to maintain the divide in its sharp salience
without examining the most nuanced ways in which we can find continuity
between totemic and marketed football, the totemic moments in football
marketing and the economic interests veiled in the totem gift-exchange as
they exist in the practices of football fans themselves.
Notes
I would like to thank the late Eduardo Archetti, Harvey Molotch, Anthony King,
Mike Featherstone and the anonymous reviewers of Theory, Culture & Society for
their suggestions, which have helped the article immeasurably. This article
originated at the Objects seminar co-taught at NYU in 2003 by Harvey Molotch
and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. To them and my student colleagues goes my
gratitude for encouraging me to pursue such an arcane sociological study object.
For their editorial assistance, I cant praise Susan Manthorpe, Jon Wynn and Marion
Wrenn enough.
1. Both Michigan Universitys sports team and Boca Juniors are identified by the
combination of gold yellow and blue jerseys.
2. See, for instance, the controversy between the FIFA, the Cameroon Football
Association and Puma about the national teams one-piece suit, which resulted in
the African team losing 6 points in the qualifying round for the 2006 World Cup.
3. This process, called by Burger (1984) post-vanguard and by Baudrillard (1993)
transaesthetic is linked to the decline of aesthetic vanguards and announces the
disappearance of an authorized judgment to define what is necessarily new in the
field of art. It also says that, after the collapse of the vanguards historical cycle, all
forms, techniques and materials become available.
4. It was so obvious that the jersey was produced in Argentina that its card did not
even say that it was Made in Argentina until products made somewhere else started
coming into the market.
5. After the economic crisis of 2001, Nike started producing its jerseys in
Argentina, since the cost of labor went down to a third of what it used to be.
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6. Most of the online sites selling Boca Juniors jersey were of Spanish or Italian
origin, even though there is an interesting 1970s vintage facsimile on the German
market.
7. Barcelona, which tries to stand not only for a sport but for a whole nationality
inside a country, has never had a sponsor on its jersey during its 100-year history.
In a certain sense, its relationship to sponsorship (outside the jersey, related just
to slight variations of design but keeping the original colors) is very much that of
the national teams.
8. Parmalat owns the Italian club Parma AC and is one of the few sponsors involved
in Argentinean football other than alcohol beverage and lottery companies. It also
sponsors several teams in the various Brazilian championships (Palmeiras, Juventude and Santa Cruz), Portuguese perennial superpower Benfica, Uruguays Pearol
and teams in Eastern Europe. For a complete list of teams, see Giulanotti (1999:
8990).
9. Rodrigo (aka El Potro), Soy Cordobs, SADAIC.
10. This gets even more complicated when we take a look at the kinds of symmetry
and asymmetry involved in these exchange practices. On the one hand, there is
symmetry involving the two stars or equivalent players for one team and the other
(for instance Argentinas Maradona and Germanys captain Lothar Matthaus at the
1986 and 1990 World Cup Finals). On the other hand, there is also the possibility
of an asymmetrical or complementary exchange between the players who had to
confront each other during the game (a striker and a defender, for instance).
11. Compare these practices to the gentlemanly camaraderie practices of rugby,
where the players not only exchange jerseys but also share a friendly common third
period after the match, both for themselves but also as representatives of a larger
association: their club.
12. For Gell, objects are social agents and at times the continuation of the body of
human social agents or, as he calls them, prostheses.
13. Usually the vendors at the door of the stadium chant: Hay gorro, bandera,
vincha There are caps, flags, headbands.
14. In his journalistic account of being a fan of Boca, Martn Cappars (2005)
shows how the hyper-acceleration of the players circulation fuels this process.
15. For a more complete understanding of this term and its relationship to popular
class masculinities, see Elbaum (1998) and Alabarces et al. (2000).
16. See the website http://shopping.st.gallen.ch/shopping/trikots/detail.asp?ID=
8017
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Claudio Benzecry is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department


at the University of Connecticut and a member of the Centro de Estudios
en Cultura y Poltica, Fundacin del Sur, Buenos Aires. His main areas of
interest include the sociology of culture, the production of knowledge, social
theory, qualitative methodology and sociology of the arts. His dissertation
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is an ethnographic exploration of the main opera house in Buenos Aires,


looking at the macro and micro dimensions of the passion of the opera lover.
Recent publications include articles in Ethnography, the Annals of the
American Academy of Social and Political Sciences, Theory and Society and
the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, as well as a chapter in the
book Practicing Culture (2006), edited by Craig Calhoun and Richard
Sennett.

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