The difference between the higher and lower levels of soccer is not just about quality on the pitch. More often than not, the outfit players wear when they show up for a game allows you to make a pretty accurate estimation of how good they are. It’s one of the sideshows that accompanies soccer, and I’d like to share an anecdote about it with you.
From nothing to something
In the lowest amateur leagues, everyone wears their own clothes to training. Not only can you quickly tell who supports which team, it also makes the training field look like a potpourri of different colours, prints and sponsor logos.
When I joined FC Eindhoven, in the winter break of the season 2013/2014, I received a shirt and sweater from the club. In the beginning I was super proud. A real team sweater, and a shirt to train in! When I drove to the club, it felt like I’d already reached the national team. But when I was training with the first team, my enthusiasm was quickly curbed.
Even though the intention of handing us training wear was creating some respect for the second team as well, the gap between us and the first team became obvious, painfully so, when you looked at the outfits. Not only did our sweaters look like they came straight from the eighties, they also had the old club name, ‘Eindhoven AV’ (AV for amateurs) on the logo, instead of the prestigious ‘FC Eindhoven’, that the shirts of the first team read.
And whenever Veerle (a teammate from the second team) and I were allowed to join the first team for a game, we felt like two black sheep in a white crowd. While the other players walked around in their perfect outfits, with jackets, sweaters, shirts, shorts and socks in the exact same ‘Eindhoven-blue’-shade, we waddled after them in our ugly, oversized black sweaters. It was like we had ‘WE DO NOT BELONG TO THIS TEAM’ written on our foreheads.
Parading around in Portugal
When the first team went to Lisbon earlier this year, to play a two-day international tournament, I got to join them. It was amazing. Not in the last place because, since I was on the road with the first team now, I got to parade around in a full FC Eindhoven-suit for four days non-stop. We raised a lot of eyebrows at the airport, twenty smurfs with a logo on their chest, making a lot of noise and creating a long queue at the local Starbucks.
Since the start of this season everyone at FC Eindhoven, first team and second team included, received a full set of clothes. Two shirts, shorts, track pants, two pairs of socks, a sweater, rain jacket, the whole shebang. And even though you get used to that pretty quickly, sometimes I can’t help but wear my club outfit to the local gym. As if it’s my way of telling the outside world ‘See? You thought nothing would become of me, and now I’m playing soccer for FC Eindhoven!’. I know it makes absolutely no sense, but it’s hard to break the habit when you suddenly feel a part of something you’d never dared to dream of when playing in the absolute bottom amateur league. So please, dear reader, if anytime soon you see a girl cycling to the gym in an oversized, light-blue FC Eindhoven coat, go easy on her. One day her ego won’t need it anymore and she’ll wear her own winter jacket.
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂