2018 has been a neverending horror show. I think we can all agree on that. And while we’ve focused heavily on the fact that we may be hurtling towards climate disaster, that bigots feel even more empowered today than they did two years ago,1 and that Netflix cancelled Daredevil, we haven’t spent any time talking to football fans about the biggest crisis in modern football fandom.
So, what does the age of #MeToo and the performance of consequences2 for high-profile alleged rapists and assaulters mean for the ethical fan? More precisely, how do you continue showing your support for a team (and sometimes, for a player!) when they’re very credibly accused of the most heinous crimes? Even more precisely, what do you do with that #7 jersey that you paid $100 for three years ago?
We’ve got some ideas.
Let’s start with the obvious that most of you have probably already considered: burning that jersey in a show of solidarity with the victims of violence, assault, and rape. Don’t do that. You probably saved up for months to afford a piece of your favourite player and your favourite club. You didn’t ask for all your dreams to be crushed. That’s not on you. Instead, consider ways in which you can continue to wear the jersey without the spectre of an alleged criminal hanging over you.
Kick off a back window trend: Cut the offending name off your jersey and feel the breeze on your shoulder blades. This particular style of jersey-wearing is pretty much unheard of, so you can be the trendsetter you’ve always aspired to be. If you don’t feel like starting a new fad, just go back to an old favourite: wear that jersey with a back window the wrong-way around and viola: a perfectly respectable front window.
Wear your jersey inside out: It’s still a perfectly good piece of clothing. No reason to let it go to waste.
Use it to dress the people in your life: Do you have a baby? A cat? A puppy? A niece or nephew? An unidentified woodland creature lurking ‘round your door? Some spare time and a sewing kit? Turn the offending jersey into an adorable little outfit for them! Just cut off the middle of the jersey and sew the top and bottom back together. The added bonus of this method is that the new outfit can also be a jumping-off point to teach younger members of your family about enthusiastic consent.3
If you’re feeling a bit more vicious than that, check your cleaning supplies. Need a new rag? It’ll be the most expensive cleaning implement you’ve ever owned4 but at least you can get some use out of it before you throw it out.
Make the jersey your own: Literally. Print out your name and pin it onto the jersey, or splurge and get an iron on patch with your name on it. The only person whose behavior you have control over is yourself. You won’t betray yourself.5 The plus side here is that your new jersey is also a great conversation starter, because everyone’s going to want to know why the jersey looks so odd and why you didn’t just pay money for a custom one in the first place. If you don’t have ready access to a printer, or wherever iron on patches come from, sharpies work just as well.
Using the jersey as a teaching tool is also a great idea. Wear the jersey but also create a placard (ideally laminated to make sure it’s weatherproof) that explains your complicated relationship with the player and the team that continues to support him. You can either pin the placard to your jersey (front or back), or carry it over your head any time you leave the house. If you don’t want to go the placard route, you can also just adopt the facial expressions of an incredibly weary person suffering under the thumb of patriarchy. This is a less effective option, but you always have room to expound when people ask you what’s wrong.
If you’re getting steadily angrier reading all our suggestions so far and don’t understand why we’re even talking about this when there are clear innocent under proven guilty laws that apply to footballers as much as they do to other people, you can always wear the jersey in defiance and support of the real victim, the alleged rapist or assaulter. You’re adamant that everything these days is being decided in the court of public opinion and we’re too willing to blindly accept the testimonies of people just looking for fame. Hasn’t the footballer — who has already admitted to everything he’s being accused off — suffered enough? Now you have to see the wild accusations being thrown around every time you google his name, and you’ve had to add “threatening people on the internet talking about this issue” to your daily routine, and quite frankly, it’s exhausting. But hey, at least you have the perfect outfit to wear while you troll!
Give the jersey a ceremonial send-off: There are days of the week where there’s absolutely no football and if you, like me, have been looking for something vaguely occult but still fundamentally linked to the sport, a small ritual that exorcises the demons linked to your jersey may be just the thing. We’re not going to tell you the best way to create the right atmosphere, but we can recommend frying cumin seeds and onions,6 lighting a few candles, and chanting the Champions League Anthem in a language you don’t understand.
Just retire it: It’s been a long year. It’s been an exhausting year. You don’t want to have to think about the sheer betrayal of the sport and team you love protecting the player you used to love on top of everything else going on in the world. Just fold the jersey up and put it away, either at the bottom of your dresser or in the back of the closet.
You don’t need to waste any more of your time and energy on this.
1 Yeah, I don’t know how, either
2 You know, there’s a conversation and there’s lip service paid to what a person went through, and then everyone stops just shy of the rapist or assaulter facing any real consequences
3 A conversation about enthusiastic consent as it relates to clothing choices and not wanting to be dressed by your aunt also counts
4 I mean, I assume. I don’t know you or your bank account
5 Again, I assume. I don’t know you
6 Scientifically proven to be the best smell in the world