Dzeko, Tevez and Balotelli Get Shirty: Messages on Undershirts Must Be Banned

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

When Edin Dzeko had a penalty saved during Manchester City's 2-0 victory over Arsenal, he must have felt particularly embarrassed.

Not only did he have to deal with the shame of failing from 12 yards, but he was wearing an undershirt with the message "Za Moje Mahalce" printed on it. It meant "For Friends From My Neighborhood," and was dedicated to those in his native Sarajevo.

If he hadn't scored at all, his special message would have been printed in vain. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and the striker insisted he "knew" he would score in the game, so the world was not denied his expressive garment in the end.

This is Dzeko's second undershirt message in as many league games—he wished everyone a Happy New Year via the medium of clothing during Manchester City's victory over Stoke.

He also received a yellow card for his troubles.

While many fans despise the rule that sees players receive a booking for removing their shirts, a greater question must be raised: Why on earth are footballers being allowed to perform goal celebrations that automatically earn them punishment?

Of course, Dzeko is not alone in his penchant for undergarment revelations at Manchester City. Carlos Tevez has paid tribute to his native land several times. Samir Nasri did his part to raise awareness of a Muslim festival. And of course, Mario Balotelli asked the question that absolutely everyone knows the answer to: Why Always Me?

In these cases, the messages were not crudely scrawled, they were professionally printed, presumably by Manchester City kit man Les Chapman. Why is Mr. Chapman given the authority to produce shirts that could condemn the Champions' goalscorers to suspensions?

Did common sense go out the window with fiscal responsibility at Eastlands?

The undershirt message is by no means confined to Man City. Dimitar Berbatov earned a booking earlier this season for a self-aggrandising spin on a popular World War II propaganda slogan. Steve Pienaar has let us know his opinion on God on several occasions. At Watford, Danny Graham used the real estate on his vest to advertise his table tennis skills.

These are merely the undershirt messages we know about.

How many players are wearing a shirt every single week, but it never sees the light of day?

Do they sheepishly put it on in front of their teammates before each match, only to sneak it back to the kit man at full-time for another wash when they don't find the net? Does Fernando Torres have a draw full of undershirts whose messages have gone out of date?

Excuse the grouchy outlook, but the Premier League—and football in general—needs to put a stop to this meaningless practise. In a league where bicycle-style compression shorts must be the same colour as the kit and sock tape must match the shade of the socks, it seems remiss for undershirts to be overlooked.

Perhaps football can learn from American sports, where personalisation of uniforms is tightly controlled. NFL players who untuck their shirts can expect a fine of $5,000. In the NBA, a player was fined $25,000 for removing his jersey as he left the court.

While undershirt messages are mostly harmless in intention (like Kaka's famous "I belong to Jesus") and sometimes touching (such as when Andres Iniesta paid tribute to Dani Jarque at the World Cup Final), they can sometimes invoke ire.

Robbie Fowler broke FIFA's rules on political gestures for his support of the Liverpool dockers in 2007. Lee Trundle (above) made a daft postgame mistake at the Millennium Stadium in 2006 when he revealed a shirt depicting a Swansea fan doing something very rude to a Cardiff shirt.

Furthermore, there's the danger that players will start using their undershirt liberty for commercial purposes. Remember Nicklas Bendtner's underpants at Euro 2012?

Undershirt messages are irresponsible, often meaningless, conducive to bookings, and ripe for exploitation for commercial or political use.

It's time for football's governing bodies to lay down the law, and time for Edin Dzeko to send a nice text message back home instead.


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