Tag: Argentina

Dispatches from Russia: A FIFA World Cup Diary

“What were you expecting? A grizzly bear playing a balalaika and drinking vodka?”

“No, I was expecting a paunchy man in a tracksuit named Vasya to throw me in his trunk and drive me to Mordovia.”

“Oh, so you know Vasya?”

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Expectation. It’s a word you hear a lot in the build-up to a FIFA World Cup. Especially if you happen to live in England. Are our expectations too high? When do we expect to go out? Should we expect penalties? Do we expect trouble in the host country?

More often than not, there’s only one way to find the answers to these questions. And that’s exactly why I was so excited to get the chance to experience the FIFA World Cup through my own eyes – to see the answers unfold on the pitch in front of me and to find out what it’s really like in a foreign country that to so many appears cold and unwelcoming.

Sure, you could argue that I’ve not come to the real Russia. Right now, Russia is in its Sunday best. It’s a Russia that’s been told to behave and be polite to outsiders. And yet, in Saint Petersburg, where I started my FIFA World Cup adventure a few days ago, I still found, and continue to find, that my expectations were far removed from anything even resembling the reality of Russia.

A hotbed of football fandom, the FIFA Fanfest in Moscow sits in front of the stunning State University building.

Though I can’t speak for the rest of the country, Saint Petersburg and Moscow have appeared to be almost ultra-friendly and cosmopolitan. There are no brutalist Soviet office blocks. No scary skinhead men spoiling for a scrap. Instead, in Saint Petersburg in particular, I found Venetian canals, vape shops and and hipster burger joints.

Replace the cyrillic signage on the city streets and you could fool me that this was Copenhagen.

Then comes the football. You can’t move for football out here. There’s FIFA World Cup bunting, plant pots decorated like the classic Telstar football. Zabivaka, the official FIFA World Cup mascot, is everywhere. When I arrived in Moscow, Brazil’s match against Costa Rica was streamed live in the carriages on the metro. Everyone here wants to know who you’re supporting and who you think will win the tournament.

Which brings me to Argentina. I was lucky enough to be in the stadium for the Marcos Rojo rescue act. I have been to many stadiums and many matches around the world. I’ve even been to three UEFA Champions League finals. But the noise, the atmosphere, the palpable tension giving way to sheer joy and elation when that goal was scored was something I’d never experienced ever before.

Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg sits at the end of a mile-long island near a children’s theme park and a vast expanse of parkland. On Tuesday, it was overrun by Argentines in search of a miracle.

The Argentines have come here in mind-boggling numbers, all praying for the same miracle. They hope – perhaps against all logic and reason – that Lionel Messi alone can deliver a spectacular upset. Because it’s not Argentina against the world right now. It’s Argentina against themselves.

As a massive Messi fan, I hope he can bring them glory. I hope he can do it for every single Argentine I have met on this extraordinary trip. I hope he is able to do it for Carlos and his friends, who bought me a beer in Copenhagen airport just because I had an Argentina shirt in my bag. I hope he can do it for the old guy I met in Saint Petersburg, who told me he was among the few people he knows who prefers Messi to Diego Maradona. I hope he can do it for the lads in the Moscow FIFA Fan Fest with the Newell’s Old Boys banner.

I hope, just as much as I do for England, that they don’t expect too much.


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Anatomy of An Icons Signing: Behind The Scenes With FOOTY.com

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Earlier this year we invited our friends from the football price comparison site FOOTY.com to come with us to a signing with one of the world’s best footballers. It just so happened that player was Barcelona‘s Argentinean superstar and global phenomenon Lionel Messi. From the FOOTY.com blog, here’s what Michael Lowdon thought of one our sessions with the world’s best…

As I drove down the A1 in torrential rain to FOOTY.com HQ, another wet day in the North East lay ahead. Or so I thought. By 10pm I was in Barcelona, enjoying a warm night, as the atmosphere of the UEFA Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid spilled out of the Nou Camp and onto the city’s streets. Our friends over at Icons.com had given us an invite to join them in the Catalan capital to get an insight into the workings of a player signing session. The player in question: Mr Lionel Messi.

Home of one of the best club sides in the history of the game, with arguably the greatest player to have kicked a football, the journey to the airport required regular pinching.

Being a frequent visitor to the Icons.com website, I was intrigued to see what goes on behind the scenes at a signing. After meeting Ali and Ben at Heathrow, the first task was to help with checking in of a number of packed suitcases, all of which were full to the brink with Messi memorabilia to be signed. From his latest adidas boot collection to a range of Barcelona and Argentina shirtsUEFA Champions League balls and glossy photo prints, the Icons team took a wide range of products ready for the Argentine’s penwork.

Once we had landed in Barcelona, the breathless Catalan commentary of the night’s match blared through the taxi’s radio, as we used our best broken Spanish to get the driver on our side. The hotel Icons put us up in was a stone’s throw away from the Camp Nou, meaning towards the end of journey the surrounding streets were filled with endless queues of mopeds, carrying relieved and joyous Cules late into the night. After more trolley pushing and the hotel bellboy’s help, we retired to the hotel bar, filled with the debate between fans. A quick night cap and a briefing for the next day’s signing rounded off a day which had started with a quiet, rainy morning in the office.

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FOOTY.com check out our signing photos – a key for authenticity

With signing day upon us, there was no time for a lie in and we were locked away in the hotel’s store room, preparing the cases and deciding what needed to be taken as a priority. It was the “less glamourous side of the signings” I was told, but as a Messi disciple and football merch geek I was like a pig in muck! Selections of football shirts and boots were asking to be jumped into and drooled over. Composed and professional, I managed to hide my excitement, just. As the deadline loomed, we met player liaison officer Jesus, Icons Founder Edward and CEO Dan outside of the Barcelona training ground and dissected Atleti’s defensive resilience, which would help them later progress to the semi final. Bumping into Pep’s superstar agent brother Pere Guardiola and a handful of other important figures, the team were escorted into the training centre to get the session underway.

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Messi is delighted to receive a shirt signed by fellow Icon Wayne Rooney

Having been signed to Icons for over a decade, making it one of his longest running commercial relationships, Messi knows what to expect when he’s faced with another Icons memorabilia signing session and he quickly got about his business. Icons exclusively produce the official Messi signed range as part of their license with the Argentine superstar. He breaks from the rhythm of signing to get his photo lifting a signed Wayne Rooney shirt that he’s received from the England captain, smiling with that grin we’ve come to recognise after more than 500 career goals.

The session draws to a close with Messi needed elsewhere – those five Ballon d’Ors won’t polish themselves you know. With yet another successful session in the bag, we retreat back to the hotel bar as the team celebrate. Messi is just one of a glittering list of current players which sign for Icons, including Neymar Jr, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Aguero and many more. Not a bad forward line to have on your books! As the dust settles from the Messi signing, we relax with a meal in the shadow of La Sagrada Familia, unwinding as each Wolfsburg goal against Real Madrid raises a roar from the locals. We could get used to this!

Icons and FOOTY.com join the fans outside the Barcelona training ground

Icons and FOOTY.com join the fans outside the Barcelona training ground

It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours for FOOTY.com, but for Icons it’s simply another day at the office. They’ll do it all again before long, as they met Eric Cantona in Lisbon and Gareth Bale in Madrid before April comes to end. The team also reveal which players are on their radar to sign next, what affects their choice and whether the enigmatic Ronaldinho is within their grasp.

From logistically planned trolley runs to preparing products for smoother signings, it’s all in a day’s work, in the crazy job that is chasing footballers around the world. As FOOTY.com has come to realise, there’s a story behind every signing. We can’t thank Icons enough for inviting us along to their private signing session with the most in demand footballer on the planet. The care and effort they put into organising every aspect of the signing, from their planning, unrivalled authenticity they strive for and their relationships with players is something to be inspired by.

FOOTY.COM is the UK’s leading price comparison when it comes to everything football. We specialise in searching the web to bring you the best prices and biggest savings on products from boots to balls and everything in between. Shop with FOOTY.COM to pay less and play more!

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How to buy a genuine Lionel Messi signed shirt: A guide to avoiding fakes & unofficial dealers

When searching through Ebay and around the web for a Lionel Messi signed shirt you will be presented with a wide range of items and sellers. Naturally, without the proper experience or research, there can be many potential pitfalls involved in buying signed football memorabilia. So, here are some handy tips to abide by…

The most obvious of which is to be sure of the authenticity of the item. Many sellers will tell you a player has genuinely signed their product. But how can you know for sure that you are not purchasing a fake or printed signature? The techniques used by fraudulent sellers can be very convincing and it is not always easy to identify a fake. So, when you buy a signed Lionel Messi shirt from Icons, we try to put your mind at ease by providing you with the following:

  • An Official Messi Signed Merchandise certificate – Icons is the only place you can buy officially licensed Lionel Messi signed memorabilia. All of our products are supplied with a hologrammed Certificate of Authenticity, which provides key information and shows a photo of Lionel Messi signing the item.
  • Photo proof – We are happy to provide a wide range of photos that clearly show Messi at a closed signing session arranged and conducted by Icons.
  • Video proof – Icons have a unique style of authentication video, which showcase both our products and our connection to the players who sign for us.
  • Signing date & location – We know exactly where and when our items were signed and we’re more than happy to disclose this information for the sake of authentication. All our items come from closed signing sessions, ensuring not only the authenticity but also the quality of each autograph.

When you are looking for Lionel Messi signed shirts online, you should use these points as a checklist from which to compare other sellers. If they can’t provide any of these things, ask yourself why not?

 

More information about Icons Shop Ltd

Icons Shop Ltd is the world’s leading football memorabilia company and Icons is the most trusted brand in the game. Authenticity is everything to us, as it is everything to our customers.

In 2014, Icons launched the first ever individually licensed memorabilia range: the Official Lionel Messi Signed Merchandise collection. We are the only company Lionel Messi and his management team trust to work with and the 2015-16 season marks the tenth year of Icons’ working-relationship with the Argentine superstar. In fact, we signed with him when he had just broken into the Barcelona first team, way back in 2006.

All Icons products come from private signing sessions in which the player is paid a fee for their service. We never, ever accost players outside the training grounds and we never, ever buy products from companies who do this. We deal directly with the players’ trusted representatives. Very often the players will donate the fees to either a charity of their choosing or a foundation to which they are directly associated. And because we have worked with the players and their agents for many years, they trust us and often personally recommend us to one another.

For all these reasons and more, you can rely on Icons as a trusted source for signed memorabilia, so if you’re looking for a Lionel Messi shirt that has been signed by the man himself, we suggest you look no further.

 

Click here to view all our officially licensed Lionel Messi signed memorabilia.

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Memorabilia signed by Messi



Manchester City Hero Sergio Aguero Signs Again For Icons

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Few goals in Premier League history have been as dramatic, as historically-significant, or as crucial to an individual player’s legacy as Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp title-winning strike for Manchester City on the final day of the 2011-12 season. That’s why, whatever this man does from now until the end of his time at the Etihad, he will always have a place in the hearts of City’s supporters. 

Regardless, Aguero continues to add to his legacy at Manchester City, as each passing season he adds more goals to his already overflowing tally, cementing his place among Europe’s most deadly strikers. In fact, there are few out-and-out strikers like him in world football today. Diminutive in stature, yet strong and agile, Aguero is one of the most astute finishers in the game.
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So, on December 18th 2015, on a bitterly cold and wet winter day just outside of Manchester, Icons met the man himself for a private signing session. The Argentine forward has a reputation for being somewhat of a cheeky chap – a man who always has a smile on his face and a boyish charm to his character. The Icons team found that to be spot on, as Sergio arrived at our session chirpy and chatty and ready to sign our wide range of Manchester City and Argentina shirts and photos, boots and balls.

We found Sergio was in particularly good spirits because of his impending return to first team action. The striker had been sidelined for four matches with an injury to his heel and revealed to our team his delight and excitement at being back in training, with an eye on the weekend’s crunch Premier League fixture with Arsenal. Joking away, Sergio also told us of his childhood love for teams that play in red. Though it seems ironic to hear now, Aguero began his career with his red-clad hometown club, Independiente, way back at the start of a professional career that is now closing in some thirteen years in duration.

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Before adding his autograph to a photo of his first major European triumph, the 2010 UEFA Europa League victory while at Atletico Madrid, Sergio happily signed a variety of excellent products that are available to buy right now on icons.com. Before sharing with our team his love for the NBA – and particular admiration for the league’s MVP, Steph Curry, and his team, the Golden State Warriors – Sergio began signing Manchester City memorabilia, namely 2015-16 home shirts, photos of his best performances for the Citizens and, of course, the 2011-12 home shirt.

This was the shirt in which Sergio scored his most famous goal to date and etched his name into Premier League history. Scoring in the dying seconds of City’s final match in the 2011-12 season to defeat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and snatch the title off City’s rivals Manchester United, Aguero earned hero status and ended the Sky Blues’ 44-year wait for topflight glory. Along with memorable photos of that famous day, Sergio’s signed shirt looks fantastic framed – a superb gift for any true City fan.

For our full range of Sergio Aguero signed products check out icons.com now!

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Memorabilia signed by Sergio Aguero



Leo Messi: Ten Years An Icon

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Title after title, honour after honour, record after record, Barcelona and Argentina superstar Leo Messi has written his way into the history books as one of the greatest to ever play the game. In that space of time, Messi has won four Champions Leagues, seven La Liga titles, three Spanish Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups, among various other honours. Add to that his four straight Ballon d’Or awards between 2009 and 2012 and countless golden boots.

In 2014-15, the 28-year-old teamed up with Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr to form the world’s most deadly attacking trio. Together they claimed the treble with Barcelona, culminating in a 3-1 defeat of Juventus in a typically ruthless display at the showpiece Champions League final in Berlin. It was a fitting way for Messi to mark ten years in the red and blue of Barcelona.

Having made his debut for the club back in October 2004, he was soon showing fans the sort of flair that would come to exemplify his electric playing style. The 2005-06 season would be Messi’s breakthrough year, as he played a significant role in Barcelona’s league and Champions League double. Records would soon tumble, as Messi emerged as the club’s most talented young star. The world at large began to notice his immeasurable talent in the 2006-07 season after he scored a number of marvellous goals, including an incredible solo effort against Getafe at the Camp Nou.

Barca were Champions League winners again in 2009, with Messi scoring the second goal in a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in Rome. By now the world was in awe of Messi and his Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. It was also to be the year that Messi would win his first of four consecutive Ballon d’Ors. A year later he would equal Ronaldo’s record for league goals in a single season as Barca secured the second of what would be three back-to-back La Liga titles.

But many will argue that 2010-11 was the ultimate season for Messi and Barcelona. Under Pep Guardiola, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa and co. added to their league title with a third Champions League triumph in six years. Their Wembley coronation came after another defeat of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and, just as in 2009, Messi was on hand to score a vital goal – a swerving shot from just outside the box that bamboozled United keeper Edwin van der Sar and put Barcelona 2-1 up.

In 2011-12 Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer, amassing more goals than Cesar Rodriguez’s 232 following a superb hat-trick against Granada. It came just two days after he’d scored five in one match against Bayer Leverkusen in a remarkable Champions League victory. He ended 2012 with a record for most goals in a calendar year, having notched 91 for club and country, eclipsing Gerd Muller’s long-established benchmark of 85.

As of last season, Leo was showing little sign of slowing down, having finally overtaken Raul to become the Champions League’s all-time leading goalscorer and surpassing Telmo Zarra’s mark as La Liga’s most prolific marksman. Thanks in no small part to the explosive and unstoppable front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar Jr, Barcelona swept aside all before them to complete their second ever treble-winning campaign.

At the time of writing, Messi has accumulated 24 club titles, 412 goals in 482 games for Barcelona and is just ten shy of becoming Argentina’s all-time topscorer. Whatever the future holds for this mercurial genius, Leo Messi has in a single decade broken more records and won more honours and awards than almost any other footballer in the history of the sport.

We at Icons are immensely proud to be celebrating ten years of signings with Leo Messi. Every piece of official Messi-signed merchandise is created under license by Icons Shop Ltd and now comes with an official Messi signed merchandise Certificate of Authenticity, which carries an image of Leo signing the product line.

The full range is exclusively available on Icons.com.


Memorabilia signed by Messi