Glasgow-based AS Roma fan Pete Doyle has built up an enviable collection of rare and match worn AS Roma memorabilia. His unique Giallorossi hoard ranges from Francesco Totti’s boots and one-off shirts to an Anglo-Italian Cup ashtray. He has established himself as a widely-respected collector, leading him to collaborate directly with the club on their 2018/19 kit launch. We spoke to Pete (@ASRomaMatchworn) to find out about his passion for all things Roma…
Where did it all begin?
Whilst Pete’s interest in calcio can be attributed to his Italian heritage, he can’t identify the exact moment that AS Roma, specifically, stole his heart. The collecting bug came much later, around 2013, as he sought out memorabilia to adorn the walls of his first home. His online search for signed shirts uncovered a thriving global community of collectors and by the time his first shirt had arrived (a match worn Primavera shirt from Dario Catania) Pete was already setting himself the ambition of collecting a match worn example of every Roma shirt.
So, how does it work?
Our conversation reveals that building a match worn collection is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Whilst the scarce nature of match worn shirts can foster a culture of bidding wars and one-upmanship between rival collectors, the reality is often more wholesome. “Deep pockets only you get you so far” Pete explains, “dedication and persistence are the most important things in building a collection”.
Those relationships with fellow collectors are paramount. They can simultaneously be both your biggest rivals and your closest allies; potentially holding crucial contact details, information or even a spare shirt that will fill a gap in the collection.
Whilst public and charity auctions are an obvious place to begin looking for match worn items, these also tend to be the most expensive. The lion’s share of Pete’s collection, and his rarest and most coveted items, have come as the result of hours of painstaking research and careful negotiation. Pete has compiled a database of every British-based player to have played against Roma, which he uses to track down players in the hope that they will possess a Roma shirt swapped after the game. This diligent groundwork has been the source of some of his greatest collecting triumphs.
Each collector operates within their own financial constraints, requiring tough decisions to be taken. A unique item may become available for purchase which, quite literally, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity. “You can’t control when things become available so it can be hard to budget. If something big comes up, I might have to move on some items from the collection to make sure it’s affordable” Pete reflects.
How can you be sure about what you’re buying?
The key to any match worn collection is provenance; without a compelling account of an item’s origin, it holds limited value. However, proving authenticity can be a precarious business.
Items sourced directly from clubs, players or from other established collectors are the most straight-forward cases. As a club, Roma have made this much easier for collectors in recent years, Pete explains “All match worn shirts include an inner patch with a unique serial number. If the authenticity of an item is uncertain then it can be checked against a database held by the club.”
However, provenance is more commonly a grey area and often comes down to a series of judgements. The evidence can come in a variety of different forms; it can be a credible backstory of how a seller came to possess the shirt, or it can be about the physical characteristics of the shirt itself. Sometimes the reality can be quite unglamorous “I’ve spent hours trawling the Getty Images website, trying compare images from the game with the shirt in question to match-up mud patches” Pete said.
Naturally, collectors quickly become expert in asking the right questions and compiling the necessary information to establish authenticity. Once again, the collecting community come to the fore in supporting one another with their research by sharing knowledge about a particular shirt or match.
So, what’s in the collection?
As you might expect, Pete speaks with enormous knowledge and passion about his subject. We discuss the 1980s Wrexham versus Roma Cup Winners Cup tie, where he politely corrects me “I think it was 1982, not 1983. Wrexham’s finances were so tight the kitman told their players they weren’t allowed to swap shirts”.
From the humble beginnings of that first Primavera shirt, Pete is now up to around 300 items in the collection. Over that time, his interests have expanded into other dimensions too; particularly match worn boots, pennants, medals and even club suits. “My mantra is I’ll collect anything that can’t be bought in a shop” he explains.
The most difficult item to obtain was a rare Carlo Ancelotti shirt from Roma’s 1982 Cup Winners’ Cup clash with Ballymena United. This was high on the wish list as Roma used a different design in the competition that season. Beginning with just a list of names from the team sheet, Pete levered the help of Northern Irish football enthusiasts on Facebook to track down United’s players from that game.
After hours of online research and numerous dead ends, he eventually made contact with the family of one of the players who had since emigrated to Canada. The shirt itself was about to be framed and hung in a sports bar, before Pete negotiated a sale. “After speaking to the family several times, I think they concluded that the shirt meant more to me than it did to them and a sale was eventually agreed”.
Elsewhere in his collection Pete has an example of Roma’s shirt worn during their 1980 summer tour of the US. That specific shirt was the very first Roma shirt to feature a sponsor on the front, since Serie A rules outlawing commercial sponsorship were not relaxed until 1981. The rarity of this shirt is underlined by the fact it was only ever worn in four matches.
What is your most treasured item?
It seems asking a collector to identify their favourite item is akin to asking a parent to choose their favourite child; though Pete confesses that the 1990s is his least favoured era for shirt design.
He clearly has a soft spot for anything relating to Francesco Totti. Amongst several match worn examples, he has Totti’s shirt from Roma’s 2001/02 Champions League triumph over Barcelona. He also possesses seven pairs of Totti’s boots, including a set of Diadora Maximus from the 2006/07 season when he was Golden Boot winner. The boots are inscribed with four stars and the words “Campioni Del Mondo”.
Pete’s comprehensive research and networks have led him to stumble across some unusual and unique items. One such genre are the gifts that are exchanged between clubs or given to match officials in European competitions. Along the way, Pete has picked up an engraved ashtray gifted by Roma to West Bromwich Albion when the two clubs met in the 1970 Anglo-Italian Cup.
What are your ambitions for the future?
It is evident that a match worn collector’s work is never complete; targets can be set, but key items will inevitably remain out of reach. Pete’s crowning glory would be to obtain the boots worn by Totti in his final ever match in 2017, but those remain in possession of the great man himself and are unlikely to end up in Glasgow any time soon.
Whilst Pete continues to enjoy the journey of expanding his collection, he has future ambitions to showcase it too, perhaps in the form of an exhibition or a book. But for now, the search goes on to grow the collection.
Finally, what are your tips for would-be match worn collectors?
Asked what his number one tip for would-be collectors, he said “don’t let others tell you what to collect. Collect the things you like”. This was a piece of advice that was given to him by an established collector at the beginning of his own journey and has stood him in good stead. He explains that the tide of the collecting community can sweep you along and detract from the reasons that brought you into collecting in the first place. Pete’s advice is simple “work out what appeals to you, regardless of the reasons, and stay true to it”.