Call it kind of a rite of passage for professional football players.
Players swapping jerseys after matches is a common occurrence, even with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami.
Now, MLS players are lining up to get a shot of getting Lionel Messi’s game-worn jersey after a match.
But it doesn’t happen for everyone.
Let’s get into it.
Why Players Swap Shirts After Matches
I’m not really sure when the tradition started, but it has been going on for quite some time.
After a match, players from opposing sides will swap shirts.
For example, Josef Martinez might swap jerseys with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar after Inter Miami plays Nashville.
It may seem a little gross to the average fan — I mean you are giving away your sweat-laden shirt for another sweat-laden shirt from your opponent.
But there is rationale behind the idea of jersey swapping between players on opposing sides.
It’s actually pretty simple.
Swapping shirts is a sign of mutual respect between players.
So, it’s not just a random act in the middle of the pitch after a game.
If I were playing against Inter Miami and I battled Jordi Alba all match, once the final whistle blew, win or lose, I might want to swap jerseys with him.
After all, we were at each other’s throats for 90 minutes and he marked me well. I can respect that and respect his play on the field.
We meet at the center line… he gets my shirt and I get his. Done and dusted.
It tells Alba that I have incredible respect for his play that night and he mine.
And the trend has carried over to other sports, like American football.
Same concept and rationale, just a different sport.
Every Player Wants Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami Shirt
Now, while it is customary for players to swap shirts after matches, it is certainly not a requirement.
In fact, it doesn’t happen more than it actually does.
But, with Lionel Messi now in Major League Soccer, opposing players have been lining up to get their hands on Messi’s game-worn shirt.
Why? Well, it’s pretty obvious.
First, he’s probably the most respected player in the game today. I mean, I don’t even see Saudi players lining up for Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt after matches.
Second, Messi has been on a tear since joining Inter Miami in July. Ten goals in seven matches commands a lot of respect, even if you aren’t Lionel Messi.
But Messi does have a certain protocol when it comes to doling out his shirt after a match. Not just anyone gets it.
According to The Express, Messi’s protocol is pretty simple… You have to ask him first.
He doesn’t ask anyone for their jersey, it’s the opposing player who has to ask first.
Nashville SC’s Dax McCarty did this following Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup title win earlier this week.
It’s not that Messi doesn’t respect the play of opposing players on the pitch, but more likely because he gets inundated with requests after matches for his shirt. You ask first, you are most likely to get it. Makes the process fair and pretty straightforward.
There has only been one exception to Messi’s rule.
Early in his Barcelona career, following an El Classico match with Real Madrid, Messi took the first step and actually asked Zinedine Zidane for his shirt… and he got it.
It’s the only time Messi has asked for someone else’s shirt.
So, for other Major League Soccer players lining up to get Messi’s shirt after a match, you have to be the first to ask after the match. You don’t ask, you don’t get it.
I can respect that.