Alberto Huertas cannot travel without an Atletico de Madrid shirt. It is the first thing that this 48-year-old computer scientist from Segovia puts in his suitcase. It is a ritual for him. Before each trip abroad, he spends some time reviewing his collection of 140 jackets that he keeps in boxes and drawers at his home in Palazuelos de Eresma, a town of about 5,000 inhabitants ten minutes from Segovia. There are red and white, blue, yellow and from all periods of the club’s 120-year history. It can take up to a dozen if the destination is far away. An inveterate traveler and soccer fan in almost equal measure, Huertas and his wife, Berta Mateo, have visited 51 countries on five continents over the past 20 years. He combines his two passions in a blog, Las camisetas de Zana, in which he publishes photographs in emblematic places around the world dressed in an Atleti elastic.
Of the two, soccer came first. His father, Jose Luis, made him a member of the team, like his four brothers, when he was a child. He convinced them by talking about the silk forward, that attacking quintet that delighted the rojiblancas in the 50s; of myths such as Luis Aragones or the Moroccan Ben Barek, whom the Brazilian star Pele elevated to God of football. Those stories made a deep impression on Huertas. A strong feeling germinated in him that over the years would pour into his collection.
With his first salary as a computer scientist, he bought the shirt from the season of the double that Atletico won in 1996. Huertas bought it a few months before the athletic feat in the store that was located in the now-defunct Vicente Calderon stadium, the temple in which that so many moments happened that year. “It’s the most special because of the intensity of that season, the one I’ve worn the most times in my life,” he says. He continued to collect in later years. Without being fully aware of it, his collecting desire was making its way.
In 1999 he met Berta, a Segovian “from Zamarramala, a very small town next door.” They were both 25 years old. Although at the beginning of the relationship she did not like soccer so much, today she considers herself one more mattress. They made their first trip a few months later to the Canary Islands. They soon discovered that they shared the same love of seeing the world. “It was a bit of her that dragged me along at first, but since then we haven’t stopped,” she confesses. Cambodia, Peru, Australia, Kenya, the United States, India, Jordan… Thus, until more than fifty countries have been visited. “More or less a quarter of the planet”, adds Berta.
Upon returning from one of those trips, “four or five years ago,” Huertas recalls, the idea for the blog came up. “At first I did the same thing as other publications: I uploaded photos of t-shirts hanging on hangers around my house. But I saw that it was very boring and I thought: ‘If I have a photo in front of the Taj Mahal that could be worth it’. And he decided to share the image.
Currently, more than 3,000 people follow the blog through social networks. Not only for the tourist photographs; also because Huertas takes advantage of each publication to outline the history of each shirt. “I think it helps to better understand Atletico’s history,” he says. Zana references his boyish nickname. “At the age of 12 he was cycling at the Carlos Melero school in Segovia and they recommended that we bring a piece of fruit. I was carrying carrots and my classmates began to affectionately call me that, ”he reveals.
Huertas has published more than 1,500 images, although he has some thorns in his head. For example, during his visit to China in 2010, she was unable to be photographed next to the Great Wall in one of her prized coats. “I only took one T-shirt with me on that trip and I didn’t wear it that day,” she recalls.
His collection is mainly made up of garments designed for fans, known in the world as fan version. And he leaves the screen-printed ones, which are known as the player version, which can reach 150 euros, according to the computer scientist, for his idols. He has two from the captain, Koke, the player who has worn the elastic mattress the most times, and another from Diego Pablo Simeone in his first spell at the club, between 1994 and 1997. There is a third type of collectibles, those that have been used by a soccer player during a match. Huertas, however, does not like to bid on these types of shirts because they seem very expensive. “They can ask you for them whatever they want. Now they are auctioned and the prices are decided by the seller”.
Huertas recounts his system for differentiating the originals from the copies: consulting a unique code that Atletico has introduced on each of its shirts since 2005. “Imitators can replicate the label, but not that code because there are millions of them and it would take them a long time to find the correct one. well,” he details. Due to the fame that he has gained over the years, other fans regularly write to him on social networks to ask for advice before embarking on a dubious purchase.
Huertas has a “jewel” in his collection. It is a screen-printed shirt with his name that the club sent him in 2017 after winning a contest on social networks. For this he uploaded an image of his family celebrating LaLiga Santander achieved three years earlier and a text in which he explained the origin of his feeling. The prize was much greater: appearing in the official photo of that season together with the squad, the coaching staff and the board of directors. Huertas appears right in the middle, between captains Gabi and Godin. “My father accompanied me that day and he burst into tears of emotion when he saw me sitting there. They invited us to the players’ hotel and to the box at the Civitas Metropolitano stadium. I get emotional when I remember it, I could feel like a footballer for a day”.
Huertas is now on the trail of a Condor shirt, a Spanish brand that dressed Atletico in the 1970s, and which are “very difficult to find because they didn’t make so many in their day.” And to continue crossing out countries on the map, the computer scientist points to Indonesia. “The Covid-19 pandemic ruined the trip we had paid for to Bali for Berta and me, so we want to go there.” It may be that there he will hear again, as has happened on other occasions in the Swiss Alps or Machu Picchu, in Peru, a familiar cry. “I swear that in several places I have heard a ‘Wow, Atleti’ when they have seen me with a shirt. We owe that to Simeone, who has put us back on the international level”.
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Source: EL PAIS