Surreptitious slogans: I Belong to Jesus is a visual survey of a rich footballing sub-culture

 Belong To Jesus
(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

For a world so marked by advertising slogans, technical jargon and the waffling of commentators, football is conspicuously devoid of personal engagement between players and fans.

This is, in part, down to a 2014 FIFA ruling that banned players displaying messages on their kits after scoring – whether personal, political or professional – and which carried punishments of fines and suspension.

As Craig Oldham and Rick Banks' lovingly compiled new book, I Belong to Jesus, shows, this practice was a rich, extensive tradition of self-expression; visually and descriptively collected in a publication that acts as palimpsest of collective, sometimes fractious, memories (and meticulously designed to boot).

Take, for instance, Robbie Fowler's 1997 display of pro-docker sentiment. In 1995, a tumultuous dispute between the Liverpool dockers and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company led to the sacking of a number of workers, who fought for two years to have their jobs reinstated (garnering a wealth of press and media support in the process). In a match against Norway's SK Brann, Fowler and Steve McManaman – then Liverpool FC strikers – both wore undershirts with bastardised Calvin Klein logos professing solidarity with the cause. Fowler, scoring first, revealed his during the match. Duly fined by FIFA, he won the lifelong respect of the local working class community (even the Everton fans among them).

I Belong to Jesus features a wealth of similar case studies, under the chapter headings of 'Politics', 'Religion', 'Personal Matters' and 'Football Folklore' (though covering topics as diverse as social awareness, the environment, war and family). Providing a 'visual narrative of perhaps one of the last real, personal, unchecked forums and genuine connections between player and supporter', say the authors, the book features coded outbursts from players as auspicious as Mario Balotelli, Ian Wright, Paul Pogba, Billy Sharp, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and, the inspiration for the book's title, Kaka.

Published in a limited edition (thread sewn, bound with an armband and resembling a referee's notebook), I Belong to Jesus is proof that, even for non-football fans, the beautiful game can carry truly meaningful messages.

The publication is a survey of ’one of the last real, personal, unchecked forums and genuine connection

The publication is a survey of ’one of the last real, personal, unchecked forums and genuine connections between player and supporter’

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

Under the chapter headings of ’Politics’, ’Religion’, ’Personal Matters’ and ’Football Folklore’,

Under the chapter headings of ’Politics’, ’Religion’, ’Personal Matters’ and ’Football Folklore’, the book features a wealth of insightful, controversial and irreverent moments, now abolished by a 2014 FIFA ruling

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

As I Belong to Jesus shows, this practice was a rich, extensive tradition of self-expression; collected here in a publication

As I Belong to Jesus shows, this practice was a rich, extensive tradition of self-expression; collected here in a publication that acts as palimpsest of collective, sometimes fractious, memories.

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

Robbie Fowler’s 1997 display of pro-docker sentiment is a salient example of the book’s political content.

Robbie Fowler’s 1997 display of pro-docker sentiment is a salient example of the book’s political content.

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

The book’s striking, punchy design is exemplified in spreads from the ’Religion’ section (pictured).

The book’s striking, punchy design is exemplified in spreads from the ’Religion’ section (pictured). 

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

I Belong To Jesus

Published in a limited edition, the book is thread sewn, bound with an armband and packaged with a replica Kaka t-shirt (bearing the titular slogan ’I Belong to Jesus’)

(Image credit: Michael Ainscough)

INFORMATION

For more information and ordering, visit the I Belong to Jesus website (opens in new tab)