Are these football’s biggest fans?

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With the new season upon us, football fans up and down the country will have by now pencilled in their big away days, dusted off their club colours and washed and pressed their lucky underpants in preparation for another ten months of squeaky bum time moments.

But for a particular subset of super fan, whose passion for the game has no summer holidays, the new season is just another date. They are football collectors and their dedication to snapping up game memorabilia knows no bounds, borders or care for austerity. Meet football's biggest fans.
"Filby has only got one ball, his other 249 are in the Albert Hall"
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"Filby has only got one ball, his other 249 are in the Albert Hall"

This man’s got balls


With over 250 balls in his attic from historic World Cup footballs to rare Champions League models, Norwich fan Rob Filby really has got cash in the attic. But the 44-year-old dad would never sell his prized possessions, even if he did get his wife onside by pitching it as an investment.

It all started in 2006 when a trip to the shops to pick up a football for a kickabout with work mates ended with him stumbling across replicas of the 1980s Adidas Tango ball, which according to Rob, “everyone wanted as a kid, but couldn’t afford”.

The balls triggered childhood memories that led Rob to start looking up past Adidas balls and it was then he says his addiction was born. After making contact with the ball collectors’ community, opening his mailbox to fellow enthusiasts the world over and buying and selling balls on eBay, he has now amassed a collection that features official balls from World Cups, European Championships, Olympic Games, the Champions League, Africa Cup of Nations and more.

His favourite of the lot: an Adidas Azteca from the 1986 World Cup that he always loved the design of, and managed to get his hands on one used by England during training at Mexico ’86. Then there’s the rare Nike NK 800 GEO, the first unique match ball for the Champions League, which Rob reveals he has turned down “ridiculous offers” for.

With the Slazenger Challenge, used in the 1966 World Cup, being the Holy Grail that still eludes him, Rob believes his next great find is a garage away collecting dust. “I want them to get out there into the hands of people who want them, “ says Rob. Read: his own hands.

Although being a fan first, he does encourage people to get in touch with him. Check out his eBay page or drop him an email via filbysfootballs@hotmail.com to share any match ball stories and pictures they might have.  
A pair of Rob's most precious balls: the London 2012 Olympic semi-finals match ball an the classic Adidas Azteca
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A pair of Rob's most precious balls: the London 2012 Olympic semi-finals match ball an the classic Adidas Azteca
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A pair of Rob's most precious balls: the London 2012 Olympic semi-finals match ball an the classic Adidas Azteca
Been there, done that, got 200 shirts.
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Been there, done that, got 200 shirts.
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On tops of the world!


Aberdeen librarian Joe Johnston might spend his days in the serene ambiance of the book room but outside of the day job he has one of the loudest collection of football shirts on the planet. What’s more he’s on a mission to collect the football shirts for all 209 FIFA members.

The story begins when Joe, inspired by the 2010 World Cup, bought Argentina’s away shirt off eBay because he “always liked the colours”. Then on finding Scotland and Slovenia tops in a charity shop, Joe decided he had the makings of a collection with the only logical conclusion being that he should complete it.

After trawling charity shops, eBay, foreign football associations and even players he is well on his way with 200 shirts and counting, and a grip of various new languages.

"Thanks to eBay I've learnt the words for 'football shirt' in loads of different languages in order to search the auction sites in different territories all over the planet!"

Each shirt comes with it’s own story and in some cases extortionate price tags like the £300 he paid for a genuine match-worn Eritrea shirt. But in terms of value it doesn’t come close to the Under-17 Azerbaijan shirt that was once property of Pope Benedict XVI, after the squad had presented it to him when they were training in Italy. A steal at just £40 on eBay from a seller in Rome that had failed to connect the dots. Or the fake Malawi shirt he felt obliged to buy because it was part of the David James bankruptcy auction. 

With only Syria, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritania and Sudan left to complete his collection, Joe is appealing for anyone that can help him out to contact him at his website theglobalobsession.com or on Twitter @GlobalObsession.
George Tan and his model army
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George Tan and his model army

A model professional


Singapore based Manchester United fan George Tan might not get to see his heroes in the flesh often but he’s got his football figurines to make up for that. 

Having been collecting the miniature models since 2010, Tan has amassed a treasure trove of 2,000 figures and runs the Corinthian Collectors Club Singapore Facebook group, which boasts 400 other Premier League mad collectors.

The model collector took up the role after he found regularly paying up to 400 Singapore Dollars (around £190) for his favourite players was starting to burn a large hole in his pocket. Now he almost has first of refusal to any big names on the market as he facilitates a lot of deals through the group. 
"Squeeze in at the back". George Tan's team photos are unbeatable.
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"Squeeze in at the back". George Tan's team photos are unbeatable.

Getting your hands on rare models is all about network and friends you make in the community says Tan. “It’s all good using eBay to acquire figures in the international market but with collectors flying overseas to pick up figures personally you have to trust the people you’re dealing with.”

With Tan and his cohorts being so far away from the Premier League and their chosen clubs, collecting anything from Corinthian models to Panini stickers is actually the very in thing in Singapore. A great way for fans to get together and share their passions for the game, it could be said the collectors’ groups are the firms of the Far East. And George is right on the frontline running the collector's page Phenom Starz .

Think you can out-fan our football crazy trio?


If you're a mad passionate football fan with a collection to rival these three, we want to hear about it. Got 700 pairs of Roy Keane's socks? Do you have Jose Mourinho's Premier League medal? Or perhaps you've just got every match day programme from Accrington Stanley? Whatever you passion, share your stories in the comments below.
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