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The first steps of the sports merchandising in Italy

The Pouchain era, the Lupetto crest designed by Gratton and the 'ice lolly' jersey that AS Roma could wear again in the 2020/21 season

The first steps of the sports merchandising in Italy The Pouchain era, the Lupetto crest designed by Gratton and the 'ice lolly' jersey that AS Roma could wear again in the 2020/21 season

If today the Swoosh or the Three Stripes are undoubtedly part of the distinctive features of football shirts, there was a time when on the jerseys there were just the traditional colors of the club, without any other symbol or recognition sign. To find the breaking point in the history of the Home Kits, in Italy, you have to go back in time for more than 40 years. It's December 17th, 1978 and at the Olimpico stadium AS Roma and Juventus face each other for the 12th gameday of the Serie A, a match that more than for the scorers will be remembered for the novelty that appeared on the two teams' shirts. Since the beginning of the season, in fact, Italian clubs are allowed to put the logo of their technical supplier to the jerseys, and for the first time AS Roma and Juventus will present on their kits respectively the stylized "P" of the Pouchain brand and the "two stylized men" of the Robe di Kappa brand.

The turning point in the world of Italian sports merchandising has a very specific person, the apparently foreign name of Maurizio Pouchain: the adventurer who after having dug out in the field of furnishings for cruise ships before, and in that of the restoration of big paintings and works of art, at the end of the 70s decided to buy a knitwear factory and try to revolutionize the entrepreneurship linked to the world of football. Inspired by two major events, the meeting with the AS Roma former president Gaetano Anzalone and an American trip, wanted to invest 100 million of Italian lire on the rights for the commercialization of the AS Roma clothing line, which in those years was certainly not living a period of particular brightness, neither economic nor technical.

"It happened that one day a friend involved me in the purchase of a knitwear factory. I was fascinated by those machines where you put a thread and a stocking comes out. But things didn't go well. Until I make a trip to America and I realize that everyone turned in overalls and that the baseball teams sold everything from the cap to the keychain, not just the ticket of the game. So I proposed to Anzalone, who at the time was the Roma president, to try a similar operation also in Italy".

But to start the new Borgorose factory in Abruzzo, Pouchain needed an intuition that would make the items produced in the newly purchased knitwear shop special and attractive. The stroke of genius to broke a market that is still too conservative and not very forward-looking (while in England since 1962 Umbro had already started selling its replica football shirts in the main retailers of the country, first of all the historian Elsey & Son of Tottenham High Road, London) was to imagine stylized, simple and recognizable logos that could also be drawn in pencil by elementary school children and could be affixed to the shirts. And so thanks to Piero Gratton the Lupetto crest was born: it made its debut in the American tour that the Giallorossi team played before the start of the 1978/1979 season and managed to survive not only to the company turnover between Anzalone and Dino Viola, but remained on the AS Roma shirts until 1997, many years after the end of the Pouchain sponsorship.

The Lupetto wasn't the only logo that appeared on the Pouchain jerseys, which then also sponsored Palermo, Udinese, Bari, Pescara, Cesena and Lazio, whose the new badge, a stylized eagle with spread wings wanted by the entrepreneur who was adopted by the Biancoceleste club only for the 1979/1980 season. The real protagonist of the merchandising revolution in the Italian football, however, was the so-called "ice-lolly" shirt of AS Roma designed by Gratton himself and worn by Bruno Conti and Carlo Ancelotti, not surprisingly inspired by the jerseys of the American sports world and currently present in the Giallorossi team's stores, in the 'historic shirts' section. Despite the brilliant intuition, Pouchain's project was not very successful: although in the Roma Shop located inside the stadium you could find almost everything, the operation was never sufficiently supported with an adequate sales system and the AS Roma branded products with the "P" actually remained unsold in the knitwear warehouse. Nevertheless, the kit soon became unforgettable for many Giallorossi fans (although the almost total absence of the traditional red base), so much so that next season could be remaster by Nike, as reported by numerous reliable portals.