Haaland, Bellingham giving fans shirts show small gestures can mean a lot

Reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich claimed their first trophy of the season on Wednesday by beating big rivals Borussia Dortmund in the German Supercup.

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and Thomas Muller added another as the Bavarians — who were wearing their sleek new Alps-inspired third kit — sealed a 3-1 victory at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).

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Marco Reus pitched in with a fine consolation goal for the home side just past the hour mark but it wasn’t enough to prevent Bayern from retaining the Supercup, the annual showpiece fixture between the previous season’s league (Bayern) and cup (Dortmund) winners.

However, despite the defeat there was still time for Erling Haaland to capture hearts and minds, as the Dortmund star made a wonderfully generous gesture to his fans after the full-time whistle.

Indeed, Haaland spotted a young supporter holding aloft a cardboard sign in the crowd that asked, in handwritten Norwegian, if he could have the forward’s shirt.

The sign read: “Hi Erling, can I have your shirt? It’s my birthday tomorrow.”

Sure enough, the 21-year-old striker obliged in style, leaping over the hoardings and clambering up into the stands with great agility to deliver his jersey personally. After making the little fan’s day, Haaland then returned to the pitch with an even more nimble display of Parkour-esque athleticism.

But while Haaland’s exhibition of freerunning was no doubt impressive, the sight of a young fan being made to feel special by their hero was truly heart-warming. What may seem like a trivial, crowd-pleasing gesture from a footballer can be a cherished moment in someone else’s life.

Jude Bellingham also made another Dortmund fan’s night special after Tuesday’s Supercup game by giving them a memento of their evening that will be treasured long after the result of the match is forgotten.

The midfielder has form in that area. After England beat Ukraine in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020, Bellingham spotted some supporters of Birmingham City — his former club — in the crowd in Rome and handed over his shirt.

Of course, Haaland and Bellingham are hardly the first two footballers, or even sports stars, to make a young supporter the envy of all their friends by giving them a jersey.

For example, just a few days after that match against Ukraine, following England‘s Euro 2020 semifinal win over Denmark, Mason Mount caused a young supporter to instantly burst into tears of joy by handing over his shirt.

After a win over Rennes early in the 2018-19 season, Neymar did his best to console an emotional young Paris Saint-Germain supporter by literally handing him the shirt off his back.

Eden Hazard may well have been the first top-tier player to respond to a direct request for his shirt after noticing a young Chelsea fan who had held a small sign aloft for the entirety of a match against Brighton way back in January 2018.

While birthdays, hometown connections or just a really, really strong despite for one are all valid cause for a player to give a fan their jersey, sometimes the reasons are a bit more leftfield. Famed for his love of spaghetti, midfielder Victor Wanyama traded his CF Montreal shirt for a packet of dried pasta after a game last month.

Who knows what levels of ingenuity sign-writing fans will reach in the future in their quest to land their prize?

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