One such individual, Josh Steeples, went on to create A Store Like 94, a place where the weird and wonderful side of retro finds prominence and some of the best bootleg football memorabilia out there can be picked up. “For any football fan in their mid thirties to early forties across the globe, Ronaldo changed how you viewed the game,” explained Steeples. “Maradona set the platform for modern day football rock and roll stardom, but I think R9 really took it on. Also, at the same time he played a huge part in the game becoming much faster and closer to what we see today. Top that off with some of the best adverts, boots and kits the world has ever – and might ever – see and the Brazilian being the face of most of those is what I think makes his time in the limelight so iconic and I really can’t see it being replicated.

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So, to mark 30 years since Ronaldo emphatically announced himself in the game, A Store Like 94 have gone about rounding up 30 artists, illustrators and creatives from 18 different countries, briefing them with the task of paying tribute to R9’s legacy in their own unique fashion. We touched base with A Store Like 94 to find out more. “The main point of the exhibition was to connect new and old artists from around the globe while making some solid new football friends along the way,” Steeples explained. “I know that sounds cheesy, but honestly I’m so proud of our ever-growing creative football community. Its a bit of an underground mycelium network of football activity that, in my personal opinion, puts out much more original material than the main stream football world. And I just wanted to connect the dots a bit more.

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Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Dan Draws, Jeoan Joao, 45 RPM, Iosone Kaba, Kamil Kowalczyk, Deadly Prey, 75070Marcello MartinelliIndigo Inigo,  16Bit Goals and many more. “The original idea was to create nine pieces of art to celebrate the iconic number nine. This quickly snowballed after I realised it was thirty years since The Phenomenon burst onto the scene in 1993, so 30 seemed like the more appropriate amount of artists needed to celebrate one of history’s best who’s maybe not been celebrated enough in my opinion.” A mammoth task, but one that has gloriously come to fruition.

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The approaches range from hand-drawn portraiture to 16-bit animations, and the collective of artists were encouraged to experiment with new mediums. “I set a lose brief for all the artists to create something a bit different from anything they had done before, use a different medium, for example hand paint instead of digital, but most importantly just have fun. All they had to do then is pick something from the from the huge pool of 90s R9 inspiration and celebrate him in their own unique style.”

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In a world where the digital art scene is arguably slowing down in popularity as it becomes more and more saturated, particularly with the introduction of A.I., the rise of artists trying their hand at painting, drawing, and other multimedia in a more folkish style has a nostalgic, almost childish charm. “I think with a lot of the work in this exhibition that was the style I was looking for when picking the dream team and the artist’s all seemed to capture that. I think some of the work in the show might not be everyone’s cup of tea right now, but mark my words, I think the style I have just explained is really bubbling under the surface and will start to be appreciated more and more as A.I starts to be over used in the design world.” 

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With the finished exhibition now available to view and with plenty of merch available to pick up, Steeples finished up his conversation with us by reflecting on the project: “I’m not going to lie its been a hell of a lot of work as a one man band, especially as the artists are from eighteen different countries and time zones. But its one of the proudest things I’ve done with my business so far and its taught me a lot. I definitely think with the lessons learnt from this one and the brilliant response its had, I don’t see why we couldn’t celebrate a legend of the game once a year. But maybe next time with both a physical and virtual exhibit… so watch this space!

Oh, we’re there already.

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