A short disclaimer: This text was first published on the largest sports site in Ukraine Tribuna.com.

In 1999, Vittorio Cecchi Gori’s Fiorentina sold cans of air in its fan shops. The collection included “The Spirit of the Tribunes,” “The Essence of Victory,” and “The Atmosphere of the Dressing Room.” This nonsense was bought by fans, but it did not save the football club from the sale of Batistuta, Rui Costa, and the bankruptcy of the “violets.”

Now 22 years later, Andriy Shevchenko, who in 1999 moved to the Apennines, sells the same cans of air. Specifically, NFTs with his best season at Milan 2003/2004 when he won the Ballon d’Or. So is Chekki Gori a visionary?

Not really. Air cans are just cans of air. It is good only for the crazy fans from Oman who dream of keeping the spirit of the legendary Artemio Franchi Stadium on a shelf in the desert. NFTs, on the other hand, are a much more complex thing. You can make great money and shine bright like a diamond. It is quite possible that it will replace all of the canvases by Van Gogh and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the future.

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But first things first. God created bitcoin. More precisely, it was a dude or a group of dudes under the alias of Satoshi Nakamoto. Nakamoto was against the traditional banking system, so he made his own payment system. Since he did not have money to hire staff, he himself technically supported the payment system, and enthusiastic miners conducted transactions. They were rewarded for their work in bitcoins. They weren’t worth anything at first. In 2010, engineer Laszlo Haney paid 10,000 bitcoins for 2 Papa John’s pizzas. Now for this money, you can buy West Ham and make Yarmolenko captain.

Like other cryptocurrencies – ether, ripple, throne, and all these novel Shiba Inu with Doge are similar to each other, same as Ahmed Yanuzi to Colin Farrell. That is, one bitcoin and another bitcoin are exactly the same. But NFTs are tokens, each of which are unique.

What is so unique about them? The unique part is the piece of code that contains information about the token. In one token, I have Shevchenko’s brace against Roma, and in the second – LeBron’s block shot on Iguodala when playing against the Warriors.

After these paragraphs, the most pertinent question is roughly the following: why the heck should you buy some tokens when it contains content that is accessible on YouTube?

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The answer is simple: everything that we are willing to pay for has value in our life. And now people are ready to pay for NFTs. Simply because it is in demand. It is also a mobile way to store your valuables. You are fleeing from the Taliban in a hurry – no need to save the paintings, sculptures, or a whole library. All assets are on your USB stick.

The first known NFT trials began in 2017 with the CryptoKitties blockchain game. At the same time, the CryptoPunks collection of pixel pictures was released. In the game, non-fungible tokens were used as rewards for completed tasks and spent time. The collection was just images. Now some of them are selling for tens of millions of dollars. Because this is the legacy of the pioneers. Something like an anchor from the Mayflower or the Scythian Pectoral.

The most expensive NFT so far is the collage “Everydays: the First 5000 Days” by graphic designer Mike Winkelmann. At the Christie’s auction, it was sold for $69.3 million. Ukrainian designers also lunged into this movement. In the spring of 2021, it was possible to sell some art for 5-7 thousand dollars on the wave of hype. But very quickly, it all stopped. Not because the bubble exploded. It’s just that the market was filled very promptly with hungry peasants with pitchforks, who were drawn to the NFT marketplaces like a Klondike.

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At this stage, to make money on non-fungible tokens, you need money for PR or a big name. Like mushrooms after rain, some projects spend 10-20 thousand dollars on posts of crypto influencers on Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram within three weeks from the company’s creation. Some do not pay off. Others collect several million. Such is the Wild West of NFT: steal and kill.

Professional sports, especially team sports, are money makers. Not surprisingly, one of the first successful NFT projects was NBA Top Shots, where you can buy LeBron’s block shot or Curry’s three-pointer. Naturally, before the launch, the guys made a deal with the association and the basketball players themselves regarding royalties. Because the primary value of non-fungible tokens is the authenticity of authorship. Without their consent, you cannot sell a picture of a neighbor or a hat-trick of Supryaga from Dynamo Kyiv. Marketplaces require proof of work or a video where a famous person says: I gave the go-ahead to sell art involving me. They even sell the rights to memes that you have been using for 10 years. Nobody will forbid you to use them for non-commercial purposes. It’s just that someone will have the star status of the owner of a legendary meme.

Some famous athletes, besides allowing themselves to be used in NFTs, also invest themselves. Kevin Durant invested in one of the current top OpenSea marketplaces. Steph Curry bought an NFT with a picture from the acclaimed Bored Ape Yacht Club collection for $206,000 and happily posted it on his Twitter avatar. By the way, using art that you did not buy on social networks is a form of wearing fake Jordans or LVs. As for the Warriors defender, his monkey is now worth millions. Only because its current owner is a superstar.

Another Ukrainian superstar that got on the NFT hype train was Alexander Usik. He did his grand entrance for the fight with Joshua in a Jaxet suit. The ownership of which was encoded in a token. After the victory, he tweeted that he was giving it to Elon Musk, but no response followed. In addition, the boxer, along with the largest blockchain exchange Binance, released an NFT, which included his autographed gloves. By the way, clothing is an industry that tokens can help a lot. Since they are all displayed on the blockchain (technically, it is a digital ledger, where everyone can see all the transactions), it will be easier to distinguish fake from original.

Doing NFT with tickets for UPL football matches is an idea for an idea’s sake. The same thing that Dynamo did with Binance last summer. But this experiment was not crowned with success. It is logical, considering the level of Dynamo’s attendance at UPL matches. Although selling NFTs with tickets to ultra-aging events is the way to go. The only downside to it is speculators. 

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Talking about speculators. So far, at least 80% of buyers of non-fungible tokens are speculators who buy promising assets and resell them for big money. This massive process coincided with Biden’s covid payoffs, which US residents happily used to buy shares on the stock market, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs. While our people are investing in real estate, they use less expensive but more risky assets.

That is why the NFTs of Ukrainian athletes are a useless thing at this stage of market development. Besides Shevchenko and Usik, no one knows other Ukrainian athletes in the West. And our compatriots do not invest in NFTs. Recently, tears came to my eyes when Vasily Virastyuk made tokens with his autograph. Three “geniuses” bought them. Not that good for the formerly strongest man on the planet. But what do we expect if our football clubs exist for oligarchs and football players openly call homosexuals pedophiles instead of developing a personal brand and living well on advertising contracts?

To summarize: NFT is a digital bank with air, which, depending on demand, can cost absolutely nothing or millions of dollars. The technology allows you to store valuables in the cloud or on a flash drive, which is convenient when moving, or in the case of wars and robberies. This is a clear victory over all kinds of fakes. In rich countries, ordinary people and celebrities invest in non-fungible tokens. We have nobody, although, in the long term, the technology can be used for tax evasion. Since our athletes do not have a large fan base outside the country, their NFT is not a very promising venture. 

Where is this hype coming from? Why is everyone obsessed with NFT?

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10 replies on “Fleeing from the Taliban with a can of air. Trading cards, gloves, autographs – how athletes use NFT”

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