Jerseys flying off shelves after early World Cup games

Updated June 18, 2018 - 7:28 pm

It was 1:10 p.m Monday — still pretty much World Cup stoppage time — when I ducked into the Soccer Zone at 1205 W. Warm Springs Road in Henderson and asked if anybody had done the same to purchase a Harry Kane England jersey.

I was mostly joking.

But John Habibian, the young man who was minding the store founded by his father, Fred, said a guy in fact had done exactly that, and that I missed him by about five minutes.

“Harry Kane jersey, No. 9, size medium, in the red,” Habibian said. “Yup, he got that done after the two goals (in Monday’s 2-1 victory over Tunisia). That’s how it is. The hype is there. It’s been great.”

England soccer fans are steadfast and spontaneous, Habibian said. But they aren’t quite as steadfast and spontaneous as local Mexican supporters who by Father’s Day had cleaned the racks of all green road kits, save for one XXXL and one small, and put a Chucky Lozano-sized dent in the white shirts as well after “El Tri” defeated defending champion Germany.

Reinforcements are en route, Habibian said.

Top sellers

Other huge sellers after the first five days of the quadrennial soccer shindig: Brazil, France, Germany (before the game against Mexico) and Ronaldo, the Portuguese star (first name: Cristiano) who rained goals on Spain’s plain right out the box.

USA? Not so much. The Yanks lost to Trinidad and Tobago — hey, at least it took two countries playing as one to beat us — and did not qualify for this year’s World Cup.

Habibian said Caesars Palace is the man of the match as far as he is concerned, because the hotel-casino giant is permitting employees to wear soccer jerseys to work during the World Cup. Otherwise, he’d probably still have his entire inventory of red, white and blue with the stars and stripes.

“When the World Cup came, you hoped that the hype without the USA being in it was going to be the same. It definitely has been,” Habibian said. “People in Las Vegas have definitely been supporting it.”

Tucked like a well-placed corner kick between a State Farm Insurance office and a mattress place in a strip mall behind Sunset Station, the Soccer Zone has been serving the soccer needs of Las Vegas for 13 years.

Fred Habibian is a former MGM Grand pit boss who immigrated to St. George, Utah, before the Iranian Revolution of 1978 when he was 15 with but a few dollars and a dream in his pocket. He opened the soccer shop after he operated a Days Inn in St. George and started a pest control business in Las Vegas.

And here you thought Iceland salvaging a tie against Argentina when Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick was bucking the odds.

Made to order

The Soccer Zone mostly carries jerseys of the popular World Cup sides, but can order those of smaller nations provided they are manufactured by equipment suppliers such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro.

Youth jerseys cost $70; adult sizes sell for $90. Personalized shirts, with the name and number of one’s favorite player —or one’s dentist, if that’s your thing — are an additional $30.

“Nigeria was a big one — that was one of the best selling jerseys I came to find out, “ John Habibian said. “I’m kind of upset Nike didn’t give me any of those.

“Peru, Uruguay, Iceland, but I don’t think there’s many Icelandic people in Las Vegas. Iceland has their own (jersey) brand. I don’t know how I can go about getting that. You’d have to talk to someone in Iceland, I think.”

Or perhaps Sig Rogich might be able to help.

The Las Vegas media mogul grew up in an archipelago off the south coast of Iceland, and the last time we chatted he was trying to teach the thunderclap to former U.S. presidents Bush (George H.W.) and Clinton, under whom he served as ambassador to Iceland.

But, more importantly, how does one procure a can of Magic Spray?

John Habibian said the Henderson store is all out of the freezing aerosol product that trainers (or physios, if one prefers) spray on World Cup players who feign injuries in an attempt to induce penalty kicks. But he said the Soccer Zone location at 7240 W. Lake Mead Blvd. has enough to last to the knockout stage and beyond.

Good to know for the next time the U.S. Men’s National Team meets Trinidad and Tobago in an international friendly.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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