Vanishing spray chronicles: Referee is the hero in Alex’s testimonial

We are living in the era of the spray can. Of course, graffiti artists around the globe have been using aerosol cans to tag everything in sight for decades. But the perception of tagging has certainly evolved over time. Back in the 1970s, graffiti was firmly in the “destroying our cities” category. Now, municipalities and wealthy people who probably refer to themselves as “hip” actually pay people good money to destroy cities and private property in the name of art.

But the spray can is a relatively new phenomenon in the soccer world. The spray can has only been around on the soccer scene since the early 21st century. In 2000, Brazilian Heine Allemagne invented vanishing spray — a substance ejected from an aerosol to place markings on the field. It’s called vanishing spray because the spray disappears in a couple of seconds. The spray has been in use in Brazil beginning in the early 2000s.

Since then, the spray has slowly made its way into league play and regional tournaments around the world. But 2014 marked the first time the spray appeared in a World Cup, after FIFA approved its use in Brazil. Vanishing spray had officially made it. But only now are we beginning to see the game fully embrace the spray’s potential; we’re starting to see the emergence of vanishing spray as art.

Since vanishing spray’s recent global explosion, people have begun to take artistic liberties with the spray during games. Earlier this month, Scott Harrison, of English fourth-tier club Hartlepool United fame, used the spray can to draw a chalk outline around a fallen referee. Paris Saint-Germain’s David Luiz even paid respects to Canadian entrepreneur Drake.

But the most recent brilliant use of vanishing spray takes us back to the product’s spiritual home, Brazil.

Former Brazilian international Alex, 37, had his testimonial today, pitting a Palmeiras XI against an Alex XI. That alone, presumably, was cause for celebration. But then the referee, marking a spot for a free kick, used the vanishing spray to pay his respects to Alex. Art happened.

Imagine the future. Imagine soccer referees with signature spraying styles, like baseball umpires with signature strike calls. The future of soccer looks promising.

Please raise your glasses: To more ridiculous uses of the vanishing spray in the coming years.