On Friday, July 29, an auction house in New York brought the hammer down on a piece of sporting history, a flying volley by the Barcelona icon.

It used to be that moments like these existed mostly in collective memory and could be dredged up for a documentary or highlight reel. They're being commodified and sold to the highest bidder. They are turning into NFTs.

Thousands of fans were sucked into dubious projects endorsed by football players as soccer fell particularly hard for non-fungible token. At the same time, in an advertising market that was flattening by Covid-19, a group of companies swooped in to sponsor athletes. Lionel Messi and Neymar will walk out for Paris Saint-Germain wearing shirts with the words "Crypto.com" written on them. You could be as rich as your heroes if you buy in.

It has been different. There are many examples of player and club-endorsed projects tanking in value as the market has collapsed. John Terry endorsed the "Ape Kids Football Club". The project didn't have the rights to use any of the club trademarks so it had to be rolled back. The price went from an average of $656 to just $65. The players deleted their social media posts.

The project has changed its name to Inter Meta FC, but it is still a ghost town. A group of owners pester the organizers about when they're going to see a return on their investment, and recently there was a discussion on how to target the upcoming World Cup in Qatar as a way to drive up the value of their NFTs.

The new club season shows no signs of slowing down the spread of NFTs and cryptocurrencies. The English FA is looking for partners for NFT projects for its national teams, and Italy's Serie A is selling digital collectibles of in-game action. The sculpture of the goal sold for $550,000 at the auction house. He hangs in the air and is dripping with virtual gold.

It's difficult to be cynical. Soccer's global appeal, the demographic of its fan base, and the money swilling around the game have always made it a magnet for the get-rich quick scheme. It took more than $100 million of people's money with it collapsing. With the British parliament considering restrictions on gambling advertising in sport, a wave of firms are ready to take over.