Pyro On The Pitch #12: Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao, La Liga Primera División, 27/11/1983

After a brief mid-Summer break, we’re back and once again have rotated around to our original flagship series. In the last installment we checked out one of Romania’s unsung supporter communities of the early ’80s, in Universitatea Craiova and their fixture with Hajduk Split in 1983. Now we are going to revisit an encounter that we touched on back in Pyro On The Pitch #9: – Anderlecht vs Real Madrid 1984, while talking about the latter’s immediate prior history.

Background:

In 1920 Madrid FC were given the title “Real” by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, as an officially dubbed royal club of the kingdom. Having  been formed 18 years earlier after a split from a university team, they would go on to represent one of Europe’s great capital cities and become the favoured team of Spanish dictator Franco, who restored the “Real” title after it had been stripped during the years of the Second Spanish Republic, along with the crown on the club’s crest.

On the pitch Real were officially a continental powerhouse since the 1950s when the European Cup began. Success in this competition was appropriate, as the club’s president from 1943-1978, Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, was one of the three men to organise the start of the Cup for UEFA in 1955.

Considering all this, it is no wonder that the club became hugely supported and to house this support was also one of Europe’s biggest stadiums. In that same year of 1955, their Nuevo Estadio Chamartín was renamed to Santiago Bernabéu by the club’s board in honour of their chairman and was expanded from 75,000 capacity to a mammoth 125,000 (over-crowded to nearly 130,000 for a visit of Milan the following year, the ground’s record attendance).


Some of the record breaking 129,690 supporters in the freshly redeveloped Bernabéu, Real Madrid vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final, 1956.

With their history of royalist-fasicst connections, it is also not surprising that the club’s support base swings to the right. In contrast, Madrid rivals Athletico were formed by Basque students as a feeder club for Athletic Bilbao, who’s Basque-only player policy marks them as a de-facto separatist Pays Basque team in the Spanish league, although there is a strong right-element in the Atheltico Madird support also.

By 1980, the movement of organised young supporter units that had been spreading in Europe reached Spain and Read Madrid’s Ultras Sur were formed. The group were based in the stadium’s South Stand terraces (sur of course meaning south), but rabid, colourful support was common on all sides of the massive ground. An especially large attendance was of course most guaranteed for big European ties.


Home fans celebrate a goal in what would be a 3-0 victory, Real Madrid vs Glasgow Celtic, European Cup quarter final, 1980.0.

100,000 in the Bernabéu for the visit of Spartak Moscow, European Cup 80/81.

A respectable crowd of 65,000 even came to see Real effectively play themselves in the 1980 Cope Del Rey final, also in the Bernabéu, when amazingly they ended up against their B-team Real Madrid Castilla. Unsurprisingly the A-team won 6-1, but hopefully there were a handful of hipster types disgusted by Madrid’s success who staunchly supported Castilla only, akin to a modern wrestling fan preferring NXT over WWE.


Real Madrid vs Castilla, Copa Del Rey final, 1980.

There would be a crowd of nearly twice that of the cup final for the following seasons visit of Internazionale – a slightly more challenging European Cup semi. En route to a 2-0 victory that would help win the tie (ultimately followed by defeat to Liverpool in the final), the home players could be seen scaling the pitch-side fence and saluting the packed Ultras Sur enclosure.


Players celebrate a goal at the South Stand, Real Madrid vs Internazionale, European Cup semi final 1981.

As mentioned, other areas of the ground were also home to passionate supporters. A particular section at the opposite end to the ultras and to the left of a dividing fence in the terrace was often eye catching as a sea of waving flags. But Ultras Sur, with their overtly right-wing leanings, had arrived as the dominant group at the in the stadium and would soon make their presence felt on the pitch as well as in the stands.


Home support in the North Stand enclosure, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Primera División 83/84.

The Match:

The apparent earliest evidence of Ultras Sur’s ire being directed towards the pitch would feature the visit of the aforementioned Basques of Athletic Bilbao, now long divorced from Real’s crosstown rivals. By the time the two were to meet in a November 1983 league encounter, the Bernabéu stadium had been redeveloped again for the 1982 World Cup and as a result had it’s capacity reduced to “only” 98,000, and then 85,000 for the 83/84 season.

Before the match report we see a cartoon image – accompanied by fantastic classic ’80s theme music which really is worth checking out at the end of the article – of what  appears to be an Athletic player with a flaming torch pulling back a Real player, who’s holding a sign containing the following cryptic message in Spanish:

Today we bore more than yesterday but less than tomorrow.

Unfortunately we only have black and white footage of the match, which makes it  look far older than it is. But as always, the Madridistas are unmistakable with their mostly white tifo material, which is the first sight we see from the stadium:

While we don’t have an attendance figure, the ground seems as packed as for any big game. Indeed Real had finished 2nd the previous year to Bilbao and the two were again main competitors for the title in 83/84. At the north end, the section to the left of the goal is even more densely flagged than as seen above against Bacrelona in the same season:

But of course the main action was to occur at the other “Sur” end of the ground, as while Real attack at some stage in the first half, at least one “Bengal” flare from the crowd lands near the penalty spot. The goalkeeper immediately points an accusatory figure towards the packed terraces behind him and the camera pans up following suit:

The black and white footage makes it hard to see what has happened at first, but the definite billowing of smoke from the pyro gives it away:

We have previously seen a situation at a Spanish home international fixture where a foreign referee happily allowed a match to go on around pyro on the pitch, but in this case the native official stops the game and runs to the touchline to alert the authorities that trouble is afoot:

The announcer of the footage possibly gives an explanation for the action as part of a protest of some sort, but unfortunately as we are not fluent in Spanish this is more of a guess. However if you do understand what is being said, please get in touch!

Back in the stand, fighting among the supporters has also broken out. Whether this is rival factions clashing over the flare being thrown, or something else, is again unclear. On the other side of the parameter fence below, the press quickly assemble to document  the unfolding drama:

Before long, a hand-full of local constabulary are on the scene. But displaying the obvious unreadiness for such an occurrence, they have to sprint from the main entrance to the pitch by the dugout – a common scenario in the era that we have seen several times before:

There may have in fact been more officers already on hand though, as quite quickly the first alleged perpetrator emerges and is forcibly escorted away from the mass of bodies at the front of the stand:

Even in black and white, the fashion of the time is evident by the supporter’s big hair, flared trousers and possibly heeled shoes. He is led away out of the stadium (presumably destined for a physical beating), swiftly followed by another captive who is more obviously a football fan due to his long scarf:

The next arrest is not so easy for the police. It appears an entire regiment have surrounded the Sur-suspect and are leading him away, when a Christ-like fall occurs, quite possibly resulting in some harsh treatment to get him back on his feet:

The football has been continuing as this is going down, but after a half-hearted scan back to the game the cameraman shows that the action off the field is far more captivating, much like the ethos of this very blog. Well done, sir (or should I say, sur):

Also ignoring the match – and in a scene you would be unlikely to see today (partly because most supporters would be taking their own videos and pictures anyway) – the press form a neat phalanx to get the best shot for Monday’s papers:

Having been sufficiently subdued and back on his feet, the supporter is finally led away as the journalist jackals scurry to get one last vantage point of the pathetic, defeated face of football crime:

This was the end of the off-field story, but the remnants of the situation can still be seen later in the game as a slight gap in the crowd is visible in the same section of otherwise congested terrace:

Those of you paying attention earlier will have noticed that the report opened with a spoiler that the match ended 0-0. It would be one of many instances of dropped points for Real Madrid that season that would ultimately cost them cruelly, as Athletic Bilbao took their second consecutive championship only by goal difference. But what may have hurt most for the capital city club was that including Real Sociedad’s two title wins at the start of the decade, it was the fourth year in a row that the title went to a Basque side since Real Madrid themselves had last won it in 1980.

Youtube link.

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #3

We now take another enjoyable look at a selection of classic flag and banner hanging efforts from days gone by, highlighting both clubs and countries with arrays big and small, but always heroic.

FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:




FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:

Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 16/10/1985:

Shamrock Rovers vs Dundalk FC, FAI Cup Final 1987, 26/04/1987:

Spain vs Greece, friendly, 24/09/1986:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 22/05/1985:

Slovenia vs Italy, Euro ’96 qualifier,  07/09/1994:

Universitatea Craiova vs Dacia Unirea Brăila, Romanian Cup Final 1993, 26/06/1993:

 

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Football Special Report #3: Falkirk vs Glasgow Celtic, Scottish Division One, 19/09/1992

Last time on the Football Special Report we looked at a heated clash in Derry from 1994 and some preceding League of Ireland supporter history. We now take a quick hop through time and space across to their celtic (pronounced “keltic”) cousins in the Scotland of 1992, for the quite appropriately named Celtic (pronounced “seltick”) of Glasgow and their hosts Falkirk (proncouned “falkirk”) of Falkirk.

Background:

There are several things of note about today’s featured match that collectively exemplify association football in the era. Besides kit fashion and ground configuration, this included the reality of potential crowd trouble at basically any given game, even if a general downturn had occurred down in England at the end of the ’80s.

But Scotland of course had their own fan culture scene, in which besides the obvious Old Firm and everything that went with it, Aberdeen can claim status as among the godfathers of the casual movement. There is also the anomaly of Dundee and Dundee United Sharing a firm, the excellently named Love Street Division of St. Mirren, and Aberdeen again being able to claim the earliest UK ultras group in the Red Ultras (slightly unimaginatively named in retrospect, but revolutionary for the time).


A display from Aberdeen's Red Ultras from a 2006 game vs Rangers.

Crowd trouble and supporter mischief were already marked issues at Scottish league games by the early 1970s, and this was particularly evident on a day in 1973 when the managers of the two big Glasgow clubs felt compelled to get involved. A newspaper reported that Celtic manager Jock Stein had entered his away fans enclosure at Sterling Albion to lambast young supporters who had been waving an Irish tri-colour and singing Irish rebel songs. At the same time back in Glasgow, Rangers manager Willie Waddell had addressed the Ibrox stadium before their game, including the following as reported by the newspaper:

“It is to the tykes, hooligans, touts and drunkards that I now pin point my message. This is no appeal to their better selves – this is a declaration of war. So you are warned – do not bring alcohol. Do not throw cans. Do not use obscene language. Do not sing provocative songs.”

The innocence of it. On the same day, there had also been trouble at Dumarton FC’s fixture against  Hearts, when visiting supporters were changing ends at half time. Several arrests were made to cheers from the “normal” fans.

At a national level, those down south would quiver in fear at the regular visits of Scottish hordes for British Home Championship games and club encounters alike, with a reputation for drunk and disorderly behavior. Statistically, alcoholism was five times more likely for a Scot than an Englishman as of 1967, and the stereotype was not helped by the likes of a Newcastle vs Rangers Fairs Cup semi-final in 1969 that had to be held up for 20 minutes due to rioting Rangers fans, and a friendly between Aston Villa and Rangers in 1976 that was called off for the same reason (games themselves both worthy of an article, but unfortunately footage does not seem to exist of either).

One of the most famous mass pitch invasions of all time occurred the following year at Wembley, after Scotland secured the Home Championship with a 2-1 victory over England in June 1977. During the celebrations – the highlight of which revolved around the destruction of the Wembley goalposts – commentator John Motson remarked how there had been a pitch invasion of the same sort from the Scots ten years earlier, and while fences were popping up at grounds around the country due to the general increase in crowd trouble, Wembley had yet to install their’s so the visiting supporters were free to encroach again here. He also mentions how these scenes of chaotic jubilation are “so typically Scottish”.


The goals come down as Scotland celebrate the 1977 British Home Nations championship victory in Wembley.

A few months later and the Tartan Army would be on English soil again, this time for a crucial World Cup qualifier away to Wales that was actually played at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. Wales had seen crowd trouble of their own when Yugoslavia were the opponents in Cardiff’s Ninian Park in 1976, and as a result the potentially volatile visit of the Scots was moved out of the usual national team home ground. The Welsh FA chose revenue over home-advantage by selecting to play the game across the border at the larger Anfield in order to sell more tickets, rather than Wrexham’s smaller Racecourse Ground.

Unlike Wembley, Anfield was in fact equipped with fences, which was a good thing for those intending to maintain order on the pitch, but in the terraces it was a different matter. The many thousands who had made their way down south for the game erupted into an epic sea of ecstatic chaos on the huge terrace behind the goal for Scotland’s two strikes late in the game, which secured World Cup qualification. Doubtlessly this would have spilled onto the pitch if not for the fences (as we have seen before at the same fixture 11 years earlier in People On The Pitch #2) and the amazing pandemonium demonstrated that a football match was certainly not a “family environment” at this time.


Scotland fans erupt as their side go 1-0 up "away" to Wales at Anfield in October 1977.

But it would be three years later back in Glasgow that Scottish football mayhem would reach it’s nadir, with the 1980 cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers fans. The conflict in Northern Ireland – to which the two clubs were inexorably linked due to their historical community affiliations – was at it’s height, doubtlessly spurring on the already existing tensions between the two huge rivals. After a Celtic victory, things would boiled over on that hot May day in Hampden Park, but as we definitely will be covering this game in full later, we won’t say more until then.


Scenes from 1980 Scottish Cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers supporters.

Throughout the following decade, more ogranised hooligan elements would spring up at Scottish clubs as they were doing throughout Britain, but good old spontaneous break-outs of trouble were still always a possibility. Celtic were again involved in another infamous incident at a UEFA Cup game in the mid-’80s that resulted in their following European fixture being played behind closed doors (again, we will come back to this later).


An empty Celtic Park as Celtic are forced to play Atletico Madrid behind closed doors in the 85/86 Cup Winners Cup.

That bring us up the dawn of the ’90s, and Celtic’s visit to Falkirk FC during the ’92/’93 season. Falkirk were a smaller team (although notably their foundation date of 1876 predates Celtic’s by 12 years) not as well known for violence, and today Wikipedia lists their two modern firms as the Falkirk Fear and Falkirk Yoof; names which ironically don’t really instill much fear at all. But while we’re not going to see any mass chaos at Falkirk here, we however will see how even a single individual can sometimes be enough to stop a match in it’s tracks.

The Match:

The first thing to highlight, as we often like to do, is the kits. Celtic’s Packie Bonner (“Packie” being a colloquial Irish shortening of Patrick) can be seen in a classic early ’90s Umbro goalkeepr strip in delicious yellow and dark green-tones that just hits the spot:

Visible in the above shot is also the fact that supporters in wheelchairs were positioned right beside the grass of the pitch, behind and to the sides of the goal. This seems heartwarming, but then again also indicates a lack of actual facilitates for such fans, as well as the proximity to goal creating a potentially uncomfortable situation if a particularly ferocious shot were to miss the target but connect with a vulnerable fanatic’s face, nearly surely knocking them clean out of their wheelchair if hit sweetly enough.

But anyway, continuing with the visitor’s attire, this was when Celtic were still maintaining the integrity of their sacred green and white hoops by uniquely not allowing numbers on the back of their shirts. Instead, the player’s number appeared on the front and back of their shorts. And despite having them since ’84/’85 season, Celtic were also devoid of a shirt sponsor for some reason in ’92’/93 (in the otherwise same kit as ’91/’92), delightfully making this strip feel even more minimal and retro for the era (retro-within-retro so to speak, and we’re sure someone knows the reason for the lack of sponsor, do get in touch if so!):

The hosts meanwhile were wearing an interesting Hummel kit, the make of which was not immediately obvious, although their recognisable arrows did feature on the sleeves and shorts. It seems Hummel were enthusiastically indulging as much as anyone in the increasingly outlandish nature of early-mid ’90s kits, leaving their sleek, stylish and iconic ’80s catalogue behind. It is perhaps no surprise then that the ’90s would not be a kind decade for them, but never the less the navy/white/red configuration of the Falkirk kit is a winner (and anyway, we like outlandish kits, and Hummel):

So that’s our early ’90s gear covered. As far as the ground itself – that being Falkirk’s old Brockville Park – the home fan’s main standing element were located on the small terrace behind the goal of the left, and a portion of the stand under the camera where police kept a watchful eye:

The sizable visiting support occupied terrace at the other end of the ground, and were also packed right around into the other end of the camera-side stand:

It would be at the away end that the first drama of the game would occur, when in the 27th minute Celtic defender Tony Mowbray used his hand to prevent the ball going into an empty net while Bonner was in no-mans-land. The future manager of Celtic among other clubs, Mowbray was promptly sent-off and the resulting spot-kick was converted much to the glee of the home support:

But it was extremely short lived joy, as only a minute later Celtic broke through the Falkirk defence and goalkeeper Gordon McDougall brought down attacker Andy Peyton in the box for another penalty. From this stemmed our main issue of the day, as while a Falkirk player tried to argue in vein with veteran referee Martin Clark, a small missile (perhaps a coin) was launched from the home end and connected with Clark right on the head:

As you can see, the player didn’t even seem to notice that anything was wrong at first, even as the ref was doubled over in pain, and acted like an awkward child around a parent who has just injured themselves doing DIY. Finally some linesmen and a slightly more concerned Celtic player come over and signal that assistance is needed for the distressed Clark:

The game was held up for a few minutes while medical treatment was given, and the veteran  ref – who doubtlessly had already experienced his fair share of football “rowdies” – was eventually able to continue. But as we mentioned earlier, here was an example of a “random” lower-key match (albeit massive for Falkirk due the visit  of one of the country’s biggest clubs) that had to be delayed due to the crowd; or in this case, a singe member of the crowd.

Celtic’s penalty was converted successfully, and as a result we can see thrugh the fan reaction that were was a decent percentage of those behind the goal who were in fact away fans:

Early in he second half, goals form both sides made it 2-2, before a frantic few minutes had the score at 4-3 going in to the last twenty minutes of the game (including an assist by a Falkirk player who had just lost his boot). After a sending off for the home side and another goal for Celtic to make things even once again (in both number of players and scoreline), a last minute goal from captain John Collins made it 5-4 to the Glasgow outfit, sparking an epic eruption from the away terrace:

As the players celebrated, we see that plenty of Celtic fans were also lactated in the main stand opposite the camera, meaning their huge traveling support were inhabiting at least parts of all four sides of the ground. The final whistle blew shortly afterwards to end the crazy game, which had seen it all:

Through a trouble lens, there was not outright chaos as in days gone by (although clearly a good atmosphere), but like with the Football Special Report #2 in Ireland, it was obvious that football in the early ’90s didn’t need oragnised gangs or per-ordained violence for incidents to still occur.

Youtube link

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Champagne Kit Campaigns #3: Russia 1992/93, World Cup ’94 Qualification

With the World Cup currently taking place in their country at the time of writing, it seems appropriate that our latest Champagne Kit Campaign goes back to look at Russia’s first ever time to compete in qualification as an independent state. We say “seems” since this is pure coincidence, as we are not doing anything special for the World Cup (although we will say it does contain the best collection of kits at a tournament since 1994 in our opinion).

This is our second look at World Cup ’94 qualifiers in the series after our examination of Norway’s 92/93 kits in episode #1 (followed by the Dutch at World Cup ’78 in #2), and it will definitely not be the last time that we revisit the period. Back in Politics On The Pitch #1, we also broke down how the collapse of communism in Europe at the time effected these qualifiers, which is of course extremely relevant to this Russia team, so check it out for more information if that type of thing is up your street. Now, on with CKC#3.

Background:

Russia’s international footballing history began at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, as following unofficial games against amateur sides in 1910 and ’11, the Russian Empire would field a team for the first time at that year’s tournament. Amber shirts and black shorts were used in these early years, representing the old imperial horizontal tri-colour flag of black, yellow/amber and white; colours which continue to be associated with nationalism in the country today.

The first opponents were Finland, who were in fact part of the Russian Empire at the time, and a 2-1 loss to their subordinates was followed by a 16-0 massacre at the hands of the German Empire.


Flag of the Russian Empire, 1858-1883.

This modest start on the pitch continued, as Russia’s first games on home soil saw them concede a combined 21 goals and scoring none over two games in three days against Hungary in Moscow in July, with both games drawing 3000 spectators. This grew to 8000 for the visit of Sweden the following May, when Russia would score their first home international goal in a 4-1 defeat.

Things continued to improve as a 1-1 draw with Norway in September came next, before away games in July 1914 saw back-to-back 2-2 and 1-1 draws in Sweden and Norway respectively.

But any chance for further progress stopped here, as international sports competition was interrupted by the international political competition of World War 1. The away game against Norway, as it turned out, would be the last match that a “Russia” would compete in for 78 years, as after the War, the Empire was overthrown before another match could be played.

The new entity of  the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (CCCP) in Russian, or simply the Soviet Union, was created on December 30th, 1920. Several unofficial games would be played in the ’20s and ’30, but the first and only official match of the era for the Soviets came against Turkey in 1924. Naturally, red shirts were adopted by the new side reflecting the red of socialism and the state’s flag, with a stylised “CCCP” for a crest.


Flag of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union take to a snowy field for their first official match, vs Turkey, 1924.

After World War 2, the USSR and their communist ally countries of Europe refused to take part in the the qualifiers for the upcoming 1950 Brazil World Cup, as the Cold War began to set in. But they would return to the international scene for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and by the Melbourne games four years later had adapted their shirt with what would become one of the most iconic shirt features of all time: the “CCCP” letters were now displayed across the chest.


Blurry "CCCP"s across the Soviet shirts, vs Yugoslavia, Olympics, 1956.

The Soviet Union would go on to win the first ever European Championships in 1960 and would remain as one of Europe’s most prominent sides for the next three decades, rarely missing out on World Cup qualification. At the 1966 edition, a change strip of white shirts with red trim and blue shorts was used against North Korea that would inadvertently foreshadow the future Russian colourway, but was quite possibly based on the flag of the Soviet naval ensign.


USSR's "Russia kit", vs North Korea, World Cup 1966.

Soviet naval ensign.

By the 1980s, a hammer and sickle themed crest was added to the shirts, which were now being made by Adidas. In this decade several iterations became quintessential examples of kit-style in the era, and would go on to be some of the most favoured shirts of many kit historians and casual fans alike.


USSR in one of their several iconic shirts of the '80s, vs England, Euro 88.

Classic USSR away kit, vs Netherlands, friendly, 1989.

As the 1990s began, the state of the Soviet Union was closing in on the end of it’s existence as communist regimes across eastern Europe collapsed. The football team would make the most of the little time they had left though, as after World Cup ’90 they would contest a whopping 27 games across friendlies, minor tournaments, unofficial games and Euro ’92 qualifiers, until the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991.

A friendly away to Scotland in February 1991 seemed to be the last time that the CCCP lettering was worn across the torso of the shirts (in this instance an away shirt), as the following month against Germany a new strip was debuted employing an eccentric Adidas template. The new shirt featured a “checkers” design on one shoulder and sleeve, and other patterns reminiscent of World War 1-era dazzle camouflage for ships (so henceforth we shall refer to this template as the “dazzle shirt”), but was devoid of a CCCP.


One of the last times the "CCCP" would be seen on a Soviet shirt, away to Scotland, friendly, 1991.

USSR, for the first time wearing what would turn out to be their last home kit, vs Germany, friendly, 1991.

A Euro ’92 qualifier away to red shirted Hungary in April saw the debut of the away version of the shirt, as part of an all-white ensemble. But then, a May game against England in Wembley for the “England Challenge Cup” saw a return of the previous “CCCP”-baring home shirt. It seems this was brought for it’s short sleeves as a warm weather alternative, as for their other game of the competition – vs Argentina at Old Trafford – the long sleeved dazzle shirt was again used. The England tie would prove to be actual the last time that the CCCP would be seen on a Soviet national team shirt.


USSR wearing their last away shirt for the first time, vs Hungary, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

USSR going back to CCCP shirts one more time as a warm weather option, vs England, friendly tournament, 1991.

USSR back in the "dazzle shirt", vs Argentina, friendly tournament, 1991.

Later in the month, the home shirt’s own short-sleeved version saw use for the first time at home to Cyprus in the European qualifiers, as part of an all-red strip. A warm weather version of the away shirt was also worn that summer, such as against Italy in another friendly competition: the Scania 100 Tournament.


USSR wearing the short sleeved version of their home shirt as part of an all-red strip, vs Cyprus, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

USSR's short-sleeved away shirt, displaying "dazzle camouflage" features, vs Italy, friendly tournament, 1991.

The year concluded with a final Euro qualifier away to Cyrpus in November, with a 4-0 win securing qualification for the Soviet Union had they continued to exist as a political entity. The white kit worn would be the last ever strip to be used by a Soviet side, as amid continuing turmoil, the Union formally dissolved on the 26th of December, 1991.


The last ever match of the Soviet Union, vs Cyprus, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

However, it was not to be the last time that the dazzle shirts would be seen in international football. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had been formed immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union as a confederation of the former Soviet republics, and as a “successor state” of sorts, a football team was created to inherit the USSR’s Euro ’92 spot.

The CIS played it’s first international in Miami against the United States in January 1992 in the short sleeved version of the last Soviet away jersey, with the long sleeves used in a follow up tie against the same opposition (who wore all-blue on both occasions) in Detroit days later.

In the absence of anything else, a Spanish language report of the game used a Russian flag to represent the CIS in match graphics, the presence of which – along with the continued use of a shirt featuring a hammer and sickle on the crest – demonstrated the confusing transitional nature of the era. The red ’91 Soviet home shirt also saw a revival and was worn one last time in a pre-Euro ’92 friendly against England.


CIS wearing the USSR's away kit in their first international match, vs USA, friendly 1992.

The Russian flag being used to represent the CIS, vs USA, friendly, 1992.

CIS wearing the USSR's all-red, vs England, friendly, 1992.

By the tournament itself, CIS would finally have their own kit in the form of the new Adidas Equipment range, and it was confirmed that like the USSR, red was being used as first choice shirt colour. White stereo shoulder bars dominated the shirt, with the CIS initials appearing in the centre of the chest in lieu of an actual crest. The new “Adidas Equipment” brand logo replaced the trefoil for the first time, while the white shorts only added a player number to said brand logo, both in black.


The CIS finally debut their own kit, vs Germany, Euro '92.

The numbers on the back of the shirts were white, but the presence of the shoulder bars proved problematic with regards players names – being used along with front-numbers for the first time in an international tournament. So as not to clash with the white of the bars, black was used for the letters, which over the red background were not exactly legible either.

The issue seemed to demonstrate that the template had not really been designed with the new kit requirements in mind (France also used the template at the competition but did not experience the same problem due to their two red outer bars, while Sweden in the other “mono-shoulder” version used yellow trim on their outer-right blue letters to avoid the issue).


The back of the CIS shirt, demonstrating the black lettering used for player names, vs Germany, Euro '92.

In their following game against the Netherlands, the CIS would use the away version of the new shirt for the first and only time, before returning to the red shirt for their last game of the competition against Scotland. It would be the last time that a CIS team would ever take to the field, making them what has to be the shortest-lived international side to ever compete at an international tournament.


The one and only outing for the CIS away kit, vs Netherlands, Euro '92.

The CIS' last appearance in international football, vs Scotland, Euro '92.

Finally we are approaching the conclusion of what is still just the background to our featured campaign. But this has all been relevant to what was about to happen. Well, maybe not that stuff about the colour of the player’s names, but we though it was interesting.

With the conclusion of the Euros, the need for a combined CIS side was no more and a new Russian team officially succeeded both the USSR and CIS in FIFA cannon, taking their allocated spot in the upcoming World Cup ’94 qualifiers in the process. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were also granted places, but as the earliest former-Soviet states to declare independence, they were the only ones besides Russia allowed to take part.

The likes of Ukraine had lobbied for a tournament between the nations who had made up the USSR instead, but this was blocked by Russia who naturally didn’t want to miss out on their chance at World Cup qualification.

 
Flag of Russia.

Before the qualifiers got under way though, there was still time for one friendly game and on August 17th, 1992, Mexico visited Moscow’s Lokomotiv Stadium to play in what was to be the Russia’s first international match as a modern state.

Amazingly, the short-sleeved version of the white Soviet dazzle shirt was brought back from the dead yet again (insert some sort of obvious Rasputin joke here), now being employed as a home jersey for Russia who were to wear white as a primary shirt colour. The only difference to what the USSR would have worn the year before was the shorts, which were the same as the CIS (minus numbers) rather than the shorter in length red-trimmed pairs used by the Soviets, which also meant that the kit contained both a trefoil on the shirt and Adidas Equipment logo on the shorts.


Russia wearing the old Soviet Union away shirt as their first ever home shirt, vs Mexico, friendly, 1992.

This meant that the jersey in question had now been worn by three different teams representing three separate political entities – also surely the only instance of it’s kind – as well as  the interesting dichotomy of a post-communist Russian side wearing a hammer and sickle insignia on their chests.

The use of the shirt did make sense though, as considering the turmoil of the time, it is not really surprising that producing new sports gear was not on top of anyone’s agenda. Of the available options to hand, it was evidently felt to be more appropriate to revert back to the less obviously Soviet shirt, rather than wear one which blatantly proclaimed “CIS”.

And so would be the state of Russian football and it’s kits going into the World Cup qualifiers of October 1992. With the upcoming tournament set to be hosted by their old Cold War rivals in the United States, surely a country with such stature and proud sporting tradition would have their own national team shirts ready to start a journey that would lead to a first appearance on the world stage…

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Russia, 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualification

On December 8th, 1991 – eighteen days before the USSR dissolved – the World Cup qualifier draw took place. The addition of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania helped to boost the number of participating European teams from 32 to 39, which dropped to 38 after the withdrawal of Lichtenstein who had been set to take part for the first time.

But the the changing political map inevitably meant the disappearance of  states also, with this having a profound effect specifically on Group 5. The group as originally drawn had contained the USSR and Yugoslavia – itself in the process of collapsing into chaos – as the first and second seeds:

While Russia would ultimately be awarded the Soviet Union’s place on June 1st, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now not including Croatia, Slovenia, or FYR Macedonia) had been suspended by FIFA and UEFA a few days earlier, after UN sanctions relating to the region’s escalating war. The immediate impact was losing out on their Euro ’92 spot, but also removal from the World Cup qualifiers (now down to 37 teams).

As the top seeds had lost a significant portion of the available players who would have joined the Russians in a united Soviet/CIS side, and the second seeds having vanished entirely, Group 5 was left unusually weak. Five groups of six teams and one of seven had originally been intended, but the Yugoslav suspension also created the odd situation where Group 5 contained only five teams, compared to the bloated seven of Group 3. Also worth mentioning is that only two points were still being awarded for a win rather than three at this stage, and the ultimate top two teams in each group would qualify.

Four of the five countries in Gourp 5 weren’t involved in the 1992 European Championships, so some qualifying games had already taken place in May and June of that year. Further fixtures in September and October meant that some teams had played two, or in the case of Iceland, three times before the brand new Russian side had even taken part in a group game. But later that month, the wait would finally be over.

UEFA Qualifying Group 5:

Russia
Hungary
Greece
Iceland
Luxembourg

Match 1, home to Iceland , 14/10/1992:

18,000 fans braved the cold in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for Russia’s first ever competitive game in their modern form, and the somewhat appropriate visit of Iceland (especially considering the tradition of playing Scandinavian teams in the pre-WW1 era). The low temperature was evident at the two benches, where hats, gloves and indeed blankets were the order of the day:

But more important, of course, was what was being worn on the pitch, and in answer to our rhetorical pondering at the end of the Background section, Russia in fact did take to the field once again using the old Soviet away shirt as a home jersey; naturally now employing the long sleeved version for the more wintry conditions.

However, someone had at least dug up a set on which the crest had yet to be applied, and additionally the trefoil was covered up with a Russian flag. Perhaps this shows that bitterness towards the west hadn’t just dried up over night, or else more likely that there was no actual deal with Adidas in place and Russia were just “pirating” the shirts:

But in the absence of their own bespoke national team shirt, a way was still found to further differentiate that it was in fact Russia playing and not the USSR, as the shorts and socks were now blue and red respectively. This amazingly meant that a shirt originally intended to bare a hammer and sickle in it’s crest, was now the top section of a kit that’s colours made up the Russian flag:

Added to this brilliance is the sheer delight of a shirt matched with shorts and socks that it wasn’t designed to be used with. After the Adidas Equipment shorts worn against Mexico, the shorter in length trefoil style was back, and we also get what appears to be another of our old favourites; an outfield player wearing goalkeeper gloves for no other reason than to keep warm:

Iceland for their part were in their first choice strip of blue and white, and the white/blue vs blue/white of the two team’s shirts and shorts created a clash situation the likes of which we have seen Bulgaria continually try to avoid before (again see link above). But it was clearly a minor miracle that Russia were able to take to the field in “their own” kits at all, so it is maybe no surprise that nothing was said here:

With their nearly Soviet shirts/Russian flag kits, a second half goal by Sergei Yuran – a Ukrainian who like Andrei Kanchelskis had chosen to declare for Russia – was enough to give the hosts “all 2 points”,  in what was a historic game for the nation.

Russia 1 – 0 Iceland

Match 2, home to Luxembourg , 28/10/1992:

If conditions were bad for the Iceland encounter, then things were about to hit a whole new level two weeks later for the visit of another of Europe’s “minnows” in Luxembourg, as the Russian winter really began to set in. The match would most likely have been postponed in modern times, but as this was 1992 it went ahead and as a result may be one of the most heroic games in the history of the sport.

In comparison to the 18,000 in attendance for the previous fixture – modest for a country of nearly 150 million but respectable, all things considered – only 1750 spectators made it to the same venue. Part of the reason was a heavy snow, which from certain camera angles made it seem like the game was being played in the middle of desolate tundra rather than a football stadium. Despite obviously having been cleared using some sort of vehicle, a fine layer also covered much of the pitch, but enough was visible to allow for the sports game to proceed:

And it was a good thing too, as finally Russia were able to wear jerseys that they could call their own – albeit quite bare ones which clearly weren’t made for them. Adidas was again the brand, with the trefoil on the chest again covered with a Russian flag as the “caretaker crest”. But dark blue raglan sleeves were accompanied by red Adidas stripes, as well as the branding on the shorts and socks, making it quite clear what was being worn:

The blue shorts from the Iceland game were retained, but since Luxembourg were wearing all-red, white socks with blue trim were introduced.

The away team’s shirt was noteworthy for it’s use of another elaborate Adidas template of the era (a sort of cousin of the Soviet dazzle shirt, in spirit if not design), which may not have been used by any other national side (seen here worn by Legia Warsaw). The near-turquoise shade of blue as a secondary colour only adds to the beautiful strangeness:

As you can see above, leggings were employed by most if not all the players, another of our favourite old school practices (and you better believe someone was wearing goalkeeper gloves who shouldn’t have been). The eccentric Luxembourgian manager-legend Paul Philipp (apparently nicknamed “The Spasti One”) was well prepared for the Moscow freeze too, donning a stylish-but-practical parka, while also exhibiting the equally fetching orange Adidas Tango ball:

Continuing the impressive the side-line style was the unmistakably Adidas jacket being warn by the official in charge of substitutes. Bonus points are added for the large manual number indicators, while the sparse crowd can be seen on the snow covered terrace opposite:

The fans who had braved the elements were rewarded with an early goal from that man Yuran, which was followed by another from Dmitri Radchenko to give Russia their second victory. While the game against Mexico had been historic for being their first match, and the Iceland game their first competitive match, now Russia had played their first game in what were their own actual shirts. Kind of.

Russia 2 – 0 Luxembourg

Early 1993 friendlies:

Russia’s next two games came the following January in the Nehru Cup, an annual tournament hosted by India that the Soviet Union had participated in and won several times. While it is pretty irrelevant to our main subject, the make up of that year’s competition may be one of the most amazing and diverse assortments of national teams you could find, with Finland, Bolivia, Cameroon and North Korea (the eventual winners) joining Russia and the hosts. What we do not know is if Russia maintained their makeshift kits for the tournament, as presumably short sleeved versions were at least needed for the Indian heat.

But by the following month, when Russia took on the United States in Orlando – just over a year after CIS had played there in Soviet shirts – they did so at last wearing a kit that was entirely made for them. Adidas had been replaced by Reebok, who at this stage were just beginning to wade in to the football kit market, and a template that was used that we have seen before (see Retro Shirt Reviews #3).

The brazen incorporation of a huge Reebook logo motif on the shirt was quite the turn around from covering up the Adidas logo the previous year, with a smaller Reebok logo within the left shoulder section, and interestingly there were front numbers as well as finally an actual real crest. The shiny shorts, which too were shorter in length than the Adidas Equipment style, also featured a modified version of the big Reebok logo:

With this modern and stylish outfit, the last remnants of the previous era finally faded away (although the red away shirt and white shorts used due to the USA’s white shirts and blue shorts, gave quite an almost Soviet feel to the kit). Or so you would have thought…

That is because after completing the North American tour with two more games against El Salvador and the USA, Russia traveled to Israel for one last friendly in March before the qualifiers resumed, and incredibly went back to old Soviet shirts. This time the red version of the dazzle shirt was worn, again using a batch with no crest, but unlike the Iceland game the trefoil remained unobscured (perhaps not seen as an issue since this was a lower profile game). White “per-Equipment” Adidas shorts were used, but based on the stripe count, the white socks appear to have been of another brand:

Match 3, away to Luxembourg , 14/04/1993:

After the hellish conditions in Moscow for the previous tie (although hell is hot so that’s not really apt), 3180 were in attendance on a calmer spring evening at the classically European Stade Municipal in Luxembourg for the return game, thus giving a nation of less than half a million people a greater turn out than the biggest country in the world.

The hosts wore the same red kit as seen in Russia, while the visitors chose to go with all-white rather than blue shorts as before. But more notably, after having paid homage to their Soviet predecessors by bringing back a shirt that seemed done and dusted, Russia returned to Reebok once and for all.

The home version of the red shirt seen against the USA was used, but curiously the number was moved to the right rather than centrally like on the away. This seems to be because the red section of the big Reebok logo comes down at a more diagonal angle on the home shirt; too close for comfort to the also red numbers. The white socks used with the otherwise Adidas kit against Israel were also back, indicating that they were indeed Reebok made:

Goals from Kiryakov, Shalimov and Kulkov delivered a 4-0 victory as expected for the Russians, seen below following the third goal with marvelous Germanic country names and frilled flag graphics:

Luxembourg 0 – 4 Russia

Match #4, home to Hungary , 28/04/1993:

On a fine evening for football, 25,000 were in attendance at the Luzhniki for the visit of Hungary next, now the de-factor second seeds in the group. Having only come up against the two weakest sides so far, this was to be somewhat of a sterner test for Russia, although the visitors were in the midst of a particularly weak era.

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As Hungary’s red, white and green Umbro-made strip did not produce any sort of clash, Russia could go back to their first choice “flag kit” of white, blue and red:

It was the first time that the blue Reebok shorts were being seen (at least in a competitive setting) and what a shade of blue they were, as well as that amazing shininess:

To top off the day, goals from the two Ukrainian born players mentioned earlier and one from Kolyvanov in between gave Russia a 3-0 victory, keeping up their impressive 100% record in competitive football to date and with zero goals conceded. Of course more impressive to use was their streak of not yet wearing the same kit more than once.

But with the respectable crowd and comfortable weather conditions, full first-preference colours and kit with actual crest, and an emphatic victory over a regional rival with a proud football tradition, this finally felt like Russia’s first true big day as a national team.

Russia 3 – 0 Hungary

Match #5, at home to Greece , 23/05/1993:

As Russia’s march towards qualification went on, so too rose the crowd as the visit of  Greece attracted 35,000 spectators. Before the game, a minute’s silence took place. If anyone knows the reason why, do get in touch.

The all-white kit seen away to Luxembourg made a return for Russia, making it the first time so far that they had actually worn the same kit twice. This allowed the visitors to use their all-blue Diadora affair, which made more sense than the over-all clash that would have occurred if they had gone with blue shirts and white shorts against Russia’s apparent first preference of white shirts and blue shorts, like what happened at the Iceland game:

This seems like a good point to give our customary nod to the goalkeeper’s attire. Here, cult-hero Dimitri Kharine was in a classically early ’90s top featuring black sleeves, a busy yellow and purple/pink design on the torso with no crest, a multicoloured horizontal band (seeming to be dark yellow from a distance) that also appears at the end of the sleeves, and of course his trademark tracksuit bottoms:

More delightful Adidas FIFA gear was being worn by the sideline official; a tracksuit in the style (and colourway) of the shirt template that had been used by France a couple of years prior, among others. A less well-dressed, slightly suspicious individual (purely due to his out of place-ness) stands near by:

On the pitch Russia finally conceded a goal and dropped points, but a penalty from another Ukrainian born player Igor Dobrovolski was enough to keep the ever growing Luzhniki-faithful confident of progression to the World Cup:

Russia 1 – 1 Greece

Match #6, away to Iceland , 02/06/1993:

Russia next traveled to Reykjavík, and with a similar athletics ground and attendance (3308) to the Luxembourg away game, the visitors  were no doubt equally expectant of a similar result here which would secure qualification. But Iceland had taken a point in Luxembourg in their previous match, and more impressively had beaten Hungary 2-1 in Budapest a year and a day before this visit of Russia. Although conditions were better than for the reverse fixture the previous year, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was summer time by the Icelandic bench who were wrapped up very snugly:

Meanwhile, in the ten days since the Greece game, Russia had only gone and got themselves another new kit. The big Reebok logo was replaced by a solid blue shoulder/sleeve with red border, and both the crest and front number had been moved from their respective sides to the centre of the shirt. The more contemporary longer and non-shiny shorts style was also back on Russian lower-halves:

With Iceland in the same strip as in Moscow, Russia debuted another new combination in white, white and red, helping create more of a difference than before, although the large blue element on especially the shirt (but also the shorts reflected from the shirt sleeve onto the opposite leg) meant that there was basically enough similarity to potentially still cause problems:

Kharine was also in a new shirt which still featured purple prominently while grey replaced yellow as the accompanying colour, but like the previous version, no crest was to be seen:

For the second match in a row Russia went a goal down, before Kiriakov pulled one back for another 1-1 draw:

The point earned gave Russia 10 points to date, behind Greece on 13 who had already mathematically qualified. Iceland would continue their good form with 2-0 and 1-0 home wins next against Hungary and Luxembourg respectively to conclude their group games, but it was not to be enough as they could only finish on 8 points. Hence, Russia had qualified for their first World Cup finals.

Iceland 1 – 1 Russia

Summer Friendly:

In late July, Russia went to Paris for a friendly match against France. With the way the new Russia kit had fit together against Iceland, it seemed that perhaps white shirts, white shorts and red socks had been decided on as new first preference colours. But with the French also in their usual white shorts and red socks, a change was already needed.

Russia went to white socks not yet seen, featuring a Reebok logo half way down. But the all-white look was decided against in favour of blue shorts, and since apparently none had yet been made to go with the new shirt template, the big Reebook logo/shiny style made a return creating another mis-matched kit (both in design and shade of blue):

Match #7, away to Hungary , 08/09/1993:

With the pressure now off, Russia could go to Hungary in September in a relaxed mood, although top spot in the group was still up for grabs between them and Greece.

As we have seen before in our debut edition of the Cold War Classic, Hungary seemed to have a habit of inexplicably wearing their away shirts at home. This seemed to have been the same here as both teams turned out in change kits, with the hosts ending up in Russia’s own home colour of white; odd since the two countries home strips had clearly been proved compatible at the reverse fixture in Moscow.

But the issue may have stemmed from the visitors, as Russia debuted another new shirt: a blue version of the template on the home shirt, with red replacing blue on the sleeve. Why this shirt was brought instead of the white one is a mystery, but presumably the presence of the large red block was deemed significant enough by the referee (who must have been stricter than the one in charge of the Iceland away game) to clash with Hungary’s red shirt, who instead then used their white away shirt and white socks to match instead of the usual green:

To make matters stranger, Russia had still yet to come up with accompanying blue shorts to match the new template, despite now even having a blue version of the shirt itself. As a result, the big Reebok logo shorts in blue used against France were retained, while red socks with solid white turn overs were seen for the first time:

Uzbek-born Andrey Pyatnitsky opened the scoring for the visitors, a player who was on his 4th national team, exceeding even the dazzle shirt. Pyatnitsky had featured in one match for the USSR in 1990 and was a CIS regular in ’92, but had also earned two caps for his home country of Uzbekistan before finally switching to Russia in 1993.

Hungary pulled one back shortly after, but a Kiriakov goal in the second half gave the advantage back to the visitors and was met with a hail of projectiles from Budapest’s unhappy Népstadion as the Russian players celebrated:

Aleksandr Borodyuk strike in the 89th minute secured an away win to keep Russia undefeated and end their mini-run of 1-1 draws.

Hungary 1-3 Russia

Autumn Friendly:

Russia had now played 7 of their 8 games in the group, and with final opponents and top-spot rivals Greece still play to Luxembourg in October in between, Russia used the time to play a friendly in Saudi Arabia. With the Saudi’s in white shirts, green shorts, and white socks, the Russians channeled the French by going blue, white and red:

But even though Russia could have worn the white shorts seen against Iceland which would have perfectly complimented the away shirt, for some reason the white big Reebok logo shorts were resurrected to also get their chance to be mis-matched with the away shirt:

Match #8, away to Greece , 17/11/1993:

After Greece had won in Luxembourg as expected, the last match of the group when Russia were to visit Athens became a virtual play-off to see who would top the group as both teams had 12 points going in to the game, although Russia had a superior goal difference in the case of a draw. But with both sides already on their way to their respective debut appearances at a World Cup, there was a festive atmosphere with plenty of pyro from the 75,000 in attendance at the Olympic Stadium to greet the teams:

Better late than never, but here we finally get a look at some excellent Russian tracksuit tops as the players  pose for their team photo:

This was another game where it seems like it would have made most sense to repeat the kit configuration of the previous tie, with Greece in all-blue and Russia in all-white to eliminate any confusion.  Instead we got a repeat of the colour swatch from Russia’s opening game of the group against Iceland, as Greece wore blue, white and blue with Russia in white, blue and red.

But the issue with the shirt template that seemed to have caused the away-kit vs away-kit situation in Hungary reared it’s head again, as evidently it was felt that the amount of blue on the sleeve of the home shirt would clearly clash with the Greek jerseys. And so the big Reebok logo joined it’s shorts counterpart and was resurrected, the first time it had been seen since Greece came to Moscow in May, but unlike on previous occasions front numbers did not feature. To appropriately conclude things, news socks were debuted; red versions of the ones which displayed a Reebok logo halfway down:

This is a game that we will come back to cover itself on the site some day, as unsurprisingly there was pyro on the pitch, and plenty of it as it was to be Greece’s night. The only goal of the game came in the 69th minute to seal the game and give Russia their first competitive defeat, and the team who had originally been fourth seeds topped the group.

In the light of their own qualification, this won’t have mattered too much to the Russians in the end. But more impressive than their achievements on the pitch in their first 14 months as team, was their amazing record of having worn seven distinctively different kits in their eight games of the group, summing up and wrapping up this incredibly interesting time period for the team, and the series of events that had led to it.

Greece 1 – 0 Russia

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Breakdown:

Team: Russia 
Years: 1992, 1993
Competition: World Cup '94 qualifiers
Kit Supplier: Adidas(unofficial?)/Reebok
Competitive Games: 8
Kit Colour Combinations: 5
Kit Technical Combinations: 7

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Aftermath:

This was not to be the end of Russia’s relationship with the big Reebok logo shirt as at least three more versions would be used through home and away kits in ’94, ’95 and ’96,  between various other Reebok kits. Which is perfect really considering what we have seen here. The other template with the blue seelve, meanwhile, never saw the light of the day again, clearly being deemed more hassle than it was worth. But it was a nice idea.

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