Kit Interested #2 – Anderlecht Champions League 93/94; Ireland Socks 87-90; Gallery

Welcome to issue #2 of Kit Interested, a sort of virtual mini-magazine taking a look at interesting kit situations that we think are worth sharing. Click here if you missed the bumper debut installment, where we began with a look at a Spurs-Chelsea game in the late 70s; a Greece-Australia game in the early 80s; Portugal and Porto in the early 90s; and Ireland’s “curse” of away shirts at the World Cup.

As mentioned above, last time in ‘KI’ we examined some of Porto’s unusual 93/94 Champions League kits . Their run included a meeting with Belgian champions Anderlecht and by pure coincidence it is to them, in the same campaign, that we first turn.

That season may be particularly compelling due Adidas’ continuing change over from the trefoil era to the Equipment and post-Equipment eras, the effects of which could be seen on Porto’s updated attire during the later rounds. Another aspect, which would probably be lost on some new fans from today’s ultra-comercialised world, was the prohibition of over-branding at the time in UEFA competitions.

Anderlecht, Champions League 1993/94

Anderlecht’s Champions League began with a First Round two-legged tie in September 1993 against the Finns of HJK Helsinki, who had already dispatched of regional neighbours FC Norma of Estonia in the preliminary round. There would be a group stage in this edition of the tournament too, but now quite yet.

From the 2nd leg in Brussels’ Constant Vanden Stockstadion, we see Anderlecht’s initial shirt in the competition (as well as the gruesome barbed fences needed to keep off the fearful Belgian hooligan, like we saw here), the white and purple of which was deemed acceptable against HJK’s blue and white stripes. On first glance they appear to be in their standard league home kit, which used the Adidas Equipment template with diagonal bars top and bottom, but there were some differences:

To comply with sponsor regulations at this stage of the competition, the huge “G” on the front of the jersey – the logo of ‘Generale Bank’ – had been reduced in size, so it was closer to the top bars rather than nearly touching both on the domestic version. A miniature “G” logo on the right sleeve was also removed, but no Champions League badges were in sight just yet to replace it:

Besides these alterations, there were differences within the kit to some other versions used by clubs such as Arsenal away and Porto away. Only one of the bars on each end of the shirt were in line with each other, unlike the two on those mentioned above, and the shorts bars were “sliced” diagonally along their tops (see above gif) – clearly intended for use with one of the other variants of Equipment templates – instead of straight across like on the shirt.

Lastly, looking at the number style used on the back, a slim outline of the block digits was the only real detail with the removal of another logo, “LS”, which was present in the league – presumably another sponsor.  But again, look at that fence:

With 3-0 wins home and away, the Belgians progressed to the next round in October 1993 to take on Sparta Prague – technically still representing the old Czechoslovak First League as the last champions, rather than the Czech Republic’s new version. A 5-2 aggregate scoreline advanced Anderlecht again, doing so in the same kit as used in the first two games but with more long sleeves on show as the weather got colder:

Now, plopped right in the middle of the tournament, it was time for the group stage, running from November 24, 1993, to April 13, 1994. Anderlecht were placed in the second of the two groups of four, Group B, along side Milan, Porto and Werder Breman, with the top two set to progress to the semis.

The group began with the Italian side visiting a fantastically snow covered Constant Vanden Stock. This also created the need for the fantastic orange Tango (or Etrusco Unico?) ball:

As were the rules in this era for colour clashes, the home side changed from their usual white shorts and socks to allow for Milan’s of the same colour, pleasingly – and seamlessly – combining their purple away versions with the home jersey:

The jersey was where the real change was at, though. As the competition had now progressed to a more “important” TV-watchable round, all shirt sponsorship was now banned and so the “G” disappeared completely, while a Champions League “star-badge” now did appear on the right sleeve. But most interesting was the fact that the that Adidas Equipment logo was suddenly gone, replaced by a strange purple panel and with an enlarged Adidas wordmark underneath:

At first, the somewhat clumsy alteration may have seemed like an adherence to the branding rules too. But the logo was still present on the shorts and socks, not to mention seen on the likes Spartak Moscow and Monaco’s versions in the same round:

Unless there was some sort of misunderstanding where Anderlecht had thought that they needed to remove it, the change seems more in line with Adidas’ next phase of marketing. This had already begun with the French national team’s self-censorship of the logo a few months earlier (seen below away to Sweden, August 93) only two years since it had first been introduced by Liverpool and would be followed by the new wave of national kits about to be released for the World Cup, which also all featured an ‘adidas’ wordmark only:

After a 0-0 draw in the snow against the Italians, it was to be a high-scoring affair in the German rain next with the Belgians’ visit to Werder Bremen’s Weserstadion in December. The same kit colours as the previous game were used by the traveling side as they scored three but conceded five:

But again there was updates. The purple panel under the collar was gone leaving only the ‘adidas’, which looked far more sensible, and the Champions League star-badge was replaced with the black rectangle version:

After this match came the break, with Anderlecht’s next continental fixture not until the following March. During the meantime, a league game away to FC Liègeois on January 15, 1994, shows that domestically the version with the Equipment logo was still in use…:

…but on February 26th at home to KSK Beveren, a short-sleeved panel-version was seen side-by-side with other players wearing long-sleeved logo-versions:

When the tournament finally resumed on March 2nd, Anderlecht welcomed Porto and appeared in all-purple for the first time in the competition, accommodating the Portuguese side’s blue and white stripes. Apparently the resulting shorts clash wasn’t considered an issue:

The away jersey was of course like the home counter-part, and unlike its league counterpart, in the lack of maker-logo. A white sleeve patch also appeared this time:

On the back there was one slight difference to the previously seen shirts, apart from colour. Box-type numbers were preferred over the outlined-blocks of before:

The away kit at home proved good luck as a winning goal the 88th minute gave Anderlecht a famous European night. For the return game in Porto two weeks later, the kits were of course reversed – Porto in all-blue and Anderlecht in all-white, with the short-sleeved version of the logo-less/sponsorless, shirt appearing for the first time:

As the kits had been reversed, so too would the result as the Belgian champs were defeated 2-0 in the Estádio das Antas. The next game in the San Siro against Milan at the end of the month was now a must-win game, as it always looked likely to be.

Despite the earlier mentioned rules, as in Brussels (except now far less cold) Anderlecht used the purple shorts and socks again with the now standard European-jersey:

On the back the regular number style returned, mirrored by the shirts of the opposition. Perhaps the numbers were produced by the same company:

A respectable 0-0 proved fruitless, as the scoreline, coupled with Porto’s 0-5 win in Bremen, meant that both they and Milan would progress no matter what happened in the last group games. When Werder did come to Brussels in April, the same kit-configuration was chosen as last time and a 1-2 away win meant that Anderlecht finished bottom of the group:

The continental dream was over, but another league championship victory soon after meant that one more shot at Champions League glory, however unlikely, would come the following season. First there was a different trophy to win, though, in the Belgian Cup.

Defeating great rivals Club Brugge in Liège’s Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Anderlecht did so while debuting their kit for the following season. A new template, drawing on the previous iterations bars motiff, was worn as the double was completed, but the Equipment logo itself was finally banished for ever…:

…until 1998 at least.

Since this section worked out like a miniature club-version of Champagne Kit Campaigns, it seemed apt to include a CKC-style breakdown at this point:

Breakdown
Club: Anderlecht 
Season: 1993/94
Competition: Champions League
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Games: 10
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 5

*

And now a somewhat random selection of interesting kits, lesser seen shirt designs, and aesthetically pleasing jerseys in picture form.

Gallery

Banik Ostrava, 1990:

Bari, Adidas, 1991/92:

Chealsea away shirt and socks with home shorts, Umbro, 1987:

Hendon FC, 1974:

Latvia away, Adidas, 1995:

Maglie, imitation-Adidas sleeve flashes, 1993:

Netherlands goalkeeper, Adidas, tracksuit bottoms continuing the yellow on black stripes creating a virtual full-body kit, 1983:

Prussen Munster, Adidas, wearing an Equipment style template nearly a decade after the original and a decade and a half before it was reintroduced, 2002:

Brann Bergen, Hummel, Denmark 1992 style and colourway, 1993:

Türkiyemspor Berlin, Lotto, year unknown:

*

Having broken down Ireland’s World Cup shirts game by game in the last KI to show that they have so far never won a World Cup finals match in an away shirt, a similar project on the country’s European Championships record would be of less interest considering the considerably smaller sample side. But their first appearance at the tournament in 1988 was notable for more than just the famous victory 1-0 over England (well, in our eyes, not many others would care).

Republic of Ireland’s sock situation, 1987-90

The Irish had began their successful Euro 88 qualification campaign in 1986 after having recently switched kit makers to Adidas for the first time, after over a decade with local firm O’Neills. Fairly plain designs were seen at first, such as the outfit worn at home to Bulgaria in October 1987 (below left), but there were hints of the detailing to come later withe addition of orange trim to the white v-neck and cuffs for a friendly against Israel the following month (below right):

The first friendly of 1988 against Romania also saw the debut of Ireland’s first tournament jersey. The upgraded, new model featured a lighter shade of green on modern shinier material; an enlarged trefoil; sleeve hoops; turn-over collar (with the v-neck becoming a crossover v-neck); Adidas’ iconic striped numbers on the back: and a retention of the orange trim:

ireland-romania-1988

But we say debut of jersey rather than the full kit, as the shorts and socks were the same as seen before, both baring standard Adidas stripes and trefoils – meaning a slightly mismatched shade of green on the socks to that of the shirt. Not immediately obvious (although you won’t be able to stop seeing it now) was the fact that the socks also featured white feet, visible just above the boot in the images above.

This look was used for the rest of the pre-tournament warm-up games, such as at home to Yugoslavia and Poland (Ireland perhaps preparing for their Euro group opponents the Soviet Union by taking on other Eastern Block teams; we can’t find evidence for what was worn in the last friendly away to Norway on June 1st). A version with “OPEL” sponsor, like the fans had to buy, was used for Frank Stapleton’s testimonial against a Rest of World XI in May:

When the kick-off finally came for Ireland’s biggest ever match until point against England in Stuttgart in Euro 88 Group B, it turned out that the real tournament kit had not yet been seen at all. Like the UEFA ban on sponsorship in their club competitions discussed earlier, kit-branding was constrained by more demanding specifications at this time, which had most notably effected Euro 80 with several makshift cover-ups.

By Euro 88, the rules had been relaxed so that logos themselves were now allowed if kept below a certain size and not repeated excessively. Accordingly, the trefoil on Ireland’s shirt was significantly smaller than the one seen in the lead-up, although few will have noticed the change (game vs Poland on the left for comparison):

More likely to have been noticed was the difference further down the kit (certainly by ourselves closer to the time), as the trefoil on the socks of before was clearly considered excessive. The stripes alone would have been fine, but apparently the discovery was made too close to the finals to switch to stripe-only pairs like the Dutch and the Soviets (who’s Olympic 88 team, incidentally, demonstrated how the sock trefoil was fine in a non-UEFA setting later that summer) and the Irish instead took to the field against their former colonial overlords in nondescript, slightly dark green stockings:

At least the off-tone green was consistent with the original pairs. Of course in today’s world Adidas would have nearly certainly supplied alternates for the Irish, but here, seemingly, a convenient smaller brand was chosen at near last minute (although since this is the FAI we’re talking about they may well have received fair warning).

The poorer quality compared to Adidas’ material was evident through better photos of the game, as the socks were practically see-through when stretched to their desired length, but the foot of the sock was still white at least bringing in some consistency. Naturally, the same models were kept on for the other two games against the USSR (left) and Netherlands (right):

After the “heroic” elimination at the Euros – which could never be considered a failure due to the magnificent defeat of the English – Ireland set out for what would become an even more historic journey to the quarter finals of the World Cup (don’t worry, we’re not going that far).

First up on this new quest was another politically charged fixture away to Northern Ireland in September, who’s green and white strip gave an opportunity to finally see the Irish away kit. Interestingly, white socks with plain green turn-overs were chosen (below left) despite the trefoil now being acceptable again, as seen on the North’s own Adidas socks (below right):

Perhaps this indicated that the socks had originally been intended for the Euros and its rules (the smaller trefoil used on the shirt also matched that on the Euro home jersey, supporting this theory). In one sense though, the solid blocks of green on the turnovers rather than stripes actually complimented the shirt, and solid numbers made a return at the expense of the striped style on the back which also matched:

For the following two games – a friendly at home to Tunisia and a World Cup qualifier away to Spain – the pre-Euro kit returned complete with enlarged shirt trefoil, and stripes and trefoils on the socks.

Ireland’s next competitive fixture was away to Hungary in March 1989 when the away kit made its second and last appearance in this form. Unlike against Northern Ireland, however, the non-Euro version was used for the first time – again with the larger shirt trefoil and correctly branded Adidas socks – meaning the only real consistent element between the two matches was the shorts (and the number style remaining solid):

After this, the non-Euro home kit was worn for the next several games until the return match against Northern Ireland in Dublin. Now, with only two games left in qualifying, the socks first seen all the way back in 1986 against Wales (both manager Jack Charlton’s and Adidas’ first match with Ireland) were finally retired and striped pairs which would have made more sense at Euro 88 turned up, again with trademark white feet:

Even though the old socks had been hold-overs from a previous strip and were of a shade to reflect that, their retention was reasonable (until the Euro situation) as they really did fit the kit and were the style of the time. Considering that they had already spanned two qualifying campaigns, it was then slightly apt that a random substitution be made at this point rather than leave them be for the last two games in the group (and a friendly against Wales the following March where this configuration was also used).

The follow-up pair could then, logically, be saved for the up-coming 1990 World Cup kit reveal where it belonged. Except shockingly, when the new World Cup shirt actually debuted against USSR in April 1990, the resilient trefoil socks made a stunning return from retirement for one last match. Of course:

*

YouTube Links

Anderlecht:
Anderlecht vs HJK Helsinki, 1993
Sparta Pargue vs Anderlecht, 1993
Anderlecht vs Milan, 1993
Werder Bremen vs Anderlecht, 1993
Werder Bremen vs Anderlecht, 1993
Liègeois vs Anderlecht,1994
Anderlecht vs Beveren, 1994
Anderlecht vs Porto, 1994
Porto vs Anderlecht, 1994
Milan vs Anderlecht, 1994
Anderlecht vs Werder Breman, 1994 (Dailymotion)
Anderlecht vs Club Brugge, 1994

Ireland:
Ireland vs Bulgaria, 1987
Ireland vs Israel, 1987
Ireland vs Romania, 1988
Ireland vs Rest of World, 1988
Ireland vs Poland, 1988
Ireland vs England, 1988
Ireland vs USSR, 1988
Ireland vs Netherlands, 1988
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1988
Hungary vs Ireland, 1989
Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1989
Ireland vs USSR, 1990

*****

 

StickeRound-Up #1 (Gallery)

“Stick around for the Sticker Round-Up!”. Get it? A friend of the site suggested “Stick ‘Em Up”, which was also a worthy name contender for the new sticker-based feature here on PyroOnThePitch.com.

Although we usually focus on the football world of the past there are exceptions, such as our following of the Finland national team via the POTP social media pages. Another is our adherence to the philosophy of “support your local club” – especially important now more than ever in the face of the super-corporation clubs literally attempting to take over the world – and respect to those do.

In most major towns and cities around Europe the evidence of these fans is all around, although the majority who walk by are oblivious to meaning of the stickers covering many poles, posts and pubs. To those who know it is clear that ultras, hooligans and other dedicated supporters are everywhere and in this series we document the calling cards of football street art found during recent journeys close to POTP HQ (and sometimes further afield).

Fidelis AndriaBrigata Fidelis:

Brann BergenExile Bergen and Eastland(?):

FC Metz and Eintracht Trier10 years of friendship:

De Graafschap – Didam 0316:
 

Zenit St. Petersburg264 Cri$py Boys:

Sportclub Feyenoord (amateur team of Feyenoord Rotterdam):

Rapid WienBlock West, covered by Botev PlovdivBultras:

AuxerreUltras Auxerre 1990:

1.FC KölnBoyz Köln Ultras (now dissolved):

Real SociedadRSF Firm Antifascist Hooligans:

Djurgårdens IFUltra Caos Stockholm

SSV Reutlingen 05Szene E 2005:

Austria Wien:

Servette FCSection Grenat 30 Years:
 

Eintracht Braunschweig:
Glasgow CelticGreen Brigade

Shelbourne FC:

Holstein KielNew Connection:
US CreteilUltras Creteil:

FC Hansa Rostock:

Pyro On The Pitch:

Steaua BucureștiVacarm:

Shelbourne FCCoolock Reds:

Hertha Berlin:
Levante UDSección Puerto 46520:
Widzew ŁódźOne City – One Club:
*****

 

Early Modern #1 – Kits and Gear (Shelbourne Fanzine Special)

This article was originally published back at the beginning of March (2019) in issue 65 of the excellent Shelbourne FC fanzine Red Inc., produced by the fine fellows at Reds Independent. We had originally catagorised this as a Football Special Report, but since it was followed by a new “Early Modern” in the next issue of RI in May, the executive board-room decision was made to class it as a stand-alone mini-series.

After our first two RI entries naturally focused on Shelbourne (Pyro On The Pitch #10 and Retro Shirt Reviews #7), we decided to take things in a different direction this time and provide some general enlightenment on the roots of football kits as we know them.

Intro:

Upon hearing the word “modern”, most people would not think of the 1500s. Yet this is said to have been the period when the Middle Ages ended and the “Early Modern Period” began. It is really no wonder why when considering seismic events around the time that would shape the next several hundred years, including the the break-up of the church, the recent “discovery” of the new world and the foundation of what would evolve into many of today’s established nation-states.

Of course it is also true that the idea of “modern” is now so old that when the term was coined, the 16th century was in fact recent enough history. So much has happened since then that we have basically passed by the “modern era” (think of your stereotypical 1950s American nuclear family) and are now living in the post-modern world. But given the timeline of the planet, and indeed universe, all these terms are arbitrary and one could as easily define the age of Christ or the discovery of fire as the beginning of modern human times.

Organised football does not have quite as long a history, although there is something intriguingly esoteric about nature of the sport (man’s attempt to control the inherent chaos of a sphere/”planet”, within the lines of order/”civilisation”, that he has created) that seemingly give it huge appeal to all class of human. But as sport, and football in particular, is always a mirror for the greater world, the post-modern macrocosm of society is reflected in the post-modern microcosm of the game.

Considering the grim realities that lay behind the wealth of “western culture” these days, and therefore likewise behind the massive industry of professional soccer, most of us are not fans of this fact and lament the grotesque, corrupted demon-spirit that metaphorically controls the sport at the highest levels. True local football grounds like Tolka Park (for the moment) at least still give real supporters the chance to continue to experience a purer form, unlike conditions at corporatised top flight stadiums around Europe and the Sky Sports-watching culture.

But similar to your average citizen’s concept of “modern” history, some fans may also not realise that many practices currently seen in and around football, and football gear, date back far longer – in experimentation at the least – than is generally thought. In this vein we will now look back at some real “ahead-of-it’s time” thinking, specifically when it came to kits for now, and the “early modern” aspects of the footballer fashion world.

The numbers game:

When viewing videos of old-old-old school football, several things immediately stand out to contemporary eyes such as weird goal posts, keepers without gloves on, horrifyingly uncomfortable boots, and literal shirts being worn as shirts (hence the name). But one of the most obvious differences is a lack of numbers on the back of said shirts, a practice that would not become common until the 1930s.

While numbers had already been used in the Americas since at least 1923 – possibly inspired by American football in the North – the dawn of numbered shirts in Europe was August 25th, 1928, as both Arsenal and Chelsea used the feature in their league games against Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea Town respectively. A short-lived method for two teams wearing numbers was tried in the FA Cup on April 29th, 1933: Everton wore 1-11 and their opponents Manchester City wore 12-22.

Although proposals for the formal introduction of numbers for all teams were refused repeatedly by the FA (partly due to the cost of applying the digits to fabric), the English national team debuted numbers in their game against Norway on May 14th, 1937, in Oslo. The Norwegians themselves would soon follow suit when hosting the Irish Free State in a World Cup qualifier on the following October 10th – both sides would use numbered jerseys for the first time in their histories.

Deemed a practical success, the FA soon gave in and approved the use of shirt numbers 1-11 for each team (no more were needed as substitutions were another sixteen years away) for the 39/40 season, which was promptly cancelled after a handful of games due to the outbreak of World War 2. But the conflict couldn’t stop progress as Scotland debuted numbers in an October 10th (clearly a big date in numbers history), 1944, war-time friendly against England – despite opposition from the conservative head of the Scottish FA who had been quoted as saying “numbers are all right for horses and greyhounds, but not for humans” – before France adopted the trend in a match against Italy on April 4th, 1948.

It may not be surprising that numbers on shirts date back to this time, as anything pre- World War 2 seems like ancient history so the usage is quite old. What’s more intriguing is that their cousins, front numbers, have a history long before their generally accepted international debut at Euro 92 (or the 92 US Cup as far as Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and USA are concerned).

Frontal numbers even out-date numbers on the back, as on their July 1923 tour of Argentina, Scottish club side Third Lanark are documented wearing large numbers attached to their chests, along with their opponents “Argentine Zona Norte”. This method obviously didn’t catch on, although other examples of outside the box formatting famously include another Scottish side with Celtic’s refusal to cover their green and white hoops for many years, instead placing squad numbers on the front and rear of their shorts – a practice forcefully discontinued only in 1994.

A brand new way:

For the next step in front numbers, we must move to continental Europe in the late 1960’s and go into some other important new features that came first. With the spatial-real estate of the shirt-back now taken up (or so it was thought), most of the front was still virgin land full of potential save for the odd club badge (often only appearing on cup finals shirts in England), and while Celtic staunchly refused to sully their traditional shirt design even with numbers, it turned out that most other clubs were willing to go much further than that in the form of corporate branding.

Austria and Denmark were the first countries to legalise advertising on club shirts in their domestic competitions, with the baton soon very much passed to France. In England kits designs were still extremely minimal, but the ever stylish French were ahead of the game with 1966 Coup de France winners Strasbourg mindblowingly already wearing the logo of Le Coq Sportif on their smart double-hooped shirts, and shorts, in the final.

The national team wasn’t far behind and seemingly became the first to feature a manufacturer brand on their kits in 1969, with the logo of French legend Raymond Kopa’s Kopa company appearing on the shorts. The same year, shirt sponsorship was introduced for French club teams, with specific brands supplying and sponsoring all teams in cup competitions (another strange idea that would last until the 90s), soon including above the number on the back.

Not stopping with manufacturer and sponsor logos, small front numbers were also adopted by French club sides around 1970; an idea already used by American soccer teams in accordance with some of their other sports uniforms. This combination of new elements combined to create the birth of the modern kit, with Olympique Lyonnais’s cool 1971 effort an example of a real ahead-of-it’s time classic that foreshadowed a future national team template rather than club (white with same-colour v-neck, LCS logo on the left, club crest on the right over a dual red/blue vertical stripe, and small squad number in the center).

Front numbers would be mandatory in the French cup for the next ten years and hence used by clubs across the board. Like kit-maker branding, the idea would soon spread to the French national team who had switched from Kopa to an LCS logo on their shorts in 1970, adding Adidas franchised shirts in 1972.

The first French Adidas shirt was revolutionary in it’s own right, debuted against Greece in September 72. While no trefoil was yet present, the famous three white stripes appeared on football shirt sleeves – and indeed down the sides as well – for the first time on an international jersey, with one of the inner lines coloured red to beautifully create a tricolore.

On October 10th, 1972, the USSR visited Paris for a World Cup qualifier still wearing a kit that would not have been out of place when they first joined FIFA in the early 50s. The French, in contrast, appeared in an incredible white/white/red strip that was twenty-five years ahead of it’s time, with blue/red/blue sleeve stripes, tidy wrap around collar, and most importantly small front numbers on the chest. The French goalkeeper kit was significant too as it in fact did feature an Adidas trefoil, perhaps making it the first international kit to feature both a trefoil and front number.

Interestingly, numbers themselves at this time in France were produced by specific manufacturers, and the font used by the national team was visibly trademarked by “Somms”, who also supplied numbering for many club sides at the time such as PSG. The French would only use front numbers for another couple of games for now, including against Ireland in Dalymount Park on November 15th, 1972, but the vision of the future had been set.

Paint it boot:

In England in 1973, Liverpool were among the first to bring in this continental kit style of shirt that featured more than just the club badge, as a small Umbro diamond began to appear parallel to their crest. In 1976, a non-league club called Kettering Town became the first in Britain to use blatant advertising, as the words “Kettering Tyres” were applied to their shirts for a reported four-figure fee, although it was into the 1980s before clubs were allowed wear sponsors on TV.

But before either of these frontiers were crossed, there was one other way for certain companies’ logos to be displayed on a player for the viewing public to see, in the form of football boots. Adidas had been the dominant force in the boot game, with their three stripes appearing on football footwear since the 1950s, although by 1970 Puma were on the scene as used by Pelé.

While the white flashes on Adidas and Puma boots will have no doubt already annoyed traditionalists, what was to come in 1970 would be an even bigger step into the future. Until that point boots had mostly been classic black, with a less appealing brown leather used for older models.

Like many of his peers, Everton’s Alan Ball had been wearing black Adidas boots until hearing that German firm Hummel and their new British based franchise were looking to enter into the market. What’s more, they were willing to pay £2000 for a player to boldly step on to the field in their latest innovation: a white football boot.

The forward-thinking Ball jumped at the chance and agreed to a deal, but upon receiving the boots discovered that they were of poor quality and not fit for purpose. Wanting his two grand, Ball had some apprentices paint his old Adidas pair white and wore them on August 8th, 1970, in the Charity Shield against Chelsea. Sales of Hummel subsequently skyrocketed.

Ball’s painted boots eventually ran in the rain, exposing them as not actually being Hummel and the deal was postponed briefly. But pandora’s box, or pandora’s boot, had been opened, and when Ball moved to Arsenal in 1971 his team mate Charlie George clearly liked the idea and donned his own pair of red Hummel in 1972, with several other league players continuing the style during the rest of the 70s. Of course at the time of writing, it is more rare to find a footballer in a traditional pair of black boots than not, but at least we know it is not a new phenomenon.

Patriot names:

So we have now established that many of the elements that make up a modern player’s look – glaringly apart from personal appearance of course – were in place by 1970, with kit branding, sponsorship, front numbers and fancy non-traditional boots all being used in one way or another. But something is missing, and for this we must once again go to the rear.

Front numbers had already been appearing on jerseys in the North American Soccer League (as well on sleeves – revived by Deportivo in 92/93) and another element adapted from American football was soon to come in the form of player names on the back. While small player names on shorts had featured in a Lyon 1973 Coupe de France strip, the first European side, club or country, to use names on shirts seems to be AZ Alkmaar, but their 1977 Adidas shirt uniquely featured each name across the front where you would expect a sponsor to be.

Meanwhile, the secretary of the Scottish FA Ernie Walker would happen to pay a visit to the United States and attended a NASL game in the late 70s. Apparently open to innovative new ideas in a way that the association chairmen of the 40s, who had so vehemently opposed numbered humans, was not, Walker delighted at the idea of player names on shirts and returned to Scotland with new plans for the national team kit.

The emblazoned shirt names above the squad number were revealed to the public when the players took off their tracksuit tops ahead of a friendly with Peru in Hampden Park on September 12th, 1979, making Scotland the first national team in history to employ the motif, appearing for a further 12 matches before the idea was nixed. But Walker was a true visionary, as in his programme notes for a fixture against Austria that had followed the Peru game he correctly predicted : “they (shirt names) will be commonplace in the future” and that “in 20 years, as likely as not, club sides will probably have followed suit”.

One of those 13 games that Scotland played with player names was against England in a Home Nations Championship game in May, 1981. Perhaps England’s next two opponents in Switzerland and Hungary were watching and inspired, as in May and June of that year both would take to the field in World Cup qualifiers at home to the English in shirts featuring player names on the back. Their Adidas made apparel, as opposed to Scotland’s Umbro, meant that the idea had already transcended brands.

The Swiss and Hungarians would both quickly ditch the idea themselves, but this 79-81 period can clearly be defined as a sort of proto-era for player’s names. At the same time, while not going quite as far as to feature names, Turkey achieved visual parity by placing a “Türkiye” across the top of the back of their shirts.

Furture ad-vancements:

Lastly, we come to an area of ahead of it’s time thinking for which we are still not actually in said time yet. While shirt sponsorship at club level has become a fully accepted facet of the game, and hugely necessary for the financial reward it brings, corporate logos in senior internationals have taken a little longer to catch on (unless it’s rugby you’re talking about).

Yet there was a time in the 1980s when national team shirt sponsorship looked set to be the next new football-fabric craze. This would have seemed unlikely going in to the decade due to FIFA’s strict anti-branding rules, that meant Dutch shirts at World Cup 1978 had their “adidas” wordmark covered in black tape (at least on one set a of kits made in Germany by Adidas Erima, as a second set made in France by Adidas Ventex only featured a trefoil with no Adidas wordmark). Similar UEFA codes saw trefoils and wordmarks both covered on Dutch and Belgian shirts at Euro 80 also, with a preemptive complete removal of Admiral and Erima logos respectively from English and West German kits worn at the tournament.

By the following World Cup, the increasing commercial market for shirts and the power of FIFA partners like Adidas meant that non-excessive kit branding would now be allowed (with Chile’s Reebok style of 1998 being an example of excess that had to be scaled back to remove elements of the huge Reebok logo incorporated into the design of the upper section). As boundaries continued to be pushed, some countries realised that the money made from shirt sponsorship need not only benefit clubs financially, but countries too.

Of course in line with the rules this would have been impossible in competitive fixtures, but friendlies were apparently fair game. Thusly, on April 27th, 1983, the ingenious Swedes of Sweden emerged for a match in the Netherlands wearing shirts with the logo of local bank “Sparbanken” on both front and back of their shirts – in the “player name position” in the case of the latter.

Dutch TV was not happy with this unexpected advertisement that they would be broadcasting for the next 90 minutes, and the Swedes were requested to change. Already in their away strip and without another kit, the Sparbanken wordmarks were instead hastily covered up with tape, mirroring what the Dutch themselves had previously had to do with their Adidas logos.

The idea of international shirt sponsorship was clearly one that the rest of Scandinavia approved of, as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland all produced and wore jerseys in the decade that featured sponsors. The likes of Brazil (already having featured a sly sponsor within their crest earlier in the decade) and Malta at the very least had also done the same by 1989, with a sponsored Portugal shirt used in a match as late as 1997, but the practice had become mostly obsolete by then.

Of course with regards to this, we cannot forget the Republic of Ireland who’s deal with Opel in 1986 gave them the dubious honour of being the only nation to give supporters no choice but to purchase replica shirts that featured a sponsor, with the unspoiled player version forever out of reach. Ireland jerseys with Opel logos were occasionally used in games, but only unofficial testimonials and the like for which caps were not awarded (although used in David O’Leary’s 1993 testimonial against Hungary in which, due to a UEFA mix-up, the Hungarian players were in fact given senior caps).

Due to the fact that the industry of “big football” is now of an out of control money making machine used as a tool by sociopaths, oligarchs and despots for reasons far beyond sport, we feel it is only a matter of time before rules are relaxed again, and the once sacred space of national teams shirts becomes nothing more than another avenue for worldwide brands to display their gaudy logos and slogans. At the very least, sports-capitalists everywhere must look admiringly at the Irish model of screwing over the paying public by turning them into walking corporate adverts, as they already do at club level.

Conclusion:

In this piece, we have focused solely on kits and boots, and have not even explored every aspect. But in other areas of the game there are often deep roots that must be considered too, before complaining about modern football.

Of course there is a limit to this, and, as touched on earlier, the money and greed at the top of the tree has no connection to what you or I want. As non-traditional traditionalists, we here at Pyro On The Pitch.com will casually sit back and contentedly wait for the bubble to burst, as it may do with society as a whole, and during the meantime continue to bask in the glorious afterglow of the an age of football culture that is gone forever.

*****