Champagne Kit Campaigns #6: Brazil, World Cup 1978

Welcome to the long-awaited sixth installment of Champagne Kit Campaigns, the series in which we have already featured some classic Norwegian, Russian, Dutch and Irish attires. For the first time we now turn our attention to a non-European nation in one of the world’s most recognisable and aesthetically pleasing teams, as seen during a suitably colourful era in which “modern” styles were slowly beginning to emerge.

Background:

From 1954 until 1976, Brazil’s famous yellow shirts, blue shorts and white socks were made by native sports-apparel manufacturers Athleta. No branding from the company appeared in any way on the exterior of the kits, as was the case for most nations at the time (but, since the late 60s, not all). Besides the trademark green collar-cuffs, green and yellow sock turnovers and crest, a lone, white stripe running down the side of the shorts was the only other design element in sight when the side played their last game of 1976 against the USSR.

When next in action – a friendly at home to Bulgaria on January 23rd, 1977 – there would be two small differences: the colour on the socks had been reversed from green-over-yellow to yellow-over-green; and on the shorts – which had remained a particularly light shade of blue throughout the 70s – the stripes had multiplied by three. There was apparently no other outward indication to say so (apart from the goalkeeper, see below), but it was clearly the beginning of the Adidas-era for the seleção (“selection”).


Brazil with (blurry) three stripes of Adidas on their shorts, vs Bulgaria, January 1977.

The same kit was worn for a scoreless World Cup qualifier in Colombia the following month, with the hosts graciously forgoing their – at this point – orange home shirt and wearing all-white instead. The Brazilians returned the favour when the two teams met again on front of more than 132,000 in the Maracanã Stadium in March, donning their blue and white away strip for the first time in the Adidas years, and were rewarded with a 6-0 win.

The darker shade of blue – for both the shirts and shorts trim – than currently seen on the home shorts made a future combination seem unlikely, yet it had already happened at the previous World Cup. The layout of the jersey remained identical to the home, continuing a lack of branding, but this time a trefoil appeared on the shorts of at least some of the players.


Brazil in away kit with trefoi-less (left) and trefoil (right) shorts, at home to Colombia, March 1977.

In the same group, which was in fact a preliminary stage before the final round, the only other country were Paraguay where Brazil traveled next a few days later. From this game comes the first confirmation of a trefoil on the home shorts (it may have already been worn by some players against Bulgaria or Colombia, but we have no visual evidence right now), as well as it seeming that both colour variations of the socks were in use within the team. After a 0-1 win and another draw at home to progress as group winners, a number of glamorous home friendlies (a rarity these days in the country with the money laying abroad) were scheduled for over the winter months.

The regular first-choice strip was used for the opener against England on June 8th (in which the English utilised a rarely-seen red/white/blue combination), before the visit of white-socked West Germany four days later gave an excuse to mix things up. Despite the fact that a sock-clash had recently been acceptable in a competitive setting against Colombia, plain blue (matching the shorts) alternates were chosen for this game, while again some players wore shorts with trefoils but some without.


A trefoil visible on Brazil's blue shorts, with blue sock combination, in the friendly against West Germany, June 1977.

The arrival of Poland with white jerseys on June 19th meant that the blue shirt was given another outing at home, and trefoil-less white shorts were preferred by (or forced upon) the majority. This was also the case when the home strip returned for games against Scotland on the 23rd and Yugoslavia on the 26th (where the goalkeeper, usually in blue or green, sported an interesting white jersey without the signature “Brasil”) but the logo was at least again present for the final friendly in the run against France on June 30th.


Brazil shorts clearly without a trefoil during the game vs Scotland, June, 1977.

The French game presents us with a bigger bombshell however: a faint trefoil and Adidas word mark were actually present on the chests of the jerseys, and possibly had even been there since an earlier match. We know this thanks to the great work done by Soccernostalgia and specifically their Soccernostalgia: Retro Soccer Magazines Facebook page (which exists besides their regular Facebook page) and a post showing close-up shots of the match that clearly reveal the presence of the trefoil (as does this match-worn shirt from the time)

In July, World Cup qualification concluded with a round-robin of three teams who were to play each other once on the neutral soil of Cali, Colombia. The top two would advance to the finals, but the third still got a second chance through a play-off with a European group winner. A 1-0 win over Peru (with “trefoiless” shorts again) on the 10th of the month put one Brazilian foot in the World Cup, and four days later an 8-0 bullying of Bolivia emphatically announced Brazil as qualifiers, and contenders, for the 1978 World Cup in neighbouring Argentina.

1978, pre-World Cup

The 8-0 was the last international for nearly nine months as Brazil would not play again until a tour of “return friendlies” in April, 1978, against the highest profile opponents from the year before – France, West Germany and England. The visit of exotic, South American “royalty” was exciting enough on it’s own for Europeans, but, unbeknownst to the public, this Brazilian side was also bringing a visual treat in the form of some of their greatest kits to date (in our subjective opinion of course).

Ahead of the game on April 1st in Parc des Princes against the French (where the visitors would end up as “fools” after a 1-0 loss), captain and veteran of two World Cups already Rivellino displayed the first part of the gear-evolution with an amazing raglan sleeved tracksuit top, complete with stripes and trefoil.


Style-icon Rivellino ahead of the game against France, April, 1978.

When the warm-up jackets came off, the real feast for the eyes was revealed in the form of Brazil’s new jerseys. Employing Adidas’s “World Cup Dress” template beautifully, the collar and cuffs were perfectly primed to incorporate the ever-present darkish green, and a trefoil returned in a more obvious way while stripes finally now did appear on the sleeves. As was standard on this particular design, the Adidas logo sat particularly high on the chest of the shiny material.


The new Brazil home kit with complete Adidas branding, as seen against France, April 1978.

Besides the shirt, a trefoil was now also standard on the shorts, and the seemingly random green/yellow or yellow/green sock turnovers were replaced with perhaps the piece de resistance of the kit: green, yellow and green hooped-stripes over the white background.

The strip was not quite “complete”, however, at least for some. On the backs of the starting XI’s jerseys, solid green numbers appeared, akin to those on the previous jersey and mirrored by smaller, white numbers on the shorts. But for the substitutes, who were really the ones wearing the kit in it’s truest form, Adidas’s trademark striped number font appeared for the first time.


Above, the sold numbers on starting Brazilian players's backs, and below, striped numbers on substitutes, during France vs Brazil, 1978.

In Hamburg four days later, another of the great Brazil shirts was on show as a slightly new away kit was used. Unlike in Paris, the shirt sleeves were devoid of stripes, but a white trefoil sitting parallel to the crest still gave the shirt an early-contemporary look much like that of their West German opponents’ Erima shirts.

There was more classic 1970s inconsistencies, however, as some players’ jerseys had no trefoil. Considering the sock situation last time, it also would have been nice to see Brazil use their alternate home socks from the year before to avoid the clash, but perhaps this royal blue/white/sky blue combination would have been considered a step too far.


Brazil wearing their away kit in West Germany in April, 1978.

After a two-week break for Brazil (having beaten the Germans 0-1), 92,000 packed into Wembley for the grand finale against the English (a 1-1 draw). While back in the home kit, strangely it would not be the same shirt as used against France, although just as good. The trefoil was now lower, like on the away jersey, and the material seemed of the the less-shiny variety. Finally, on the back, the striped-numbers were now standard, although the solid style remained via the shorts.


The amazing Brazil jersey, front on back, as seen against England in Wembley, April, 1977.

The use of two distinct home shirts on the tour suggests a similar situation to that of the Dutch during the same year (as we saw in CKC#2) who rotated between kits supplied by Adidas Ventex and Adidas Erima. Indeed, examining the label of a Brazilian shirt from the time (via ebay) with the “upper trefoil” positioning (a different collar means that it is a “Santos/Nacional” template rather than “World Cup Dress”) shows the Ventex trademark, while the label of a jersey apparently used against England shows Erima.

Besides the fact that an updated, fresh look for the upcoming World Cup was warranted, the new jerseys’ appearances coinciding with visits to the home of Ventex (France, worn by the French national team), and subsequently to the home of Erima (likewise West Germany, making the similar layouts of the two jerseys used in the German match even more “suspicious”), makes us wonder if they were picked up en-route, or perhaps “part of the deal”.

To conclude their World Cup warm-ups, Brazil welcomed Peru and Czechoslovakia to Rio for friendlies in May, 1977. The weather must still have been balmy heading into southern hemisphere winter as a short-sleeved version of “World Cup Dress” was seen for the first time, with the trefoil now back in it’s “expected” raised position evidentially meaning a Ventex model. After 2-0 and 3-0 wins kept the home fans upbeat heading into the tournament, the question on everybody’s minds must surely have been “which shirt version will be used at the finals?”.


Brazil in the kit used for final World Cup warm-ups against Peru and Czechoslovakia (pictured), May 1978.

*

World Cup 1978, Argentina

At the draw in Buenos Aires on January 14th, 1978, top seeds Brazil ended up in group three of four along with all-European opposition: Sweden, Spain and Austria. As in 1974, when Brazil had finished 4th losing out to Poland in the third-place play-off, the group stage was to be followed by a second round of two more groups, with the top placed sides then ultimately progressing to the final.

With two of the teams in the group wearing yellow shirts as first preference, and three using blue shorts, clashes and combinations of some variety were inevitable. As always, stricter regulations on clashes in World Cups – in part due to those watching on black and white TVs – meant that some classic or unique kit mash-ups were already guaranteed.

Furthermore, following the dawn of World Cup finals kit branding in West Germany four years earlier, 1978 was naturally to be the most commercialised tournament to date. Most teams involved were now wearing some sort of visible trademark from the likes of Adidas, Puma, Erima, Umbro, and even Mexico’s Levis/Adidas hybrid.

Off the pitch it was also set to be one of the most politically charged, as sport was being used as a propaganda tool for not the first or last time. The deaths and disappearances of thousands at the hands of the ruling military Junta – for whom hosting was a proud honour and perfect PR exercise aimed at those home and abroad – resulted in Johan Cryuff famously boycotting the tournament, and, more clandestinely, rebellious groundsmen painting the base of each goalpost black to commemorate the victims of the regime.


First Round, Group 3:

Brazil
Sweden
Spain
Austria


Match 1: Brazil vs Sweden
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 03/06/1978

Kicking off against Sweden on the third-day of the tournament in Mara Del Plata, it was finally time to see what Brazil were wearing. Seemingly the “non-shiny” Erima jerseys got the nod, complete with striped numbers, but notably absent from both shirt and shorts was the trefoil:

The fellow-yellows of Sweden, who like many others were also in the World Cup Dress template, had been drawn as the “away” side in the fixture and were hence wearing their own stunning blue and white change strip:

Showing that the Brazilian’s lack of manufacturer logo had nothing to do with the rules, the Swedes’ version of the same design quite clearly displayed a white trefoil (plus a wordmark, which evidently shouldn’t have been allowed judging by the Netherland’s cover-up job) that contrasted the otherwise yellow trim beautifully (the icing on the cake being the yellow numbers on the back):

Having gone 0-1 down on 37 mins, Reinaldo equalised for the seleção just before half-time to give us a good look at all those great yellow shirts and light blue shorts through the celebrations. Given it was winter in Argentina, which was apparent by the hats and jackets in the crowd, long sleeves were used by all squads throughout the tournament, much to the delight of stripe aficionados like ourselves:

The score would remain 1-1 until the last play of the game when one of the most bizarre incidents in World Cup history occured. With a corner to Brazil as the clock ticked past 90, the ball was swung in and headed into the goal by Zico:

But to his and his teammate’s dismay, the ref – Clive Thomas from Wales – had simultaneously blown for full-time:

As Thomas sternly walked away, while indicating that time had indeed ran out, the “neutral” Argentinians in the crowd enjoyed the disappointment and anger of their South American rivals:

Result: Brazil 1-1 Sweden


Match 2, Spain vs Brazil
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 07/06/1978

Brazil returned to Estadio José Maria Minella – named after a former esteemed midfielder for the local club, but built by the Junta only two years earlier – four days later for the second of three consecutive visits to the stadium in the first group stage. However they were suddenly now the “away” team, which against the “blue-shorted” Spanish created the next noteworthy situation:

Due to the blue vs blue clash, Brazil emerged in their away shorts (also without trefoil if you’re counting) to recreate a great look also seen at the last World Cup – yellow/white/white:

The trim on the shorts was of course blue to match the away jersey, so the strip that had been created consisted of three different stripe-configurations across the shirt (green over yellow), shorts (blue over white) and socks (green, yellow, green over white). Of course this was also the case for the home kit, considering the usual white stripes over light blue, but there it was “intended”.

Other interesting highlights from the match included huge the Spanish flags surrounding much of the pitch, presumably the work of Argentine-based ex-pats:

…and the state of the pitch, which had not sufficiently recovered from the first game was clearly hampering play in certain areas:

Spain were incidentally one team without any branding at all on their kits, as one of the last hold-outs along with Italy. Spanish gear had been made by Deportes Cóndor since 1933 (thanks to POTP supporter Lucas for this info), but it would turn out to be the final year of partnership with the local firm and hence final World Cup wearing traditional plain shirts and shorts, while the Italians impressively saw out the rest of the century before giving in.

The pitch surely won’t have helped matters for either side and a 0-0 draw was played out. Following the robbery of victory through a certain Welshman already, a slightly worrying situation for Brazil had suddenly developed going into the last group game:

Result: Spain 0-0 Brazil


Match 3, Brazil vs Austria
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 11/06/1978

Next up for the so far underwhelming Brazil was a surprisingly strong Austrian side, who had already won both their other matches. Back in the home kit, through the Brazilian team photo we see an interesting detail in that some players (see Oscár, no.3) were in jerseys with narrower outer-stripes on their sleeves. As demonstrated by this Nantes 1976 team photo, and later Sochaux in 1981, the variation wasn’t uncommon in France, perhaps meaning Ventex after all (although we don’t know if it was also used by Erima).

On the 40th minute, the 24 year old with boy-band-esq looks and a name to match, Roberto Dinamite, put his side in front for the first time in the tournament:

Austria were the only side repping Puma at the World Cup, and did so in a very smart template with black shorts and socks:

It was, of course, the Austrian’s third game in a row facing teams in blue shorts. Against Spain, they had combined their white shirts with the white shorts and red socks of their red-shirted away strip, but when facing Sweden, who used the same shade of shorts as Spain and with the added white/yellow TV clash, both sides were strangely allowed wear their full home kits. While we’re on the subject, Spain achieved one of their all-time great unintentional combinations at same time as the Austria-Brazil game through their meeting with Sweden, where their white away shorts were inserted into the otherwise home kit.

In the end, the single first half goal was enough to win it for Brazil, giving them second place and qualification ahead of Spain. Finishing behind Austria was a shock, but would it necessarily mean a more difficult “path” to the final? (since another group was more like a carpark than a path).

Result: Brazil 1-0 Austria


Elsewhere
, it transpired that Brazil weren’t the only big team to under-perform in the first round. In Group 2, West Germany’s 0-0 draws with Poland and Tunisia meant they finished runners-up, saved by a 6-0 demolition of Mexico in between. The Netherlands in Group 4 also drew 0-0 with Peru before a 3-2 loss to the Scottish, but progressed on goal difference after an opening 3-0 defeat of Iran.

In Group 1, the hosts had secured their qualification early with back to back 2-1 wins over Hungary and France, but a 0-1 loss at the hands of the Italians on the last day meant they too would be condemned to 2nd. Overall, these results mean that Austria, Peru and Poland were progressing as unlikely group winners, with Argentina, Brazil, West Germany and Netherlands making up a formidable list of runners-up.

Poland and Peru were the real losers in this, as the would have hoped to have been facing Austria rather Brazil in their group, along with either Argentina or Italy. As it was, they were up against all-South American opposition, while the plucky Austrians were rewarded for their round 1 performances with the delightful prospect of Italy, Netherlands and West Germany.

Second Round, Group B

Argentina
Poland
Brazil
Peru


Match 4, Brazil vs Peru
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 14/06/1978

Having ended up in the South American-heavy Group B in Round 2, Brazil finally “escaped” Mar del Plata and headed west to Mendoza. The familiar faces of Peru were the first opposition in this new pool, with the two teams jousting for the third time in less than a year.

In the home kit once more (with the thin stripes again noticeable), that kid Dinamite was on hand to win a penalty that would help his side go 3-0 up:

But wait, what’s that on the shorts? For the second time in this CKC, it’s another bombshell:

While slightly blurry above, a trefoil was clearly visible. As with the year before, perhaps some had already been wearing shorts with the Adidas’s trademark off-camera, but certainly the intended World Cup kit had been meant to be sans-trefoil. However, like how we saw with the Netherlands it was not unheard of for squads as this World Cup to bring slightly different versions of their kit.

Against a hapless (later suspiciously hapless while playing the hosts) Peru, 3-0 it ended. At least the opponents’ famous sash shirts get a look in here:

Result: Brazil 3-0 Peru

 

Match 5, Argentina vs Brazil
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario, 18/06/1978

Another fixture that was no stranger to the international calendar awaited in Rosario four days later, and on paper it was the toughest the date for Brazil. Argentina had beaten Poland 2-0 on the same day that Brazil defeated Peru, and, assuming both Brazil and Argentina would repeat these results when they switched opponents, this meant the game between the two was a near semi-final.

When usually facing each other, including at the most recent Copa America in 1976, both would wear their regular home strips. But interestingly, the last time they had played at a World Cup  in 1974 (also first World Cup meeting), Brazil wore their blue/white/white kit, with Argentina in grey socks avoiding a clash on that level.

The jersey change was slightly odd back then considering that it meant both teams ended up wearing alot of blue, and one would have assumed that Argentina’s vertical stripes gave enough distinction as it was. A lesson may have been learned, as this time Brazil repeated the look from the Spain game, while Argentina substituted their white socks for black creating an equally fetching look:

Again, it at least appears that no trefoils were found on anyone’s shorts, but, given what we have seen, there may have been one lurking somewhere among the squad. One of what there was definitely not, though, was goals, as the supposed play-off ended in a 0-0 stalemate. The results of both final games were now crucial.

Result: Argentina 0-0 Brazil


Match 6, Poland vs Brazil ,
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 21/06/1978

Back in Mendoza one last time on the southern hemisphere’s shortest day of the year, a repeat from 1974 again lay in store for Brazil in the final group game. Back in West Germany it had been the 3rd place play-off, and now Brazil or Poland could well end up there again next. But a win could potentially take either to the World Cup final too, especially in the unlikely event that Peru beat Argentina later in the evening.

Again the “away” side, the allocation luckily gave the need for the away kit to be finally used in possibly it’s last chance. It was confirmed that, like the home, the blue shirt was devoid of a trefoil, but stripes and stripy numbers were now seen on a senior Brazilian away jersey for the first time ever:

This was another case of a different set of kit-colours being used from the previous World Cup, when Brazil wore the yellow/white/white strip against Poland’s all red. The Polish, in a home outfit nearly as amazing as Sweden away, were another side in World Cup Dress, wearing what appears to be the Ventex version:

Like Argentina before, Poland added their red away socks to the white shirt and red shorts of their home kit to accommodate Brazil’s ever present white pairs. In retrospect, the fact that the whites were the Brazilian’s only option seems like a significant oversight, as the onus was always automatically on the opponents to change. But this sort of thing is of course typical when considering the lack of regulations from era, and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

We mentioned our love for sleeve stripes earlier, and one great thing about this age of World Cups is the lack of official badges that would later haunt the sleeves of modern tournaments. For Argentina 78 in the winter, this meant satisfyingly long, uninterrupted stripes on the Adidas team’s jerseys, with the very notable exception of left Polish arms:

Instead of some sort of juicy political gesture (which probably would not have been allowed even by 1970s standards), the badge, containing a letter C with a heart in the middle, was strangely to represent a children’s hospital in Warsaw that had opened the year before.

At the this late stage, we finally take a look at the goalkeeper kit worn by Brazil’s – or “Brasil” as his jersey said – number 1, Émerson Leão. Since goalkeeper attire was always a bit different in the 70s and 80s (sometimes featuring far more branding and occasionally of a different make altogether) and therefore in a category of their own, we haven’t drawn too much attention to the fact that his “shades of green” strip featured trefoils throughout the tournament :

In the game, three Brazilian goals – including two from Roberto D. – and some South American class were enough to were enough to take the two points (three points for a win wouldn’t be introduced until USA 94), with one consolation goal in return from the Poles:

Two points clear and with a six goal advantage over Argentina, Brazil were in top spot. For now. But their fans celebrated like they were already in the World Cup final:

Result: Poland 1-3 Brazil


Of course
a couple of hours later, Brazil and the rest of the world would watch on as one of the most infamous matches in World Cup history unfolded. Peru completed their hapless destiny (losing all three games in the phase and without scoring a goal) and were suspiciously beaten by the six needed for the Junta’s team to advance.

Without losing a game, incredibly Brazil were out of the tournament. Except for one last thing.


Third Place Play-Off

Match 7, Brazil vs Italy
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 24/06/1978

At last Brazil had made it to the stage of the World Cup final, except a day before the actual final itself between Argentina and the Netherlands. Instead, River Plate’s Estadio Monumental was also the host of the 3rd/4th place play-off on June 24th.

For the game against Group A runners-up Italy, the full Brazilian home kit was worn one more time with the trefoil shorts again used by at least Roberto:

Before leaving the World Cup, we also get once last look at those great sock turnover hoops:

Italy, for their part, were notable at this tournament for tiny, numbered pockets on the front of their shorts, and uniquely styled numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Often incorrectly attributed to brand-less Adidas at this World Cup, Italian firm Baila Landoni produced the kits:

With the Italians having taken the lead (as evident by above) on 38 minutes, Rivellino – in what would turn out to be his last cap for Brazil – attempted to settled his team mates:

In the second half, Nelinho pulled one back on 64 minutes:

…before Dirceu scored his third of the tournament seven minutes later to win it for Brazil, with the wild celebrations displaying how much this “meaningless” play-off actually still meant:

Result: Brazil 2-1 Italy

BRAZIL – THIRD PLACE

Breakdown
Team: Brazil 
Year(s): 1978
Competition: World Cup 78
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 7
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 5


Aftermath:

After initial disappointment in the first round Brazil had ended up third in the world, which was at least an improvement on the last tournament, and without having lost in seven games. Furthermore, they could quite legitimately claim that they were “cheated” out of a win in the first game, and a possibly even a place in the final.

Brazil would continue wearing Adidas into 1979, including during that year’s Copa America (held across several countries). In the January summer heat, a short sleeved, “trefoiled” version like that seen before the World Cup was back, but the Adidas logo was level to the crest rather than raised on some player’s shirts.

By 1980, the three stripes and trefoils were gone, replaced by logos of the kit manufacturer for the next decade – Topper. The brief, highly underrated Adidas era – our undisputed favourite for Brazil – was over. Or at least at senior level it was, as their Adidas-produced Olympic 84 and 88 (with, shockingly, green shorts) kits provides us with what an alternative timeline might have looked like where they had stayed on for a few years longer.

*****

YouTube Links:

Brazil vs Bulgaria, 1977
Brazil vs Colombia, 1977
Brazil vs West Germany, 1977
Brazil vs Scotland, 1977
France vs Brazil, 1978
West Germany vs Brazil, 1978
England vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1978
Brazil vs Sweden, 1978
Spain vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Austria, 1978
Brazil vs Peru, 1978
Argentina vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978

*****

 

People On The Pitch #11: Northern Ireland vs Italy, friendly match, 04/12/1957

Last time out in People On The Pitch, we checked out a mass-confrontation at Coventry’s Highfield Road as Nottingham Forrest won the 1978 English league title. Previously we have gone back as far as 1966 in this series, with a Wales vs Scotland Euro 68 qualifier, but now we go back further still to the 1950s and a spicy “friendly” game in Belfast that was meant to be a World Cup qualifier.

Background:

Following the lead of the first three football associations in the world – England (1863), Scotland (1873) and Wales (1876) – the Irish Football Association was founded in 1880 while the whole of the island of Ireland was still under British rule. In 1921, the Irish War of Independence, and resulting peace treaty, divided the country, with the majority of territory breaking away from the United Kingdom as the so-called Irish Free State in 1922, leaving the remaining north-eastern six counties to become Northern Ireland.


Flag of Northern Ireland, 1924-1972.

Following the split, the Football Association of Ireland (originally Football Association of the Irish Free State) was created to represent the new “Free Irish”, but both the Dublin-based FAI and Belfast-based IFA claimed to represent the entire island. In football terms there was no Northern Ireland, as the IFA Ireland team of 1880 continued as normal selecting players from both sides of the border, as did the Irish Free State from 1936. Both also wore green with shamrock crests, but at IFA games the English national anthem of God Save The King was played, while at FAI games an anthem glorifying the fight against the same king was proudly sang.

In 1937, the Irish Free State name was dropped in a new constitution, legally creating “Ireland”. Hence, there now was officially two Ireland teams, although one was a member of FIFA (FAI) and the other (IFA) on boycott, along with the rest of the UK nations following political disagreements. In 1946, however, the IFA and the rest did rejoin FIFA, meaning that the “two Irelands” would be present in the upcoming 1950 World Cup qualifiers for the first time, with several players amazingly turning out for both in the campaign.


"Ireland", which shamrock-shield crest, emerge at Maine Road ahead of a 9-2 defeat to England, World Cup 50 qualifier/British Home Championship 49/50.

The undeniably farcical situation forced FIFA to step in to make a clear distinction between the teams. In 1949, this was helped as the Irish had adopted another constitution in which the country was formally declared a republic (a move which alarmed British unionists who saw it as a potential threat to the existence of Northern Ireland), and while not the official name, the term “Republic of Ireland” was made legally acceptable as a national title.

The timing was perfect, as FIFA declared that the FAI’s team be known as the Republic of Ireland, and the IFA’s as Northern Ireland, and that both would stick to selecting players from within their borders (which would remain until 1994 when the Good Friday Agreement made it possible for players born in Northern Ireland to represent the Republic). The North also adopted the IFA’s Celtic cross as their badge; a somewhat ironic choice considering many of their supporters’ hatred for the Celtic culture and language of the “non-British” Irish.

One notable exception to the name was within the British Home Championship, where the IFA were still known as Ireland until 1971. During this time, when the 1953/54 and 66/67-67/68 editions doubled as World Cup and Euro qualifiers respectively (as 1949/50 had been for World Cup 50), the odd situation arose where “Ireland” would be playing in the British tournament and Northern Ireland in FIFA/UEFA competition, within the same match.

After having failed to qualify for 1950 and 54, Northern Ireland would participate in a non-British World Cup qualifying group for the first time in the next campaign. Placed in a tough Group 8 along with Italy and Portugal, each team were to play each other twice throughout 1957 with two points awarded for a win, and a spot at Sweden 1958 for whoever topped the group.

Involved in the first three games, the North started with the two tough away ties first; an encouraging draw was secured in Lisbon against Portugal in January, before a 1-0 defeat to Italy in Rome in April. On May 1st, a brilliant 3-0 home win over Portugal put Northern Ireland right back in contention, before the Portuguese’ own 3-0 victory over Italy later in the month really blew things wide open. The last games were scheduled for December, with the Italians set to visit Belfast on the 4th before finally hosting Portugal on the 22nd.


Some of those in attendance for Northern Ireland's 3-0 win over Portugal in Windsor Park, World Cup 58 qualifier, 01/05/1957.

Before The Match:

With Northern Ireland ready for their biggest international to date, an unexpected crisis struck the day before the game when Hungarian referee Istvan Zsolt was stranded in London due to dense fog. An English ref closer at hand was put on stand-by, but it was decided to wait and see if Zsolt, who was also manager of the Budapest Opera House, could make it the next day.

Meanwhile, the swarthy Italian team – who had already landed successfully – surveyed the sights, sounds and flavours of Belfast:

(The newsreel from which this is from, incidentally, opened with the caption “Irlanda vs Italia”, displaying that the “Northern” distinction was yet to be fully observed inside or outside of football)

But the aforementioned London fog didn’t give up, and it soon became too late for the back-up official to travel either. The IFA offered the Italians a local referee, which was understandably refused (presumably calling upon an FAI ref was out of the question). With the count-down to kick-off approaching, and with thousands of fans haven taken valuable half-days from shipyard work, it was decided that the match must go ahead, but as a friendly rather than a World Cup qualifier.

The Match:

A huge crowd of over 50,000, who have only been informed of the match classification downgrade upon their arrival, pack into Windsor Park. With their half-days now “wasted” on a meaningless match, many disgruntled worker-supporters loudly voice their disapproval, although others are clearly happy to make the most of the day:

From a narrow gap between the terraces, the teams emerge. Despite the black and white footage, at least we can see that Northern Ireland’s green shirt is quite a dark shade, while Italy’s blue crew-neck is suitably stylish (click here for our Politics On The Pitch post explaining why these two and other nations wear colours not seen on their flags):

The booing and jeering from the crowd ceases for the national anthem, but resumes and drowns out the Italian anthem, much to the shock and horror of the away team:

A section of home supporters take their aggression to the camera also, with some choice gestures on show:

The captains and referee offer each a token sign of peace through handshakes…:

…but the negative vibes coming from the pissed-off fans has entered a feedback loop with the pissed-off visiting players, who’s memories of gentile strolls around the capital have now been erased by the perceived booing of their national anthem

Despite the meaningless of the game, the new found aggressive tension manifests in Giuseppe Chiappella punching Danny Blanchflower in the face off the ball, among other incidents, before brave Italian ‘keeper Ottavio Bugatti casually bares several knees to the head:

Of course this type of action is not too unusual for the time, but rarely ultimately due to a referee being stranded elsewhere. Speaking of archaic aspects, here we see the problem with certain types of goal-frames as the ball gets stuck on the roof of the net:

Going back to the disgruntled fans, the same group are still busy abusing the cameraman, but this time with less smiles, as if they are really serious now. One of the ringleaders has switched from the cut-throat sign seen earlier to an upward thrusting motion with fingers held together, which must be popular at this time:

A great camera shot from beside one of the goals displays the density of spectators crammed into the other sides of the famous, old ground:

Some have avoided the claustrophobic enclosures entirely by taking to the safety of the roofs, with classic ads for cigarettes beneath them:

In the second half, poor Bugatti is subject to more ill-treatment as he is pushed to the ground for no apparent reason (while people casually walk across the roof), much to the appreciation of the crowd:

The disgruntled fans, meanwhile, have, if anything, become ever more disgruntled and are still furiously gesturing:

Throughout all this, several goals have been scored. On the hour mark, the fantastically named Wilbur Cush scores his second to make it 2-2, as the crowd gyrate with pleasure:

A while later, Bugatti is brutally hacked down once again as he collects the ball. The linesman in the background clearly sees no issue with the “challenge”:

This time the Italians have had enough, and a melee breaks out:

Shockingly, it is a player in blue who is dismissed by the referee

The fans are now even more riled up, and as the final whistle is blown many spill on the pitch, despite the efforts of a few policemen. Some go to congratulate their heroes for holding their pride in the match, while others have more sinister ambitions:

Before long, vast swathes of supporters are on the grass and the atmosphere is dangerous. Despite the violence of the game, some Northern Irish players begin to fear for their Italian counterparts safety, conscious of the terrifying and telling fact that a Belfast Celtic player was dragged into the terraces and suffered a broken leg at the hands of Linfield fans in the same ground ten years before:

With at least one being carried, the Italian players were quickly ushered off the pitch and down the tunnel, away from the baying mob:

northern-ireland-italy-1957-i

Some of the more bloodthirsty fans attempt to storm the dressing rooms too, but the Italians have made it to safety. Now to do the whole thing again for the rearranged fixture.

Aftermath:

The game was quickly dubbed the “Battle of Belfast” by the media. Despite their escape, the Italian team received backlash upon arrival in their homefront as they were booed getting off the plane; the 2-2 draw would have meant elimination if the game had been competitive.

On January 15th, 1958, the game was replayed in Windsor Park, with the esteemed Mr Zsolt finally officiating. Wearing a fresh new kit and crest, Northern Ireland arrived on the pitch with British Pathé again informing us that this was “Ireland” playing, rather than a small portion of the island ruled-over from afar. This “Irish” side were in luck, as a 2-1 win meant that they would make it to their first World Cup that summer. The Italians may have wanted to stay in Belfast this time, rather than again face the ire of their countrymen upon returning from the match, as they missed out on their only finals until 2018.

*

YouTube links:

England vs Northern Ireland, 1949
Northern Ireland vs Portugal, 1957
Northern Ireland vs Italy, 1957
Northern Ireland vs Italy, 1958

*****

 

 

International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #9: League of Ireland special (Gallery)

In this gallery series we usually take a look at a selection of supporter banners and group flags of club fans present at games of their national teams, from all around the world of football’s glorious, long-lost past. But for installment #9, we focus in on League of Ireland-based support at Republic of Ireland matches from the mid-late 80s to the early-mid 2000s.

We specify League of Ireland and not simply all clubs of the country, as there are often many non-league teams represented at Irish internationals, as well as some playing in an entirely different jurisdiction altogether (Cliftonville in Northern Ireland’s “Irish League” being the main one, while Derry City, from within the boundaries of NI, are actually apart of the LoI). These will be added at a later date. And of course, there were probably plenty more LoI banners than shown here at games during the time period covered, but the following is what we could find on video so far.

Luxembourg vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 28/05/1987
Drogheda United:

Ireland, World Cup 1990
Derry City:

Wales vs Ireland, friendly, 06/02/1991
Bohemians:

Bohemiams:

Shamrock Rovers:

Poland vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 16/10/1991
Bray Seaside Firm, Bray Wanderers:

Italy vs Ireland, World Cup, 18/06/1994
UCD:

Ireland vs Northern Ireland, Euro qualifier, 29/03/1995
Bohemians:

Austria vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 06/09/1995
Finn Harps (Oasis Bar, Letterkenny):

Ireland vs Lithuania, World Cup qualifier, 20/08/1997
Cork City (x3) and Galway United (right):

Ireland vs Romania, World Cup qualifier, 11/10/1997
Galway United (left), Cork City (centre):

Malta vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 08/09/1999
Galway United (right):

Andorra vs Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 28/03/2001
Galway United:

In 2003, the FAI embarked upon an initiative to involve the supporters of the League of Ireland more at international matches. The result was a brief golden age of co-operation, with many LoI club banners – including some of the country’s top ultras groups’ side by side – and “tifo flags” visible at games throughout the year in Lansdowne Road, along with several card displays, creating one of the stadium’s most aesthetically interesting periods.

The appointment of “League of Ireland man” Brian Kerr as national team manager might have helped make this possible, as now fans of the country’s oft-beleaguered league were coming together in support along with many Ireland fans who openly sneered at their own beloved nation’s top flight in favour of English football. Before long, however, most of the domestic supporters abandoned the project due the inherent nature of having to deal with the FAI (which is only becoming apparent to casual fans recently at the time of writing due to a recent scandal), and Landsdowne Road’s redevelopment in 2007 sealed this chapter of history for good.

Ireland vs Albania, Euro qualifier, 07/06/2003
Shed End Invincibles, St Patrick’s Athletic:


Shamrock Rovers (Hoops on Tour):
ireland-albania-2003-b

Athlone Town:

Finn Harps:

Shamrock Rovers:

Ireland vs Georgia, Euro qualifier, 11/06/2003
Shamrock Rovers:

Shamrock Rovers (Ringsend SRFC, left), Shelbourne FC (centre):

Shelbourne FC:

UCD:

Shamrock Rovers (left) and Finn Harps (right):

Ireland vs Australia, friendly, 19/08/2003
Briogáid Dearg
, Shelbourne FC (x3):

SRFC Ultras, Shamrock Rovers:

Galway United:

Shamrock Rovers and Galway United:

Ireland vs Russia, Euro qualifier, 06/09/2003
Briogáid Dearg,
Shelbourne FC:

Cork City:

Bohemians:

Bohemians:

Cork City (left), Bohemians (centre, right):

Bohemians (above left, right), Shelbourne (below left), Shamrock Rovers (centre):

Derry City:

Four Five One (fanzine), Cork City:

Shamrock Rovers (Ashbourne Says Howya’, Ringsend SRFC):

Shamrock Rovers:

Ireland vs Cyprus, World Cup qualifier, 04/09/2004
Galway United:

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YouTube links:

Luxembourg vs Ireland, 1987
Poland vs Ireland, 1991
Wales vs Ireland, 1991
Ireland vs Italy, 1994
Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1995
Austria vs Ireland, 1995
Ireland vs Lithuania, 1997
Ireland vs Romania, 1997
Malta vs Ireland, 1999
Andorra vs Ireland, 2001
Ireland vs Albania, 2003
Ireland vs Georgia, 2003
Ireland vs Australia, 2003
Ireland vs Russia, 2003
Ireland vs Cyprus, 2004

*****