Champagne Kit Campaigns #4: Ireland 1992/1993, World Cup 94 Qualifiers

After looking at the unique and interesting style in which both Norway and Russia successfully managed to qualify for World Cup 1994 (with Netherlands 1978 in between), as promised we once again return to the early 90s for our latest Champagne Kit Campaign project. This time it’s the turn of the Irish Republic, making it an unintentional four in a row of teams who wore Adidas in this series (albeit briefly in the case of Russia, which was an anything-but-brief installment).

Background:

Since the late 70s Ireland had worn three stripes on their kits, but unlike much of Europe it was not the coveted three stripes of Adidas. Well, it basically was, but not produced by them. Domestic brand O’Neills had taken over production of the Irish kits in 1976 and flagrantly used the sleeve design – also adding it to the collar and cuffs – for the national team shirt, as well as their club and Gealic games kits (and would expand to taking inspiration from other styles in the future). A legal battle eventually declared that O’Neills would actually be allowed to continue using the three stripes – in Ireland only.


Ireland in three striped kits of the O'Neills variety, vs France, World Cup qualifier, 14/10/1981.

Although some of the shirts became legendary in their own right, it did sort of feel like an Adidas rip-off, while the neighbours from the North had been wearing the “real thing” since 1977. But in 1986 Ireland too switched to Adidas, finally giving “legitimate stripes” to the country.

Unlike some of their other kits, the new kit partners never attempted to replicate O’Neills’ practice of often adding the tertiary colour to the middle stripe (at least on a shirt) and a French/Belgian flag-stripe layout also never materialised. But the simple green and white style perhaps suited the colourway more, as during Adidas’ reign bold orange trim replaced the more understated yellow/gold of O’Neills and was soon represented on the collar, crest and cuffs instead.


Ireland's Adidas shirt that added orange to the white collar and cuff trim, seen at Euro 88, vs England, 12/06/1988.

In late 1991, the crest was updated from the “green shamrock in an orange ring” (originally introduced briefly on an O’Neills Irish jersey in the 70s) to a half green/half orange circle containing a small shamrock and FAI text, divided by the white trails of a shooting ball. While the crest had been “upgraded” rather needlessly (although not as needless as the “modern marketing” crest change to come in 2004), the rest of the kit used in the 1990 World Cup and into 91 remained mostly unchanged when Ireland debuted the new badge away to Turkey in November.




Above, Ireland crest 1977/1987-1991; Below, Ireland crest 1991-2004.

After successfully making it to Euro 88 and World Cup 90, failure in the following European qualification system meant participation in the inaugural US Cup in 1992 instead – essentially a friendly tournament. But this foreshadowed the next task at hand: qualification for the 1994 World Cup, also to be held on American soil.

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Ireland, 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualification

Despite not making it to the Euros, Ireland had been undefeated in the qualifying campaign and were seeded in pool 2 for the World Cup draw in December 91. But with a whopper 7 teams in their eventual Group 3 (with two qualifying spots up for grabs), a difficult and diverse path lay ahead as drawn along side them were:
Spain from pool 1, who were rivals from the previous World Cup qualifiers; soon to be European Champions Denmark from pool 3; Northern Ireland from pool 4, with whom there was still high political tension and again a repeat opponent of the 90 edition; and the recently post-communist states of Lithuania, Latvia and Albania, who were all experiencing their own challenging times.

**For more information on how the collapse of communism in Europe effected these qualifiers, click here for Politics On The Pitch #1**

UEFA Qualifying Group 3:

Spain
Republic of Ireland
Denmark
Northern Ireland
Lithuania
Latvia
Albania

Match 1, home to Albania , 26/05/1992:

Before the 1992 European Championships had even started, Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers began with the arrival of Albania for the first ever meeting between the two countries. The visitors had already kicked-off the group away to Spain the previous month in a game that saw the home side debut it’s new Adidas Equipment template (complete with new “pyramid”/triangular Adidas logo), while Albania wore a virtually plain all-white strip.

As Ireland were of course also with Adidas, maybe it was expected that they too would debut a new kit (although to be fair Spain had just switched over from Le Coq Sportif). But as had been the case in friendlies earlier in the year against Wales, Switzerland and USA, the new crest sat across from a trefoil once again on the bespoke “shadow-chevron” green jersey, with it’s white v-neck and orange trim. Unlike the 1988/89 edition, the sleeves were cuff-less when short on this shirt, although the white and orange was applied to the cuffs of long-sleeved versions used in 90/91. The top was accompanied by the usual white shorts and green socks, with three stripes applied to all:

On the back was in fact the first part of the shirt that had evolved since World Cup 90, in the number font. The new Adidas style, featuring three diagonal stripes in the top corner rather than striped numbers themselves, had debuted away to England in March 91 (pic below), hinting at what was to come of the over-all layout later:

From the above graphic can be seen the Irish crest, as well as it’s Albanian equivalent. At first glance the latter’s “planet and star(?)” theme appears to be just some 80s stock image that a TV person had found, but the Albanian FA had long used something similar – a ball with a scroll around it rather than a planet – so an official, hastily produced rendering seems the most likely source.

More important than a TV graphic was what the Albanian team themselves were wearing. Following the collapse of the previous regime in 1991, the traditionally poor country was experiencing one of many periods of turmoil in it’s history, and as a result the national team had not traveled with a kit or training equipment (including balls). In a situation you can read more about here, with MuseumOfJerseys.com’s piece on the topic, a deal was made in which money was donated and a Cork sports gear factory – producing Adidas-licensed apparel at the time – stepped up to make a set of kits the day before the game.

It was not the first time that domestic upheaval had effected Albania’s international football, as they had taken a long hiatus from competition in the 70s. Now with a new tentatively-democratic system, an updated crest (separate to the one discussed above) had been created by Albanian government decree 11 days earlier and was faxed over to Ireland to be included on the jerseys the day before the game. The template of the shirt itself was the same “Equipment style”, with three bars over each shoulder, that Albania had just come up against when playing Spain, in which their own plain white kit (along with some similar financial help from the Spanish FA) was seemingly a result of the same situation:

Albania’s shorts and socks featured trefoils, mish-mashing the kit in terms of Adidas motif-generations. But the unusual scenario had a occurred where one of Europe’s weakest sides had ended up in a more up-to-date shirt than their superior quality hosts, at the hosts’ own cost:

Ireland weren’t the only nation in this UEFA qualifying system to still use an “old” Adidas style, as another collapsing state in Czechoslovakia failed to progress to the Equipment line for the rest of their existence, while Portugal, Norway and the Faroe Islands all played in similar shirts to each other that featured a trefoil and stripes, although these were basically hybrid attempts which bridged the generations with the incorporation of joined shoulder bar “flashes”.

Either way, while Ireland won the match 2-0 it would turn out to be an even more historic occasion as the last time that three stripes would appear on an Irish jersey-sleeve in a competitive game to date:

Result: Ireland 2 – 0 Albania

US Cup, June 1992:

While aficionados of the US Cup (1992-2000) might be upset at us for not classing it as a competitive competition, the four team invitational was indeed the scene as Ireland once again used the same jersey that had debuted in it’s original form more than two years before, when taking on the hosts on May 30. But frontal numbers were required on players’ shirts at the tournament (the first time that they would be seen on an Irish shirt) and all-green/all-white home and away strips were also used against Italy and Portugal (not the first or last time for either, but rare), all of which combined with the new crest and updated number-style to make the two of the most surreal Irish kits of all time (again, check out what Museum of Jerseys had to say on the matter).


Ireland in all green wearing the rare sight of frontal shirt numbers along with a trefoil, vs Italy, US Cup, 04/06/1992.

It would be interesting to know if Ireland would have used the same outfits had they qualified for Euro 92, commencing three days after the US Cup ended (which also would have added player names on the back) or if they would have switched to the Equipment style sweeping across Europe, as the other qualified Adidas-contracted nations had done.

Either at football association or manufacturer level, it somehow seems that an upgrade may not have been considered quite as urgent for Ireland without a place at the premier international tournament of that summer, although with the new crest, back numbers, front numbers and colour-combos, everything else about the kit had been quietly evolving around it nevertheless. And the fact that they did not switch meant that the Irish shirt at the US Cup was one of the very few instances of an international jersey featuring both a trefoil and a frontal number (with the original example dating back to 1972 – again head to MOJ for our own story on that).

Match 2, home to Latvia , 09/09/1992:

The qualifying campaign resumed in the autumn as Ireland faced another first-time opponent in Latvia, but – unlike Albania who Ireland had merely avoided in previous draws – this was mostly because Latvia had been part of the USSR from 1944 to 1991. The Latvians were lucky to even make it into the draw, as only they and their fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania had become independent early enough to be accepted by UEFA, with Russia later inheriting the Soviet Union’s place.

The big story on the pitch was that Ireland finally graduated to a new kit and for the first time wore an Adidas Equipment template, with it’s centralised, updated Adidas logo incorporated into the collar. While the likes of  France, Spain, CIS, Ghana, Azerbaijan, and, for at least one match as we have seen, Albania, used the version with basically a large divided triangle on each shoulder, Ireland entered the field that September day with three white diagonal bars coming over the right shoulder, corresponding to green bars on the opposite short leg – one of which pleasingly also contained the brand logo (reflecting the original plan for the shirt itself as seen on the Liverpool version from the season before):

This template was used in the period by the likes of BulgariaFinland Sweden (with a centralised crest), and domestically for the Irish Cork City. But it proved even more popular outside of Europe at international level, as shown by AustraliaCanada,  Japan, Nigeria (see the shorts and socks, “mashing” Adidas generations in the opposite way to Albania), SenegalZambia and the USA, who had worn it twice against Ireland already in 1992.

Unlike all of the above though, the Irish version was given the added feature of trim on the v-neck collar: white/green/orange, like an Irishified-Russian flag. At club level trim was used on the “dual-shoulder bar” shirt of Glasgow Rangers, as well as the “single-shoulder” Olympique de Marseille jersey, and was standard on the separate but related German style. But at international level, it appears that Ireland may have been the only side in either of the two main templates granted the honour of trim, demonstrating their standing at the time:

Using a slightly deeper green than the previous couple of editions and with subtle vertical shadow striping, it turned out that the Irish colourway was perfect for the template. The crest that debuted nearly a year earlier also at last looked in place, as well as the number style on the back. The collar trim was the icing on the cake, with the whole ensemble looking particularly classy.

In saying that, it is worth mentioning the reservations held by some at the application of what was basically enormous corporate branding across the sacred green jersey. But given the ever-evolving nature of football and football jerseys, and the purely objective style of the shirt, we are not too hung up about it.

Another thing separating the new design from it’s predecessors was that the shirt was made out of two main pieces of material for the front and back and sown along the top of the sleeves and down the sides, rather than separate pieces for each sleeve (a system still used on some other teams’ versions). A baggier style was replacing the tight fitting gear of the previous decade and the sowing technique had become a popular practice among kit makers in the early 90s, as can be seen on a jersey we Retro Shirt Reviewed (that we described as a Reebok equivalent to the same Irish jersey here).

Some players such as Tommy Coyne displayed the long sleeved version, showing that the cuffs were also green this time. And speaking of “long”, the shorts were considerably longer than the last kit also keeping with the universal football trends, although not at their maxium:

We mentioned earlier how the game against Albania was to be the last competitive setting in which three stripes (at least thin ones) would appear on an Irish jersey sleev. We specified the shirt rather than kit, as they continued to be used on the socks for this match. Liverpool in the same template were wearing socks with plain white turn-overs, which was presumably the intended design to match the kit, but the Swedens and Bulgarias of the world had also continued to use striped versions, seeming to indicate that it was simply a design choice left up to each club or country:

As Ireland romped to a 4-0 victory, it is worth mentioning the visitors who were using a crestless version of the multi-shaded geometric Umbro template also being employed by Northern Ireland at the time (their first since leaving Adidas in 1990). But unlike the North, Latvia’s shorts unusually featured an Umbro double diamond with no Umbro wordmark, a style that had been last been common in the 70s and wouldn’t be again until the 2000s.

Result: Ireland 4 – 0 Latvia

Match 3, away to Denmark , 14/10/1992:

Having gotten two of the less challenging home matches out of the way, Ireland were next due tough back-to-back aways in October and November against the other two top teams in the group. First up was Denmark, who had been the opponents in a 1985 qualifier when Ireland had last worn an O’Neills kit, featuring the short-lived shield-less shamrock crest.

Before the game the Irish squad informally surveyed the pitch in their delightful green and navy tracksuits with large white hoops on the arms. Continuing the theme of overlapping branding, a trefoil was the Adidas logo on the tracksuit rather than the “three diagonal bar triangle” (for want of a better name) on the kits:

Ireland’s last two visits to Copenhagen back in 78 and 84 had seen them face the red shirts of Denmark in away kits – white/white/white and white/green/white respectively (with the latter featuring superb green/yellow/green trim) – seemingly to accommodate black and white TV and those with green/red colorblindness. But it was not to be the debut of a new away kit here as Ireland emerged in a green shirt for the first time in Denmark since 1969, which has remained the only instance at the time of writing with two more repeats of the fixture to date:

Confirming the “colourblind clash”, the Danes were in the same Hummel home kit they had unexpectedly won the European Championships in four months earlier, minus the tournament mini-number on the front of course. To make matters slightly more concerning to the ultra-fastidious, like the right side of the Irish shirt there was a lot of white on the shoulders and the white shorts meant a clash in that department (as had been the case against Latvia), but the white Danish away socks were preferred to the regular red:

The Irish kit meanwhile had surprisingly evolved again slightly since the Latvia match, technically meaning three different kits in as many qualifying games. This time, the “old” Adidas stripes on the socks were joined on the lower part with the new Adidas triangle logo:

Adding to the fluidity of the kit, there was one player in an entirely different pair of socks: Terry Phelan. Phelan had a habit of tucking the tops of his stockings inside themselves for his clubs, but here for Ireland he appeared in socks featuring neither stripes nor Adidas logo. It would be nice to think of him as a sort of modern day Johan Cryuff, refusing to be chained by the commerciaised stripes of Adidas (ignoring the massive ones on his shirt and shorts of course), but apparently it was relating to calf muscle problems which required a looser sock:

Ireland managed to keep the score at 0-0, proving they may well have been adequate contenders for the Euros had they managed to get there, with Denmark having only been granted a place due to the banishment of Yugoslavia. The large traveling support, as well as such players as goalkeeper Pat Bonner in an exchanged Dnaish jersey, celebrated the hard-earned point like a win:

Result: Denmark 0-0 Ireland

Match 4, away to Spain , 18/11/1992:

Before the next match with Spain in Seville, John Aldridge’s time at Real Sociedad provided the opportunity for him to give an interview in Mersey-flavoured Spanish, which in turn provides us with a closer look at the trefoil tracksuit top:

For the fourth group game in a row Ireland were up against a team on the red-spectrum (a bit of a stretch for the Latvia jersey, but still, it would clash with a red-clad team). But for the first time in this campaign, the same kit was used on two consecutive occasions as the sock variation seen against Denmark was retained (except of course by Phelan) :

Unlike with Danish games, here there had never been a shorts clash due to the home sides beautiful blue hallmark, which pretty much negated the colourblind issue and prevented Ireland ever needing to use an away kit in Spain:

While Spain had started the campaign ahead of Ireland in terms of up-to-date kit fashion, the Irish had actually surpassed Spain by this point thanks to the goalkeepers. Zubizarreta in nets for the home side was wearing a template which had been seen as early as the previous World Cup:

But as in the last two games, Bonner at the other end was in a new Equipment template seen below, which we will come back to look at later. After a disallowed Aldridge goal for a questionable off-side, Ireland held on to another well deserved draw, closing out the year undefeated and with four clean sheets. Having swapped with Schmeichel in Denmark, Bonner held on to his jersey this time – unlike the Spanish shirt-wearing Niall Quinn beside him:

Result: Spain 0 – 0 Ireland

Match 5, Ireland vs Northern Ireland , 31/03/1993:

After a February warm-up friendly against Wales in Tolka Park, Ireland next welcomed their co-habitual island cousins from the North, who at one time undoubtedly held the grander achievements of the two with World Cup appearances in 1956, 82 and 86, before the Republic had made it to any tournament at all. But with Ireland’s progression to two of the last three major competitions and some impressive results therein, as well as a 3-0 home victory the last time the fixture was held in October 1989, things had definitely shifted.

By this time Northern Ireland had switched from the style employed by Latvia to a newer, large-collared template, but of course could not wear their first choice green in Dublin. As with the previous generation, navy hearkening back to the original Ireland (UK) shirts was the theme of their away kit used here, with green-bordered white vertical stripes combing to create a pajama-like effect:

On their way to a repeat of the 1989 result, including a Steve Staunton goal scored directly from a corner (his second in less that 12 months for Ireland having accomplished the same feat at the US Cup), incredibly the home side’s kit continued to change, and again it was the socks. Although it would turn out that stripes would return later, now at last the same style used by Liverpool was introduced with plain white turn-overs. The one difference in design was that the lower section was also plain, where a crest appeared on the Liverpool version:

Once again though, uniformity was not archived due to the presence of Phelan. His own trim-less socks were also conspicuous by the fact that they at least appeared to be a slightly different shade of green:

Result: Ireland 3 – 0 Northern Ireland

Match 6, Ireland vs Denmark , 28/04/1993:

With five games gone and no goals yet conceded, the following month saw the return of the Danes to try and dirty Ireland’s clean sheet record going in to the half-way point of the campaign. Unsurprisingly, the first choice shirt was retained by the hosts:

Ireland also took to the field again wearing the new socks seen against Northern Ireland, confirming their place as a permanent fixture, while this time a lack of Terry Phelan in the squad meant that it was finally the first instance of the kit was being worn correctly by all players. Unlike in Copenhagen, here the visitors did wear an alternate strip as white shirts and red shorts replaced red and white respectively, with the white socks seen before remaining as part of it’s intended ensemble:

Ireland did at last concede a goal, but equalised to give both teams a share of the points. With six games completed and six to go, the result left the Irish still outside the two qualification places despite their unbeaten record, serving as a reminder of the “undefeated failure” of European qualification. Even though Ireland did have two and three games in hand over Spain and Denmark, and with the two toughest away games on paper already satisfactorily navigated, three potentially-tricky trips to the “unknown” east were yet to come, with a date in Northern Ireland’s intimidating and grim Windsor Park looming on the last match day in November.

Result: Ireland 1 – 1 Denmark

Match 7, away to Albania , 26/05/1993:

A year to the day after Albania had worn donated kits in Ireland’s first group game, the return fixture was to take place in Tirana. As a brief aside on the south Balkan side, thankfully by this stage the Albanians had nailed down permanent gear for themselves and were wearing a tidy Umbro strip with white trim, as pictured below from their away game against Northern Ireland in 1992:

But while not the style used back in Dublin, one Adidas artifact had actually remained for Albania through the goalkeeper, who in early 1993 (seen below away to Lithuania in April) was for some reason using the same Adidas template as Ireland’s goalkeeper tops:

Although the use of a mismatched-manufactured goalie jersey was not uncommon at the time, it may have been an indication that all was still not perfect in the Albanian camp. This would be confirmed as the need for a change strip at the following month’s visit to Denmark saw the unnatural use of a basic all-blue and white Hummel kit – clearly a donation from their hosts with whom the brand is most associated (perhaps as any white and red away kit, if they indeed owned one at this point, might have clashed too much with the Danes’ red and white):

Albania would later finish out the group wearing Uhlsport, amazingly giving them a least 4-5 different brands worn throughout qualifying. But getting back to the visit of Ireland, the all-red Umbro kit was worn and a new non-Umbro/Adidas goalkeeper kit was also in use:

Surprisingly, the home side became the second team to score against Ireland by taking the lead. But the boys in green (and a lot of white) came back to score twice, keeping their qualification hopes alive in an amazingly archaic stadium that featured steep concrete terracing surrounding much of the pitch:

Result: Albania 1-2 Ireland

David O’Leary Testimonial, May 1993:

With so many teams in Ireland’s group, there was little time or need for friendly matches, apart from the low-key affair against the Welsh. Three days after playing in Albania though, there would be a game that would be considered a friendly for a least one team involved. The occasion was veteran defender David O’Leary’s testimonial match, in which an Irish selection was to take on Hungary in Dublin.

But due to some sort of misunderstanding, FIFA and Hungary were under the impression that the game was a full international and the Hungarian players who played were awarded full caps that stand to this day (thanks to kit collector and expert Barry Rojack for this information). For the Irish, as with all their testimonial sides, shirts baring the Opel logo that appeared on replica versions were used, creating a new unique club-like feel and giving us another rare example of a sponsor being used in a (half) international game.


The Opel wearing Ireland XI celebrate going 1-0 up after 10 seconds, David O'Leary testimonial, vs Hungary, 29/05/1993.

Considering which club side was using the same template with the same sponsor at the same time, we would like to call this the “Bireland Munich” jersey. The appearance of players like Phil Babb in the game, who would not earn full caps while the Equipment shirt was being worn, also added to the other-worldly effect. Despite the Irish XI going  2-0 up, including a goal after just ten seconds from Roy Keane, Hungary came back to score four in the second half and take the win, at which their commentator was naturally very excited.


Phil Babb in action for the Irish XI the year before making his full debut, in a shirt he would never play in at senior level, David O'Leary testimonial, 29/09/1993.

Match 8, away to Latvia , 09/06/1993:

To the untrained eye, Ireland’s first trip to Riga may have appeared to have been an exact kit-match of their previous meeting in September 1992. Of course because of Ireland’s updated socks this wasn’t the case, but it was not the only reason. The hosts too had slightly altered their strip, as a crest was now applied to the shirt and opposite short leg, and the double diamond on the shorts now had it’s Umbro wordmark:

Another two goals and a return to a clean-sheet meant that the first half of Ireland’s Baltic mission had been successfully completed.

Result: Latvia 0-2 Ireland

Match 9, away to Lithuania , 16/06/1993:

A week after the Latvia win, Ireland were in Vilnius for the last game of the summer to take on their one remaining opponent in the group, again for the first time ever. Lithuania had perhaps been the strongest of the three weaker sides so far, with draws against Denmark and Northern Ireland, and wins over Albania and Latvia.

The still relatively new host nation, who used an Umbro template featuring a black zig-zagging line, had apparently yet to settle on first choice kit colours, as orange shirts and green shorts were used at home and away to Spain, but with an all-green strip preferred when playing Albania and Denmark. Seemingly, with Ireland’s famous green jersey in mind, orange shirts were kindly chosen here to allow the visitors to continue using their own regular home kit:

Similarly to how the Irish away shirts worn previously in Denmark were apparently no longer required, here it seemed that compared to days gone by (check out our reviews of Bulgaria vs West Germany, 1984, and Bulgaria vs Ireland, 1977) rules on less-obvious clashes had been relaxed. But with the amount of green on show from both sides, as well as both teams’ kits blending in with with the green, white and orange of the ever-present Irish away support’s banners around the ground, the unplanned use of an all-white away kit in the spirit of the US Cup may have actually been the best option for the visitors:

Any perceived visual difficulty was rendered irrelevant though, as a single goal was enough to give Ireland another two points (as three points for a win had yet to be introduced). The tricky summer tour of the east was over.

Result: Lithuania 0-1 Ireland

Match 10, home to Lithuania , 08/09/1993:

Going into the crucial last stretch of games, it was the Lithuanians again next in Dublin. Here we will once more refer to Museum of Jerseys’ feature linked to earlier, as a similar situation arose to that of the Albania game the previous year.

The visitors proved that who ever was in charge of their kits had perhaps merely chosen orange by pure luck last time, and in fact didn’t have a clue what Ireland would be wearing as here Lithuania arrived with only their green strip. As the idea of Ireland reverting to a charge kit was obviously out of the question, a set of white Adidas trefoil jerseys with green v-neck trim was loaned to the former Soviet republic, accompanied by black shorts and matching white and green socks:

It was actually quite a nice look, even though the only player still wearing the red badge of Lithuania was the goalkeeper. But unlike Albania in Dublin – who had basically been able to create a unique version of their home strip with the correct colours and badge – this was a second instance in the group after Albania’s other blue-strip situation in Denmark of a hastily arranged, completely made-up kit.

The situation was quite ironic after Ireland had nearly had done the exact same thing in the previous game, had the Lithuanians decided to use green as a home shirt colour that day. Instead, Ireland’s Lansdowne Road stadium had once again witnessed a game in this campaign between two sides wearing different generations of Adidas templates – now with the roles reversed in terms of the Irish being the more up to date side – and unlike the Albania game it was also a long shorts vs short shorts affair.

A comfortable 2-0 win completed an important five wins a row for Ireland, with a sterner test against Spain coming up next. The excellent form brought top spot in the Group, although both the Danes and the Spanish had a game in hand.

Result: Ireland 2-0 Lithuania

Match 11, at home to Spain , 13/10/1993:

Before the game against Spain, who had last succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in Dublin in 1989, Ireland wore tracksuit tops-come-anthem tops that were similar to those shown earlier before the Denmark game. There was one major difference though, as a simple Adidas wordmark had replaced the trefoil, again foreshadowing what was to come on the actual shirts the following  year.

The traditional green/white/green strip of Ireland and the red/blue/black of Spain seemed to combine to create quite a delightful aesthetic when the two teams would play. This was amplified with the addition of the large amounts of white and yellow respectively on the Adidas Equipment templates of both teams used here:

The only difference in the kits to the previous meeting was the updated Irish socks. But there was one Irish player who was in the exact same attire thanks to his individual preference, as Terry Phelan had continued his sock-switching practice after returning to the team in the summer:

Through substitutions could be seen another of the Irish teams jackets (along with the ever pleasing UEFA official tracksuit style of the 90s) featuring another new Adidas theme of three large vertical stripes. This had yet to appear on a shirt, but something not far off was also in the pipeline:

As promised, below we get  a better luck at Pat Bonner, with a humorous banner hung on the fence behind him. In our opinion the selected colourway of yellow, black and green could not have been better for an Irish goalkeeper jersey in the template:

Despite the beautiful jersey, the home crowd were shocked as the Celtic stopper was powerless to prevent Spain going 3-0 up within half an hour, making a mockery of the aforementioned banner. Having also at last switched to a newer style, Zubizarreta at the other end was interestingly now wearing a goalkeeper version of the Ireland outfield template in grey tones:

John Sheridan pulled one back for Ireland in the second half, but cap-wearing English manager Jack Charlton and his bench looked on concerned (yet stylish) as qualification was now far from guaranteed going in to the last-day showdown with the North. Furthermore, and perhaps even more depressing to Big Jack, it was the last time Ireland would play in the home Adidas Equipment shirt:

Result: Ireland 1-3 Spain

Match 12, away to Northern Ireland , 17/11/1992:

Having been defeated 1-0 away to Denmark on the same day Ireland lost to Spain, Northern Ireland were mathematically out of the running to qualify by the time the last round of fixtures came around. But the next best thing would clearly be to eliminate the Republic in Windsor Park.

The wins over the two Irish sides for the Danes and Spanish in October had left Denmark in top spot with 18 points, while Spain and Ireland behind them on 17 points each were separated only by the Spaniards’ superior goal difference. But Spain and Denmark were also playing each other on the last day, meaning points would be dropped somewhere, and this left the North needing a win in order to definitively block Ireland’s progress.

As Northern Ireland was largely supported by those who fell on the “British loyalist” side in the region’s decades long conflict (as opposed to ethnic Irish nationalists desiring an independent reunification of the island, who would have been more likely to identify with the Republic’s team), the Irish national anthem was roundly booed before the match. With the yellow lights of a dark and moody Belfast setting the backdrop, given the tense atmosphere it may not have been wise to have sang along anyway, as due to security risks only a handful of away fans had made the journey “up the road.”

One thing that couldn’t be booed by anyone though was more new “anthem tops” being worn by Ireland. First, during the warm-up older green sweatshirts had actually been used that featured a trefoil and a “logo-less” Opel sponsor, which would have appeared to have been a remnant of the squads’ World Cup 90 line if it wasn’t for the updated crest:

Then when the two teams properly emerged, a spiffing new over-garment was on show; this time featuring a lot of black and the addition of orange to the trim:

Meanwhile at the dugout the older navy themed jackets were still around, including at least one trefoil being worn by physio Mick Byrne, while the UEFA official nonchalantly assumed style-icon status near by:

Besides the politics the most important thing by far was the kits, as with Northern Ireland back in their green/white/green home strip it was finally time to see the away version of Ireland’s Adidas Equipment kit. It was nearly a straight reversal of the home version, apart from the fact that the collar trim was now green/white/orange rather than white/green/orange, and the shade of green used seemed brighter compared to the home strip – at least under Windsor’s lights:

Of course the main issue was that the green/white/green vs white/green/white match-up had created an overall clash, as elements of both teams kits blurred together at a glance. As we have mentioned earlier, any guidelines on avoiding such clashes were not being enforced at the time. But we love Museum of Jersey’s idea that had the referee deemed the Irish kit unsuitable, a theoretical Irish orange third kit (conceived by ourselves) would have been a hilariously apt replacement considering the setting:

At half-time during the Irish broadcast, an interesting advertisement for Mars was shown (followed by an even better commercial promoting Street Fight 2 Turbo for the Super Nintendo, staring Rik Mayall) in which a fictional (and headless) Irish team prepared for a match wearing the 88/89 home kit, minus a trefoil on the shirt:

An Adidas sports bag is visible at one point though – despite earlier having been edited to appear blank – followed swiftly by a close up of a Puma boot, and later a trefoil does actually sneak in for a split second. While the players are getting ready, “fans” can be seen eagerly entering the “stadium” with one amazingly wearing the 1987 Irish shirt which had not yet featured orange trim on the cuffs or collar:

As the team emerges (still on the ad here) and the fake crowd erupts into ecstasy, an unusual Irish crest unused on an actual shirt is also shown, with the words “Football Association” appearing instead of their initials as in the original “FA Ireland” version:

After the break in the actual match, Northern Ireland’s manager Billy Bingham confidentially swaggered out from the dressing rooms and gestured to the crowd in an attempt to rile up the home support even more.  Underneath his large black and green Umbro coat was an eye catching purple tracksuit top, with quintessentially intricate 90s patterning and IFA insignia:

The fact that the top was not covered up by the coat indicates that the November evening can’t have been too cold. This was confirmed on the pitch as many players used short sleeve jerseys, but the likes of Aldridge and Alan Kernaghan (the latter having represented Northern Ireland as a schoolboy) played their part for Ireland by modeling the long-sleeved version of the debut shirt. And speaking of personal preferences, at last Terry Phelan fell in line by wearing the same socks as the rest of the team, but, true to form, with as little of the green trim showing as humanly possible:

Later, news came in that Spain had gone 1-0 up against Denmark, inserting them into first position and dropping the Danes behind Ireland on goal difference as things stood. This had come despite an early sending off for Zubizarreta. Meanwhile, his Irish counterpart Bonner – who had also surprisingly also been sent off the previous year in the US Cup – was distinguished from his team mates in being able to retain his yellow and black home strip, which contained white trim on the socks à la the 1990 kit:

To the visceral delight of the crowd, on 74 mins Northern Ireland went 1-0 up meaning their opponents were once again outside the qualification positions. But the shock was equally palpable just four minutes later as substitute Alan McLoughlin scored the equaliser, and the accompanying audible reaction of the small away contingent displayed an understandable loss of any earlier sense of caution:

That was how things would stay until the end, when the RTE broadcast switched over to the dying stages of the Spain vs Denmark game as the reigning European Champions desperately sought a goal. It was a nervy few minutes for Ireland, as had Denmark succeeded in scoring, the point gained would have secured top spot while Spain’s goal difference would ensure they still beat Ireland to second place.

There was no need to worry though as the Spanish held on, meaning Ireland and Denmark both finished on 18 points with a goal difference of +13, but Ireland’s “goals for” tally of 19 – compared to the Dane’s 15 – just about gave them the edge. The group seeding had turned out to be spot on, as it ended in  the exact same order it was drawn; Denmark were out, and the Republic of Ireland had officially qualified for their second consecutive World Cup.

Among the scenes on the pitch back in Belfast, the goal scorer McLaughlin passionately embraced Bonner, who had turned out to be the only man in the Irish squad to have played in the exact same kit in every game since the old kit used all those months before against Albania:

This fact meant that the alternate goalkeeper top – if one had even been prepared – never saw the light of day. But at last the outfield away had made what would turn out to be it’s one and only appearance, as new strips were introduced the following  year in the lead up to the World Cup. Given the significance of the game in which it was worn, as well as the iconic design and our particular fondness of away gear as well as this particular template, we give it the nod as the greatest “one-off” Irish jersey and kit of all time.

 Result: Northern Ireland 1-1 Ireland

IRELAND QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP 1994 

Breakdown
Team: Republic of Ireland 
Years: 1992, 1993
Competition: World Cup 94 qualifiers
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 12
Kit Colour Combinations: 2
Kit Technical Combinations: 5

*

Youtube Links:

Ireland vs France, 1981
Ireland vs England, 1988
England vs Ireland, 1991
Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Ireland vs Italy, 1992
Ireland vs Latvia, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Denmark, 1993
Albania vs Ireland, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Denmark vs Albania, 1993
Ireland vs Hungary, 1993
Latvia vs Ireland, 1993
Lithuania vs Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Lithuania, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991

*****

Politics On The Pitch #1: Changing Eastern Europe and the World Cup ’94 Qualifiers

We had originally planned on only briefly discussing the topic for this very first edition of Politics On the Pitch (yes, another POTP acronym) as a prelude to an upcoming Champagne Kit Campaign (For the debut of Champagne Kit Campaigns, focusing on Norway in the same time period, click here).

However, it quickly became apparent that an in depth look was needed as we felt more and more compelled to delve into the crux of where politics and football met leading up to the UEFA qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup (We have no idea if one can “delve into a crux” or not but we’re bloody well doing it).

We look back on this campaign as THE all-time classic qualification phase in Europe, partly due to age and nationality, but the changing political face of the world at the time also created some unique situations and contributed to the general magic.

On December 8th, 1991, thirty seven national teams were entered into the UEFA section of the draw to decide groups for the upcoming World Cup ’94 qualifiers. Political turmoil in eastern Europe meant that three of these countries would either not compete in their current form or not take part at all: the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

But a further three in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were freshly reformed nations competing for the chance to play at the tournament for the first time in decades. One side had already disappeared since the last World Cup as East Germany had been reunified with West on October 3rd, 1990.


Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer at the FIFA World Cup draw in 1991 for UEFA.

Some other former communist states such as Poland (1989), Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania (all 1990) had also already completed the transition to new “democratic”, capitalist regimes. These changes were first evident at an international tournament when Romania competed at World Cup ’90 under a restored, pre-communist flag and played in shirts devoid of a badge, the previous one being synonymous with the recently booted government.


Romania kit at World Cup '90, sans a crest.

Romanian supporters also displayed the banner of the revolution against President Ceaușescu; a Romanian flag with the coat of arms of the old regime literally cut out of the middle. Eight years earlier at a World Cup ’82 in a match against the USSR, Polish fans had displayed banners of the anti-communist Solidarity movement showing a sign of what was coming down the line, until Spanish police forced their removal upon pressure from Soviet TV.


Polish banners of the Solidarity movement at World Cup '82.

But the above were all nation states that had not been absorbed into into bigger unions. For countries within these unions, it would take a little more time to reemerge on to the international stage. Elections had taken place across the various republics of the USSR and Yugoslavia in 1990, but a complex sequence of events would still need to take place before independence could be achieved.

Eventually, after the chaos of the failed August 1991 coup, a weakened Soviet Union recognised the independence of the Baltic states on the 6th of September,  in time for them to join UEFA and enter the draw for World Cup qualifying.

On January 1st, 1992, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The other former Soviet countries were not as lucky as the Baltic nations and would not be entered into World Cup qualifying, but a more pressing matter was the fact that the failed state had already qualified for the upcoming European Championships in Sweden.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had formed in December ’91 by the soon to be former Soviet republics as a loose international confederation, but on January 11th, 1992, a football association of the CIS was also formed and swiftly accepted into UEFA to replace the USSR at the European Championships.


CIS shirt at Euro '92.

The CIS team represented the following 12 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia (despite not entering the actual CIS until 1995), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. But at the Euros the team contained mostly Russians and Ukrainians, with one Georgian and one Belorussian.


CIS supporters celebrate a goal against Germany at Euro '92. The white flag with the red star, hammer and sickle, and blue bar at the bottom, is the former Soviet naval ensign.

Meanwhile, the situation in Yugoslavia had deteriorated into war. The Balkan state had been out been outside the Warsaw Pact and had been led by what may be as close to a benevolent dictator the 20th century had seen in Tito, and throughout the Cold War some eastern European players had used away games in Yugoslavia as a chance to defect to the west. Despite this, it’s exit from the communist era was the bloodiest of all and the ramifications of this rippled through to the sporting world.

Like the USSR, Yugoslavia had qualified for Euro ’92 in the midst of it’s socialist state dissolving. As Croatia, Slovenia and FYR Macadonia broke away, the remaining territory became the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later known as Serbia and Montenegro.

Their football team was set to take the place of the original Yugoslavia at the Euros but just ten days before the tournament, on May 31st, 1992, the team was banned from competing and replaced with eventual winners Denmark. This was in accordance with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 757 which placed sanctions on the country as the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina went on.

The ban lasted until 1996, meaning Yugoslavia were also out of World Cup qualifying. They had originally been Pool 2 seeds and drawn in Group 5, fittingly along with top seeds the Soviet Union.


The original World Cup Qualifying Group 5, featuring the USSR and Yugoslavia.

The CIS concluded it’s brief existence in international football losing to Scotland at the Euros on June 18th, 1992. Ukraine had proposed a new tournament for the teams who had made up the CIS so they would have something to compete for in lieu of the World Cup. This was supported by Armenia and Georgia, but blocked by Russia.

In August, Russia was officially recognised by FIFA as the USSR/CIS successor state and take it’s place in qualifying Group 5 along with Greece, Iceland, Hungary and Luxembourg, but without the stricken Yugoslavia.

Most interesting to note was that in Russia’s first international since 1914, a friendly against Mexico in August ’92, they would in fact continue to wear what was previously the white away shirt of the USSR, now apparently repurposed as a home shirt. The only difference in the kit was that the Adidas trefoil-era shorts of the Soviets (white with red trim) were replaced with shorts of the new Adidas Equipment line (plain white but for a black brand logo).


 Left: USSR vs Italy, October '91. Right: Russia vs Mexico, August '92.

Russia playing in Soviet shirts vs Mexico, August '92.

The shirt would again be worn when Russia made their World Cup qualifying debut at home to Iceland in October but with blue shorts and red socks, amazingly meaning that the Soviet shirt was now part of an overall Russian flag. By the following game at home to Luxembourg, Russia finally wore their own shirts, albeit very bare.


 Russian kit vs Iceland, October '92.

Although plain, Russia finally gets it's own shirt against Luxembourg, October '92.

This unusual kit sequence clearly needs it’s own article, which will happen in due course. But back to the actual group and the absence of Yugoslavia, along with Russia’s smaller talent pool than it’s predecessor, meant that it was far weaker than when originally drawn. This paved the way for Greece to top the group and qualify for it’s first World Cup, with Russia joining them in second.

While their fellow former Soviet republics were denied the right to play competitively until Euro 96 qualifiers in 1994, the Baltic states were all happily placed as bottom seeds in Pool 6 of the draw.


Sepp Blatter draws Estonia as the first country out of the hat after the top seeds had been assigned their groups.

After original independence from the collapsed Russian Empire in 1917, Estonia had first competed as a national team in 1920, with Latvia following suit in 1922 and Lithuania the following year. Estonia and Lithuania had taken part in qualifying for the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, with Latvia also competing in the latter, so it would not technically be new ground for any of the three. However, as all were annexed by the USSR in 1940 and as UEFA did not form until 1954, the 1994 campaign would be their first as UEFA affiliated countries.

Estonia were drawn in a tough Group 1 along with Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Scotland and Malta. Unsurprisingly, they only managed one point from a 0-0 draw away to Malta and only scored one goal in the entire campaign during a 3-1 defeat to Scotland.


Estonia score their lone goal of the campaign away to Scotland.

Latvia and Lithuania had been drawn against each other in a group of two back when they last competed in 1937. Since both were bottom seeds, it should have been impossible for the neighbours to clash this time. However, due to the uneven amount of teams in the draw, fate would have it that after the long wait to rejoin international competition they would again be drawn together in Group 3, along with an eastern country that we have not mentioned yet in Albania.

Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Northern Ireland made up the rest of the group, creating the unusual situation where this group had seven teams, while due to Yugoslavia’s suspension Group 5 only contained five (the other 4 groups had six each).


Albania, Latvia and Lithuania drawn together in Group 3.

Albania had originally been a Warsaw Pact member but broke away in 1960 and remained a deeply secretive and less well known state. Despite this, it had been a founder member of UEFA in 1954 and competed in Euro and World Cup qualification in the ’60s.

But then, due to internal political reasons, the country would not compete at all in ’68 and ’69, and again from ’74 until ’80 (apart from three Balkan Cup games against Yugoslavia in ’76 and ’77, and one friendly against Algeria in ’77). They would return for the World Cup ’82 qualifying campaign and remain in competition ever since.

Like the rest of the region, Albania held democratic elections by 1991, but the transition from communism was difficult and the country remained poor. The turmoil was evident when they visited Dublin to play Ireland in May 1992 without a kit (a shame as they had worn some beautiful kits in the 80’s and very early 90’s). For more information on this episode, and Lithuania ending up in a similar situation away to Ireland the following year, check out this Museum of Jerseys piece.


Albania in a hasitly prepared kit away to Ireland, May '92.

Lithuania, Latvia and Albania would unsurprisingly finish 5th, 6th and 7th in the group, mostly taking points off each other. But delightfully, Latvia did manage respectable 0-0 draws at home to both Denmark and Spain.


Latvia holding Spain to a 0-0, September '92.

Lithuania 1-1 Latvia, October '92.

The last of the former communist states to cover is Czechoslovakia. Over the course of ’89-’90, the communist government collapsed and the country formally transformed on April 23rd, 1990, from the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic to the Czech and Slovak Federalist Republic. This was seen in effect at the World Cup draw the following year as “CSFR” was used to represent the country on the group board.


Democratic Czechoslovakia of '89-'92, aka CSFR, seconds seeds in Group 4.

They were drawn in Group 4 along with Belgium, Romania, Wales, Cyprus and the debuting Faroe Islands (San Marino in Group 2 and Isreal in Group 6 were the other new sides added to UEFA’s system) and would compete as Czechoslovkia for the first three matches. But as 1992 progressed, Slovakian calls for greater autonomy resulted in the break up of the federation, and on January 1st, 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovkia both came into existence as independent states.

Like the the USSR becoming the CIS in ’92, the team completed the group as a new entity, the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (RCS). Unlike with the CIS though, this was purely a sporting union and not representative of an actual political body.

Most notable was the team’s away shirt which saw use away to Wales in September ’93, a template also infamously used for Arsenal’s ’91-’93 away shirt.


RCS away shirt away to Wales, September '93.

A win on the last day of the group away to Belgium would have meant qualification through 2nd place, and presumably the continued existence of RCS until at least the following summer after the World Cup. However, the game ended 0-0 and Belgium took 2nd instead with RCS finishing 3rd.

Slovakia had previously competed while a Nazi puppet state in the World War 2 era and fielded unofficial teams again from 1992, but they would officially reemerge in February ’94 away to the UAE. The Czech Republic would go on to be official successor of the Czechoslovakian and RCS teams and play their first match, away to Turkey, three weeks after their new neighbours, in a way putting an end to the era we have disucssed.

Only 2 of the 6 groups for the World Cup ’94 qualifiers did not contain the results of states breaking up or gaining independence since the 80’s. This continued fragmentation meant that the draw for Euro ’96 qualifying would rise to 47 countries with the addition of the other post-Soviet European countries and former Yugoslav states. This would increase even more into the future as the Balkans further divided, and the likes of Kazakhstan eventually joined.

As Europe and the world in general continue to evolve rapidly, who knows how differently qualification groups of the future may look compared with today, as the addition or removal of even more states is as inevitable as it always has been. That is, of course, should the concept of modern states continue to even exist.