Politics On The Pitch #5: Groups of Death Part 2 (1970-1979)

Last time out in Politics On the Pitch, Groups of Death part 1 provided a looked at some controversial match-ups and politically motivated withdrawals of national teams in the post-WW2 period, finishing off with the infamous Football War between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. We continue now with a decade not short on classic international incidents, as well as classic international football matches: the 1970s.

  • 1974 World Cup Qualifiers

As the Cold War went on without any actual battle in Europe, UEFA’s qualifiers continued to pit different ideologies against each other on the football pitch. Like the campaign for World Cup 1958, staunchly anti-Soviet Finland were once again surrounded by communist countries in Group 4; this time Albania, East Germany and Romania replaced the USSR and Poland.

Poland in Group 5 found themselves in a similar but reversed situation, with the all-British opposition of England and Wales. Group 7 was perhaps the most extreme, as Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia fought it out with both Franco’s fascist Spain and a Greece ruled by a far-right military junta. Conversely, Group 3 of Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands and Norway was a northern European purist’s dream.

As with previous World Cups, one legged play-offs on neutral ground were used to differentiate first and second placed sides who had finished level on points and goal difference, determining who would get the sole qualification spot in the group. Upcoming World Cup hosts West Germany were a natural choice for the venues, with Sweden defeating Austria in Gelsenkirchen, and Yugoslavia triumphing over Spain in Frankfurt.

Such “emergency” fixtures were later rendered obsolete, as “goals for” became the more important tie-breaking factor, especially away from home (although in 1995 Ireland and the Netherlands would uniquely play-off in Liverpool for the last Euro 96 spot, as the two lowest ranked 2nd placed finishers in qualifying). One play-off that would survive from this time however (if not always involving UEFA these days) was the inter-confederation version, returning after having been dropped for the previous two World Cup.

For the first time ever, the play-off was to be between European and South American teams; a positive move as far as the less well represented continents were concerned. But surprisingly, the “real world” events of September 1973 made the coinciding qualification clash a rather problematic fixture.

UEFA–CONMEBOL Play-Off:

USSR
Chile

The Soviet Union had been in Group 9 of  UEFA’s qualifiers along with France and Ireland, coming out on top. The winner of this group had somewhat unfairly been pre-determined to enter the play-off, rather than being the lowest ranked group winner as in the years that followed.

Their opponents, Chile, had been in Group 3 of the South American system, with Peru as their only opposition after Venezuela withdrew. In April and March 1973, 2-0 wins for the respective home team in both group games meant another play-off was needed to separate the sides, won 2-1 by Chile on August 5th in Montevideo, Uruguay.


A young fan runs on the pitch in Montevideo to celebrate with Chilean players after their defeat Peru in a qualification group play-off, 05/08/1973.

***If you are interested in countries withdrawing and not playing games, then you’ll love our look back at the 1950 World Cup qualifiers.***

Like with Europe’s Group 9, the winner of this group had always been destined to enter the intercontinental showdown, the first leg of which was scheduled for 26 September in Moscow. But then, on September 11th 1973, Chile’s democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende (in power since 1970) was overthrown in a US/UK backed coup d’état and replaced by an authoritarian, right-wing military junta that would come to be led by army chief Augusto Pinochet.

The new regime quickly cracked down on any left-leaning organisations, banned any travel out of  the country, and, to quote Wikipedia, “thousands of people deemed undesirable were taken to the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, (and) tortured and killed”; the same Estadio Nacional where the second leg of the football was to be played in November. With the anti-communist stance of the junta, it was somewhat fitting that the first international encounter of any kind for the “new Chile” was set to see it face off against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile, turned into a detention, torture and death camp by the new regime, September-Novermber 1973.

The Soviets had been an ally of the Allende presidency and relations between the two countries were immediately severed following the coup. Less that two weeks later, the Chilean national team traveled to Moscow for the first leg with tensions high.

Many of the team were apolitical, or even harboured ties to the previous government, and the players were under strict order not to state anything of a political nature on the trip under threat of their families lives. Indeed the Chilean government only allowed the squad to travel in order to project a veneer of normality, while institutionalised terror reigned at home (an all too familiar tactic).

Upon their arrival in Moscow airport, no authority was on hand to receive the South American team and some players were detained due to supposed passport irregularities. Adding to the drama was the rumour that the Soviets would arrest Chilean players to later exchange with socialist prisoners of war.

On September 26th nearly 50,000 entered the Central Lenin Stadium for the game, but among them were no journalists or cameras, as ominously ordered by the authorities. Admirably, Chile – who had made several World Cup appearances already including a 3rd place finish on home soil in 1962 – were able to hold their large and intimidating hosts to a 0-0 draw, much to the humiliation of all involved on the home side (both of a sporting and political nature).

With the return leg in Santiago scheduled for nearly two months later on November 21st, the horrors of the oppressive Chilean dictatorship continued in the national stadium and only came to an end on November 7th. The USSR appealed to FIFA to have the game moved to neutral ground, fairly refusing to play in what had been turned in to a legitimate death camp. But both FIFA – who as we have discussed were equal opportunists to states of all political orientations and atrocities – and of course Chile themselves, denied any such move.


Chilean Dictator Pinochet giving a press conference in the stadium, Autumn 1973.

The Soviets traveled to South America anyway to play stand-by friendlies against neighboring countries, showing that they were serious about the match should the venue be changed. It was not to be, and in fact the “game” was to go ahead without any opposition as approved by FIFA; mostly in order to display a political show, but also to avoid the loss of income from refunding all those already purchased match tickets.


Soldiers keep watch outside the ground before the "match", Chile vs an absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Come match day and 15,000 were in attendance, with many younger supporters unaware of the political significance of the situation, as Austrian referee Erich Linemayr blew the whistle to kick-off what was to be quite literally a one-sided affair. The Chilean players casually ran the ball down field to score into the empty net, after which the ref blew the whistle again to conclude the farce. A 2-0 walkover was awarded, and Chile qualified for the World Cup.


Chile score into an empty USSR net; with no opposition present to take kick-off, the referee would then blow the full-time whistle, 21/11/1973.

With their place on the moral high-ground firmly secured, it was later suggested by players from the time that the Soviet authorities were motivated more through a fear of losing the game to their political “enemies”, rather than a concern for human rights. Either way, having finished runners-up in the 1972 European Championships, the aborted play-off was to prove a negative turning point for the USSR as they would miss out on the following two World Cups and Euros respectively.


The stadium scoreboard following the only goal in the one team game, Chile vs absent USSR, 21/11/1973.

Chile, on the other hand, went to West Germany for the 1974 tournament where they had been drawn in a group with the hosts, along with East Germany and Australia. But attention to the grim situation in their country was drawn once again at their final game against Australia, when shortly after kick-off a group of political protesters carrying a large Chilean banner invaded the pitch, causing the match to be paused.


Political protesters on the pitch interrupting Australia vs Chile, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

It would not be until 1988 that democracy would return to Chile. When the Estadio Nacional was eventually renovated in 2010, one sector of the ground – Salida 8 – was left untouched, to serve as a memorial and reminder of what happened on the site.

AFC/OFC Zone A

Hong Kong
Japan
Malaysia
Isreal
South Vietnam
South Korea
Thailand

As we saw in Part 1, the Asian and Oceanic section was always interesting to keep an eye on due to the inclusion of exiled “colonialist African” teams (South Africa for 1966, Rhodesia for 1970), and because of the Israeli problem, with neighboring Arabic and Islamic countries refusing to participate against the Jewish state. To avoid a repeat of the resulting withdrawals in 1957, Israel had originally been placed in UEFA for the 1962 and 1966 qualifying campaigns; strangely in the former as part of a mini knockout tournament group with Cyprus, Italy and, for some reason, Ethiopia.

Now, for the second time in a row they were back in the AFC section, but like 1970 were placed in an otherwise all-east Asian zone. One omission was North Korea, who had also refused to play Israel in the previous qualifiers on political grounds and so were conveniently swapped into Zone B-Group 1 along side the Middle Eastern states of Iran, Kuwait and Syria, where Israel should rightfully have been.

(Note: all Zone B-Group 1 games were played Iran, while in Zone B-Group 2 Iraq were forced to travel to the other side of the world to play in/against Australia, along side New Zealand and Indonesia)

The entirety of Zone A was to be held in Soul, South Korea, beginning with three classification matches on May 16th and 17th 1973 to determine which teams would be placed in what group (with the hosts already allotted to Group 2). Israel took on and beat Japan 2-1 on the opening day, but only after another controversial country in the midst of it’s own war of destruction amazingly took part in their first ever World Cup game.

Vietnam had won autonomy within the French empire in 1949 as the “State of Vietnam”, but by 1954 shock military victories for local communist forces drove the colonialists out for good. This resulted in the division of the country, creating of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam – recognised by the likes of China and the USSR – and the formal foundation of the western-backed Republic of (South) Vietnam the following year. South Vietnam had quickly established a football team, participating in the Asian Games since 1954, and finishing a respectable 4th in the first two Asian Cups (granted, only four teams took part).


Flag of South Vietnam, 1949-1975.

But at home, with the Republic refusing to sanction elections that would potentially reunify the country as guaranteed by the Geneva Convention (which had formalised the partition but not been signed by South Vietnam), their strategy of US-backed force to retake the North began two decades of the Vietnam War. This didn’t stop participation of the football team in international competitions though, as they would continue to take part in Asian Games until 1970.

As the conflict went on and disaster unfolded, an embarrassed United States formally began withdrawing ground troops from the warzone in 1969, although air power and financial support were still used into the 70s to combat the North Vietnamese Army and it’s Viet Cong liberation front in the South. But in January 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed, officialy removing America from the war and creating a shaky ceasefire between North and South Vietnam.

Fighting still continued, however, and on March 15th, one day before South Vietnam were set to play Thailand in Seoul, President Nixon threatened more US military intervention should the North launch a new full offensive. Under this shadow, the team made it’s World Cup qualifier debut with a 1-0 win through an own-goal in the 83rd minute.

Throughout the rest of the month, the Zone A groups were played out with 1st and 2nd placed teams progressing to semi-finals, before a match to reach to an ultimate play-off against the winners of Zone B. Theoretically this could have ended with Israel coming up against a Middle Eastern team, but they were eliminated by the home side South Korea in the Zone A final.

South Vietnam, meanwhile, were unsuccessful in Zone A-Group 1, with 4-0 and 1-0 defeats to Japan and Hong Kong respectively. Along with the previous game against Thailand, they would turn out to be the only three World Cup games ever played by the state, as North Vietnam did indeed launch another offensive that year, and, far from successively intervening, the last US helicopter eventually left Saigon in chaos on April 30th 1975.


The US Embassy in South Vietnam is evacuated as Saigon is about to fall, 1975.

By the time the next qualifiers rolled around, the Republic of Vietnam was no more, now annexed into a unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It would not be until 1991 that a Vietnam side would once again take to a football field.

 

  • 1974 World Cup

Group 1:

Australia
Chile
East Germany
West Germany

We talked last time about how the short-lived post-World War 2 state of the Saar Protectorate – administered by the French, but German in every other way – took part in their one and only World Cup qualifying campaign (for 1954) in a group also featuring their West German countrymen. When the World Cup would come to West Germany itself twenty years later – by which time Saarland was long absorbed back into the Federal Republic of Germany (as the West was formally known) – it seemed inevitable that the remaining, third post-war German state would not only qualify for the first time, but also be drawn along side the hosts for a debut showdown between capitalist west and communist east.

The Democratic Republic of (East) Germany had been formed in 1949 and, under the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR governing body, participated in their first international football match against Poland three years later. As discussed back in in Politics on the Pitch #2, blue and white were chosen as kit colours to reflect the uniforms of the East German socialist youth organisation.


Flag of East Germany, 1959-1990.

After their entry to FIFA in 1952, 1958 to 1970 had seen fruitless World Cup qualifying campaigns before the aforementioned qualifying Group 4 brought real East German hope for the 1974 edition. Albania and Finland were like East Germany in having not yet made a tournament finals, leaving Romania – boasting three finals appearances back in the 1930s, and more importantly a spot at the recent 1970 World Cup in Mexico – as group favourites, although not exactly an elite squad either.

As they had done during World War 2 against the Russians, the Finns did the Germans a favour early in the group with a heroic 1-1 draw in Helsinki against Romania in September 1972. It would prove a vital slip up, as Romania would go on to take “all two points” (awarded for a win instead of three until the 1998 qualifiers) against East Germany in Bucharest the following May; ultimately the latter’s only dropped points in the group.

The most crucial group game came on September 26th 1973 in Leipzig for the return fixture, with a 2-0 win for East Germany putting them back in the driver seat. Still with a chance to go through, Romania would take their revenge over Finland at home with a desperate 9-0 drubbing in October, but it was to be in vein as a 4-1 East German victory away to Albania in November delivered top-spot by a point.


East Germany clinch World Cup qualification for the first time with a 4-1 away win over Albania, 03/11/1973.

While no internationals had yet taken place between the two divided halves of Germany, a number of friendlies did occur between club sides from East and West in the 1950s before the wall. The introduction of European competitions later resumed such encounters, starting with Dynamo Dresden vs Bayern Munich in 1973 for the 73/74 European Cup, and Fortuna Düsseldorf vs 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in the UEFA Cup of the same season.

And so the stage was set in January 1974 for the final World Cup draw in Frankfurt. Seemingly admitting the fallibility of grown men in the 70s, FIFA used the “innocent hand” of a young, local choir boy to draw the teams, eliminating any element of potential dirty play from a morally corrupted adult.

With West Germany automatically placed in Group 1 as hosts, the dramatic moment came when East Germans were also drawn in the group, drawing first a moment of hushed shock from those in attendance before emotional, spontaneous applause. Even though it had always been a possibility, along with the fact that the tournament was on “enemy” soil anyway, it was later falsely rumored that the East German regime would withdraw the team to avoid the overtly political encounter.


Group 1 with the two Germanys, World Cup 74 draw, Frankfurt, 31/01/1974.

Adding to the intrigue, one of the locations for games in the group was the enclave of West Berlin, amazingly meaning that East Germany would play a World Cup game in a city entirely surrounded by itself. Unfortunately, the all-German clash wasn’t scheduled for here, but both sides fittingly took on none other than Chile in the Olympiastadion, less than 10 kilometers from the Berlin wall.


World Cup 74 opening ceremony in the Olympiastadion, Munich, 13/06/1974.

The political atmosphere was matched by surprisingly poor June weather for the tournament, with particularly dreary and wet conditions – perhaps the worst ever (at a World Cup that is, not of all time). As Chilean protesters attempted to grab the attention of the world with regards their country’s dictatorship in the match against Australia in West Berlin (three out of three at the venue for Chile, who technically could still progress), most fans and non-fans alike were concentrating on what was to come that evening across the country in Hamburg for the final group game.

On June 22nd more than 60,000 crammed into the Volksparkstadion – where West Germany had also taken on Saar in 1953 – for the 19:30 kick-off and thankfully the setting sun shone low in the sky. There was a respectful silence for the DGR’s national anthem and a section of East German supporters was visible in the ground.


East German team and fans after their national anthem, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

East Germany, who had been primarily using white shirts and blue shorts as a first preference by this time, were the official “home team” in the tie, but had graciously emerged in their change kit of blue shirts and white shorts allowing West Germany to continue wearing their usual home white jerseys. Interestingly, the East Germans were in short sleeves while the hosts were in long sleeves.


Short sleeved blue shirts of East Germany vs the long sleeved white shirts of West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

Finally the time came and the heavy favourite western professionals kicked-off against a team who all had day jobs back in the East. Early on West Germany were close to opening the scoring, but it remained 0-0 until the 77th minute when Jürgen Sparwasser – a member of the 1. FC Magdeburg side that had just impressively beaten AC Milan to win the Cup Winners Cup in Rotterdam – broke through the West German defensive to score for East Germany.


Sparwasser scores the most famous goal in East Germany history, vs West Germany, World Cup, 22/06/1974.

The TV cameras went to the celebrating away supporters in the crowd, who were doubtlessly all involved in the East German government in some way rather than regular fans who may have taken the chance to defect. Permits had been in effect since 1972 that allowed younger East German citizens to cross the border (pensioners, who were less valuable to the state, had been able to visit the West since 1964), although in reality they were only usually granted to ruling party elites and their ilk.


East German players and social elite supporters celebrate the only goal of the game, vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

The shocked home crowd looked on as the clock rolled down before the final whistle confirmed it: the lowly East had conquered the West. Granted, West Germany’s two prior victories against Australia and Chile had already secured them a place in the next round, but, like in qualifying, East Germany ended the group in pole position.


Classic graphics after a replay of the winning goal, East Germany vs West Germany, 22/06/1974.

In the end the result was possibly the best thing that could have happened for the hosts, as they entered a manageable Round 2 group alongside Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia, while the unfortunate East were placed in the far tougher group with Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands. Elimination came after two defeats, with respectable 1-1 draw against the Argentinians in the other game.

West Germany of course went on to secure their second World Cup trophy in the tournament, but East Germany had won the arguably more important all-German cup final, and would always have that. Well, until the 3rd of October 1990 at least, when the state would formally cease to exist.

  • 1980 European Championships Qualifiers

Group 1

Bulgaria
Denmark
England
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland

In the 1958 qualifiers, Ireland had met their former colonialist masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting. But following the the Irish War of Independence in 1921, not all of the country had been freed from the British crown.

Before it would happen to Germany, Korea or Vietnam later in the century, Ireland was partitioned as part of it’s independence treaty, with the Anglo-Scots-dominated north-east becoming “Northern” Ireland and remaining in the United Kingdom. As we have discussed before, Northern Ireland inherited the old Belfast based Irish Football Association that had been established under British rule, while a new organisation – the Football Association of  Ireland – was founded in Dublin to represent what would become the Republic (first the Irish Free State).

As with East and West Germany, there had been no football meeting of any sort between the two going in to the 1970s; a decade that would show the world that tensions on the island had not gone away. Sparked by civil rights protests from the discriminated ethnic Irish population, conflict between Irish nationalist paramilitaries, their British equivalents and the British Army exploded, with civilian atrocities from all sides along the way.

As things escalated and the body count rose, the slightly less significant soccer qualifiers for Euro 80 brought the Irish and English football teams into direct competition once again in Group 1. But this time, Northern Ireland were thrown in to the mix to create truly the “Group of Troubles” (not an official UEFA title), with Bulgaria and Denmark filling up the rest of the “non-Troubles” spots.

Ireland started the group away to Denmark with a thrilling 3-3 draw on May 24th, 1978; typically it was the home side who had clawed back the point from 3-1 down after 79 minutes. This would be followed by 3-4 and 2-2 affairs at home for Denmark against England and Bulgaria respectively, showing that Copenhagen was an unusual place to play at the time.

But next was to be the inaugural all-Ireland clash (at least in an association football sense, rather than the Gaelic games version) with Dublin as the location on September 20th for the first of the two ties between Republic and North. As soon as the Northern Ireland team bus had crossed the border it was joined by a police escort, which stayed all  the way to the stadium – the indomitable Lansdowne Road.

By the standards of the time, a heavy police presence was on hand at and around the historic ground also, as “football special” trains from the North arrived at the nearby station with groups with energetic away fans. Unease was in the air as Union Jacks were waved and unionist songs sung en mass in Dublin for the first time in about 57 years, but, despite some minor confrontations, no violence broke out.




Northern Ireland fans arrive by train near the stadium for the match vs Republic of Ireland, 20/09/1978.

Minor confrontation between home supporters with large Irish tricolour and Northern Ireland fans chanting "The Ulster" (province of Ireland within which Northern Ireland is located) on the way to the match, 20/09/1977.

Inside the ground, the traveling contingent occupied a large section of the North Terrace, which remained unsegregated. Like many of the continent’s major stadiums, imposing fences had at least been installed around the Lansdowne Road that year in an attempt to prevent any potential rowdies from taking their trouble away from the stands where it belonged.


Northern Irish away fans singing "Protestant songs" (according to the BBC News report) in Lansdowne Road's North Terrace ahead of the match with Ireland, 20/09/1977.

Even though green was worn by the Northern Irish team for historical reasons, many of their fans chose the blue, white and red colourscheme of Belfast’s Linfield, Glasgow Rangers and the Union Jack. With the Republic also of course usually in a green, sportspersonship akin to East Germany choosing not wearing white against West Germany seems to have been displayed, as the home side donned a fetching all-white change kit with delicious green and yellow trim.


The captains before the match with Ireland's white change shirt being worn at home, vs Northern Ireland, 20/09/1977.

The sense of anti-climax for those who had come to witness any potential trouble will have been matched by those who came solely for the football, as an Ireland containing stars like Brady, Giles, Highway, Lawrenson (who’s bloodied shirt suggests the tone of the game) and Stapleton were held to a 0-0 draw against a North led from the back by legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Apparently nothing further of note occurred among supporters either, but things may not have been so serene had the events of the very next day – when the Provisional IRA bombed an RAF airfield in Derry destroying a terminal, two hangers and several planes (although no lives were lost) – happened slightly earlier.

Ireland next kept their streak of draws going with a somewhat satisfactory 0-0 in Lansdowne against England, while the North picked up excellent back to back wins at home to Denmark and away to Bulgaria, spurred on by striker Gerry Armstrong. Despite more good performances from the the Republic, results like England 4-0 Northern Ireland, Denmark 4-0 Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland 1-5 England, put the North out of the running going into the final series of games, with an unbeaten England looking set to claim the sole qualifying spot and their first tournament appearance in ten years.

Following a 3-0 win over Bulgaria in October 1979, Ireland still had a mathematical chance to pip the English in the unlikely event that the Bulgarians went to Wembley and won, followed by Ireland doing the same in February 1980. But first on November 21st would be a trip to Belfast’s Windsor Park, home of Linfield FC, for a Northern Ireland keen to kill any any Irish hopes in lieu of their own failed prospects (and not for the last time).

Unlike in Dublin, it will have been very unlikely that many, if any, away supporters traveled north of the border for the encounter, due to the potential “security risks” for those with caught with a “southern” accent among a certain type of hardcore British loyalist. In the 13 months since the reverse fixture, there had many more bombings, high profile assassinations, and civilian casualties from Northern Ireland to London and even The Hague, meaning the game was even more emotionally charged than before.

Keeping in the spirit of fair play though, the North returned the kit favour of the year before by emerging in their away strip. Minorly problematic was the fact that their white/green/white created an “overall clash” against Ireland’s green/white/green, an effect previously negated by Ireland’s use of all-white in Dublin.


Northern Ireland in white/green/white at home to Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

With 15,000 creating an intimidating atmosphere in the small fortress of a ground, that man Gerry Armstrong popped up on the 54th minute to give the home side a lead they would hold on to until the end, thus dashing Ireland’s theoretical qualification hopes (had England not gone and defeated Bulgaria the next day anyway). Again blue was the most prevalent colour of those celebrating on the caged terraces.


Gerry Armstrong scores for Northern Ireland, vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

The Windsor Park terraces celebrate the only goal of the game, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 21/11/1979.

Unlike the Germanys, this would not be the last time that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be drawn together before one ceases to exist. And with the Troubles not ending any time soon in our timeline, we shall quite possibly see the tie rise again when Groups of Death continues into the 80s…

*

Video Links:
Chile vs Peru, 1973
Estadio Nacional, Chile, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Chile vs USSR, 1973
Australia vs Chile, 1974
Albania vs East Germany, 1973
1974 World Cup draw
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
East Germany vs West Germany, 1974
Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1978
Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, 1979

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #8 (Gallery)

Last time in WFISTLL, we zoomed in on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s with a whirlwind of pics and gifs illustrating the gritty supporter culture present in that time and place. Now we return to our usual format of a selection of images that demonstrate what used to make football so interesting, in a variety of classic 20th century ways.

Superb away jersey, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 14/09/1988:

Umbrella crowd, fence, classic hoarding and graphics, Chile vs Yugoslavia, Under-20 World Cup (hosted by Chile), 10/10/1987:

Raised stands and large entrance-way with row of people, Turkey vs West Germany, European Championships qualifier, 24/04/1983:

Snow-patch pitch, East Germany vs Scotland, European Championships qualifier, 16/11/1983:

Competing anthem bands (although the lot on the right look like children in comparison?) and angular team line-ups, West Germany vs Netherlands, World Cup 74 final, 07/07/1974:

Confetti pitch, Internazionale Milano vs AS Roma, Serie A, 24/03/1988:

Arabic Marlboro advert, Zaire vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations 74 (hosted by Egypt), 12/03/1974:

Amazing old-old school end with supporters on roof, Portugal vs Italy, friendly, 15/04/1928:

Rain plus no roof equals many, many umbrellas, Czechoslovakia vs Netherlands, European Championships 76 semi-final (hosted by Yugoslavia, match in Zagreb), 16/06/1976:

Classic graphics, USSR vs Netherlands, friendly, 28/03/1990:

*****

 

Football Special Report #4: BSV Stahl Brandenburg vs FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, 2.Bundesliga Nord, 16/11/1991

Welcome back to the Football Special Report, a series in which we look at games that are noteworthy for unusual events on and/or off the pitch. After two gritty early-mid 90s affairs in Ireland and Scotland, we continue the era and the theme but shift over to the heartland of continental Europe as it began a new era of unity.

Background:

While the German political entity that appears on maps at the time of writing (it seems stable right now but you may be reading this 1000s of years in the future) seems a totally natural fit to the 21st century world, in the late 1980s many of Europe’s governments were “icy” at the idea of a potentially strong and militarised new German state, should the reunification of it’s two divided halves occur. In football too the potential was recognised, as Franz Beckenbauer predicted “Deutsche domination” (our words, not his) for many years to come should East Germany be wiped off the map, due to the quality of talent that would be combined in the playing pool.

But another aspect was at domestic level, and after German reunification in 1990, the 1991/92 league season was to the be the first that once again saw clubs from the former East and West compete against each other (apart from through European competition, which did occur throughout the years). Teams originally associated  with the old communist regime such as Dynamo Dresden entered the Bundesliga, and in it’s second tier, 2.Bundesliga, the likes of Lokomotiv Leipzig, Chemie Halle and BSG Stahl Brandenburg.


East meets West in Europe, UEFA Cup 79/80 (a tournament that would contain a combined six German teams across the two states, and ultimately be unique for it's all-West German semi-finals) second round 1st leg, 24 /10/1979.

The above clubs had at one time been associated with the secret police, the train industry, the chemical industry, and metallurgy, respectively, within the previous state system, before becoming traditional football entities. Some changed their name to reflect this, such as Lokomotive reverting to their former VfB Leipzig title, and Chemie Halle becoming Hallescher FC, but the Dynamo Dresdens of the world held on to an identity they had adopted as their own.

As a piece looking deeper into some of these matters is in the pipeline, we won’t dwell too much on the topic here. But there was one club who’s name only changed by one letter (sort of) in this period in the above mentioned Stalh (translating to Steel in English) – renamed as such upon their backing by the local steel company in 1955 having began life as BSG Einheit Brandenburg five years earlier – who merely changed their East German “BSG” (Betriebssportgemeinschaft – Cooperative Sports Collective) to a BSV (Ballspeilverein – ballgame club, effectively football club) upon reunification.

Meanwhile in West Germany, another club had been created in a similar way two years before Stalh in the form of FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, who sprang into existence in 1953 due to the merger of FC Uerdingen 05 with a workers’ team from the Bayer chemical plant in the area. After hitting their high point in the 80s with a cup win and some European runs, 1995 would see Bayer ditch Uerdingen to focus solely on it’s original workers’ team founded all the way back in 1904, FC Bayer 04 Leverkusen.


Bayer 05 Uerdingen home end with banners vs Athletico Madrid, Cup Winners' Cup 85/86 semi-final 2nd leg, 19/04/1986.

So the 90s were a decade in which working class clubs like BSV Stalh were shedding their communist-connected past and entering the cut-throat capitalist world of the west, just as Uerdingen were about to be abandoned by their own corporate interests which in turn contributed to a calamitous fall down the leagues over the years that followed. As the rich western clubs snapped up all the best players the east had to offer, sadly the system also took it’s toll on Stalh as they declared bankruptcy in 1998, replaced by non-recovering legacy clubs in the regional divisions.

But before all that, the two teams mentioned had met for the first time in that inaugural unified season via the northern section of 2.Bundesliga. We now look to the second of their two games that year with a fixture that was anything but clean and commercialised; so much so that it would earn the title of “Das Skandalspie” (The Scandal Game).

The Match:

November 11, 1991: A crowd of 2400 are in attendance at the Stadion der Stahlwerker in  Brandenburg an der Havel near Berlin, where local side Stalh Brandenburg call home. As usual we  first take a look at the kits, with the home team using a “Chelsea style” blue/blue/white strip of unidentifiable make, featuring navy and white striped trim on the collar, sleeves and torso (and one short leg), and yellow “TRP” sponsor; very German, and all good stuff:

On the back appears a common German jersey trope in placing the team name above the number (as seen back in Retro Shirt Reviews #2). In this case we get a simple “BRANDENBURG”:

The visitors’ first choice jersey that year featured blue and red vertical stripes and so wouldn’t do against Stahl’s own blue. White was also an option, but an all-red kit was chosen with a shirt template featuring sleeve hoops and underarm panels, also used by the likes of Dynamo Dresden and Bulgaria (round-neck for long sleeve, v-neck for short):

Unlike their Leverkusen equivalents at the time, who instead used the company insignia in their crest, the logo of the Bayer corporation sits in the centre as sponsor. Evidently, the tight shirts of the previous decade are already beginning to head to the other extreme, but it would take shorts a little longer to follow suit.

On the back of the jersey the naming protocol differs to Brandenburg, as the city of Krefeld (located all the way over the other side of the country near the Dutch border) is represented above the number, within which the locale of Uerdingen is located. But Uerdingen also gets a place at the bottom, another positioning not uncommon in the country’s “trikot traditions”:

The fantastically named “Stadium of  the Steelworker” is a classically terraced and fenced small ground (capacity 15,000), which one would  be advised to keep an eye on in the background throughout. But getting to the match action, the first half is characterised by a series of wreckless challenges from Brandenburg with an apparent game plan to physically destroy the superior quality opposition:

Before long, a brutalised Bayer player needs medical attention. Thankfully for him, the most up to date procedures are employed by the crack physio team, mostly consisting of a draped blanket and giving the injured party a good, reassuring rub while a coach stands by shiftily:

Inevitably, after two enthusiastic challenges too many, the referee has enough and gives the first yellow card of the day to Stahl’s number 5 Falk Zschiedrich:

This is followed up by a vague incident where we are honestly not sure what is happening (if a German speaker can fill us in by watching the video in the link at the bottom, please get in touch!). Whatever has occurred, the referee once again summons Zschiedrich, who had not seemed to be involved:

Pleading his case, Zschiedrich’s teammates are incensed, particularly the number 6 who argues passionately and won’t get out of the referees way to let him do his job:

Despite this, the ref succeeds in delivering the red card. A slightly shaken Falk wanders off the pitch as his manager offers a token touch on the arm:

The manager in question, Günter Reinke, earnestly encourages his men to do things better. In the background can be seen an interesting corner section of the ground with a large German flag at the front; possibly the away supporters:

The hardcore home support are located at the other end of the  ground, as demonstrated by the impressive array of home made banners (the way we like it). Prevalent on one flag is one of the most popular club slogans: “Stalh Feuer” (Steel Fire):

We are honestly not exactly sure which side these agitated fans are on or what is happening in the game, but their message is clear: “Hey kameramann, das spiel ist in dieser richtung!”:

Things also boil over on the touchline as what appears to be the Stalh assistant manager is provoked in some way and starts fronting. Thankfully he is prevented by a player and the other non- plying staff from launching what was presumably about to be a lethal assault on some unfortunate soul from the opposition:

After a goal we forgot to mention earlier in the game, Uerdingen go into the half-time break battered and dazed, but in the lead. The focus is on the referee though – in a spiffingly sharp Erima ref’s kit – as while still walking off the pitch a media person brazenly asks if he has lost control of the game:

During the intermission we see that riot police of several varieties are hand in case the crowd turn as nasty as the match, along with other top level emergency personnel:

The second half would take everything the first half had brought and double it, starting with undoubtedly the highlight of the match (which you will be already aware of it you have been following our Facebook or Twitter pages).

Just after the hour mark Stalh have a kick-out, but as goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner attempts to retrieve the ball a Uerdingen ball-boy scoops it up and casually flicks it in the other direction:

For one thing, this raises the subject that apparently away teams took youth players as their own ball-boys in this time and place (and presumably elsewhere). But evidently, as the boys did not move with their team’s keeper after half-time, scenarios of skullduggery like the above were bound to occur.

Wiesner, obviously a stern disciplinarian of a certain ilk – while no doubt also motivated by the personal slight – immediately takes matters into his own hands once he has the ball and proceeds straight to the offender. After a sort of faint-turned-warm up swing, the large 24 year old (ok, we were hoping he would be a more grizzled veteran for greater effect)  delivers a devastating slap to the troublesome teen before jogging off like a remorseless terminator, while the other shocked youths react:

Besides the bodily harm to the culprit, it is an undoubtedly hilarious moment. The referee of course has no choice but to summon Wiesner over, and literally shrugs him a red car rather than show him one:

A kindly coach consoles the keeper as he leaves the pitch, but the ridiculous situation has meant that with two men down, Stalh also have to use one of only two allowed substitutions on a fit outfielder in order to put someone else in goal:

As is clearly customary, the TV crew are instantly on hand to get the dismissed players thoughts (as had been the case for Zschiedrich earlier in the game). While gesticulating in disgust, we get a closer look at his interesting pink and black Uhlsport top (Note: as this was the era when separate goalkeeper kits were not uncommon, goalkeeping specialists Uhlsport were probably not the brand of the outfield gear despite also later producing very goalie looking outfield shirts for the likes of Albania), which features diagonal bars coming down from the shoulders, coincidentally (or not) similar to the design Adidas had just launched themselves that Autumn:

Elsewhere on the sidelines, manager Reinke and his top coach consider their next move carefully. But the most important thing here is that we get a better look at his tracksuit top, which was visible briefly under under his jacket earlier. The design is of course the famous West German 88-91 template (among others, also used on official tracksuits of several teams) in a groovy colourway:

The next incident occurs on the 72nd minute, as Brandenburg midfielder Jan Voß (Voss) over-zealously cuts through a Uerdingen player while in pursuit of an equaliser, bringing him down:

While an innocuous enough foul, the ref deems it a bookable offensive and as Voß had already been given a yellow card…:

That’s right, it’s another red card and the home side are now down to 8 players. We see another crowd shot of what this time must be Uerdingen fans, who are clearly enjoying their long adventure from Krefeld:

The rapidly over-populating Beandenburg sin-bin, meanwhile, looks a very sorry sight as Voß has joined a dejected Wiesner and Zschiedrich:

Shortly afterwards, karma takes it’s toll on Stahl’s dangerous play as one of their own go off injured. We don’t see exactly what has happened, but clearly it’s something horrific:

With a large percentage of their XI now nowhere to be seen, the home team quickly fall apart and conceded two goals in two minutes to make it 0-3 with eight minutes to go. As the ball goes in for the latter, the bodily position of replacement goalkeeper Detlef Zimmer says it all:

The payback continues as before the end another Stahl player ends up on the thick end of a tackle and limps off the pitch in agony, amazingly leaving Brandenburg with only 6 outfield players in addition to their emergency keeper:

With their boys in blue now a bewildered husk, the home support are undoubtedly simply laughing in bemused shock at this point, although probably not overly surprised. But at the death, incredibly Stalh have the chance to score what considering the circumstances would be the greatest goal of all time:

It would have meant everything, but unfortunately the shot went wide and the game ended in a 3-0 defeat, with an even greater margin in terms of men on the field. It had been a beautifully tragedy and was basically a perfect microcosm of the season, as come May FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen found themselves promoted as league winners, while somewhat unsurprisingly the heroes of BSV Stalh Brandeburg were relegated in last place.

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Youtube Link

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Cold War Classic #8: Finland vs East Germany, 1986

Our regular guest series over on MuseumOfJerseys.com is back, with installment number eight of the Cold War Classic. In each edition we usually discuss a vintage east vs west international matchup from the Cold War era, specifically relating to the amazing and fascinating kits of the time and their evolution. Detailed backgrounds are included, and all retro kits relevant to the story are expertly illustrated in glorious colour by MOJ top boy Denis Hurley. This time we look at branding and sponsorship on national team jerseys and focus in on two great nations – one which continues to exist to this day.

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Cold War Classics no. 8 – Finland v East Germany, 1986

…the brand we are talking about is of course adidas, which by the end of the era was being worn by the international football teams of every country in the eastern bloc. This apparent juxtaposition seems to prove that links to the west were more acceptable than may have been perceived, at least on state level, and that capitalist practices such as shirt branding were apparently compatible with communist ideals (even if trefoils were half-heartedly covered or removed at times). In retrospect, the adidas trend ties in with the eventual fall of communism in Europe, as, logically, they would not have been needed if all was going positively on that side of the Iron Curtain.

We have theorised before on how the need to realistically compete at the highest level, including when it came to kit and equipment, eventually trumped any ideological loyalty. Plus of course, there is the money. Adidas’ three stripes had started to appear on national teams’ kits of the region by the 1974 World Cup, with Poland, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria all donning the distinctive feature at the tournament. The Poland away shirt even displayed a trefoil too. Czechoslovakia were next in 1976, followed by Hungary, the USSR, Romania and Albania in the following years.

The last domino to fall was East Germany…

Read on

 

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Politics On The Pitch #2: The Non-Flag Kit Colours Of Europe

Last time, for the inaugural edition of Politics On The Pitch, we took a frankly fascinating look at how the break up of communist Europe influenced World Cup ’94 qualifiers. Now we go in a more historical direction as we examine the national teams of Europe who have represented their country wearing a primary kit colour that is NOT featured on their national flag – and hopefully explain why.

Sport is something that people will try and distance from politics, but of course nearly everything is political on some level. This extends to what the athletes are wearing, specifically the colours and badge, as one person’s national flag can be another person’s “butcher’s apron”.

As all world states are political entities, the national football teams that represent them are inherently political. In romantic theory, these teams embody the spirit of their state, sometimes including it’s political system or ideology, and this is reflected most prominently through the kits. For example, when the USSR was created what else but red would their football team have worn?

But of course some of the world’s most prominent national sides play in colours that are nowhere to be seen on their country’s flag and can survive several regime changes. So used to these seemingly random colourways are we that the general football fan probably rarely thinks twice about them, but the reasons are often of a deep, historically political nature. More interesting still is why certain colours, despite maybe appearing on a states flag, are unavailable or unacceptable to use.

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Germany/West Germany

The modern German national side can trace it’s lineage back to 1908 and a first international vs Switzerland. The black, red and gold of the future national flag (conceived in 1848 but officially introduced with the Weimar Republic) was still 11 years away. Instead, the 1908 side was representing the German Empire who’s flag was made up of black, white and red horizontal bars.

But by far the largest and most dominating kingdom within the Empire was Prussia and it was their traditional white and black colours, the “Schwarz und Weiss”, that were the inspiration for the national team kit. The shirt originally featured black more prominently with a Prussian imperial eagle and sometimes with white shorts (Germany at the 1912 Olympics), but soon the famous white shirt and black shorts combination was settled on (originally with black socks, later white) and retained by the team of the new republic after the collapse of the German Empire in 1918.

It would remain to the present day (with all-white occasionally also seeing action), having transcended the the Nazi and West German states that were to come, and eventually be inherited by modern, reunified Germany in 1990.


The "Weimar" German national side in Prussia's black and white, vs Hungary, 1920.

Germany continued to use white shorts in the early years, vs Uruguay, Olympic Games 1928

"Third Reich" Germany, away to England, 1935.

First official match of West Germany, vs Switzerland, friendly, 1950.

West Germany in all-white strip to avoid clash with the home sides dark shorts, away to Argentina, friendly, 1982.

First match of reunified Germany, vs Switzerland, friendly, 1990.

As well as their home shirt, Germany is famous for an away shirt that also is not reflected in their flag and while the colour is not exactly political in itself, the reason for it’s need is. Black and then red were originally used as away shirt colours, which continued into the Nazi era. But after World War 2, the red associated with the previous regime was not no longer acceptable and similarly black was the colour of the SS.

Neutral green was decided upon instead, often incorrectly attributed as a tribute to Ireland as the first non-German speaking side to play West Germany after World War 2. The colour had in fact been adopted by the Deutscher Fußball-Bund in 1926 and, in the same vein as the Prussian colours on the home shirt, it has been theorised that green was chosen to reflect the flag of the state of Saxony giving another possible political link. But perhaps green had been favoured by the DFB simply as a nod to the grass on which their sport was played.

As for the Ireland myth, it appears that West Germany had already worn green in their three proceeding games of 1951, including vs Turkey which also blows the German speaking part of the story  (the other two games were against Switzerland and Austria). But in the absence of colour footage we cannot be sure. Whatever the case, West Germany’s alternate green (used with several shorts and sock combinations, as well as finding it’s way into the home kit on one notable occasion to avoid a World Cup sock clash, see below) would be a welcome, vibrant staple of many international fixtures to come, occasionally giving Ireland fans a brief glimpse of what it might have looked like if their team was at international tournaments.


West Germany most likely in green away shirts before a month beofre playing Ireland, vs Austria, friendly 1951.

West Germany in green shirts and black shorts, vs Turkey, World Cup 1954.

West Germany classic away kit, away to England, Euro '74 qualifier, 1972.

West Germany in away shirt and shorts but home colour socks, away to Bulgaria, Euro '76 qualifier, 1975

West Germany in home shirt and shorts but away colour socks due to World Cup clash rules, vs Mexico, World Cup 1978

West Germany in a rarely seen green/green/white kit combination, vs Turkey, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

West Germany in all green, vs Argentina, friendly, 1984.

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East Germany

You can’t talk about West Germany without East, and like their western neighbours, East Germany also adopted the Weimer flag upon their creation in 1950 with the addition of the state’s coat of arms. But the foundation of the East German national football team in 1952 (and their federation who would go on to be known as the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR, great name) also saw the need for a new shirt colour. As with West Germany’s away shirt, black was not an option due to the Nazi link and while red with it’s connection to socialism maybe could have still worked despite it’s fascist connotations in Germany, it was also already the home shirt colour of the Soviet Union.

Obviously the white and black retained by West Germany was out of the question, and a side representing a new worker’s republic wouldn’t have made much sense taking to the field in the colours of the old Kingdom of Prussia anyway. Very few options remained, with even an obscure choice like green also snapped up by the West.

It would seem by this process of elimination, the only reasonable colour left available to choose was blue – which would also worn be East German athletes in other sports. But the use of blue was in fact not so random and actually had a direct link to the state. We can thank read Lucas for enlightening us by sending the following fascinating explanation:

East Germany wore blue because was the colour of the uniforms worn by the youth of the then-ruling party, the SED (Unified Socialist Party).

White trim was used, with white shorts and blue socks, and a reversal of this colour scheme was used for the away kit and later as first preference. Combinations such as white/blue/blue, white/white/blue and all-white were also used when required. The blue and white palette would be employed from their very first (unofficial) international in 1952 against Poland until their last ever match, vs Belgium in 1990.


East Germany in early blue and white strip, away to Czechoslovakia, World Cup '58 qualifier, 1957.

East Germany in all-white, vs Yugoslavia, friendly, 1962.

East Germany in white and blue, vs Italy, World Cup '70 qualifier, 1969.

East Germany vs West Germany, World Cup 1974.

East Germany vs Greece, friendly, 1983.

East Germany vs Belgium, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

East Germany's last match shirt, away to Belgium, 1990.

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Italy

Back in Aesthetically Please Moments From Video Game Football History #6, we briefly examined how wrong it would look for Italy to wear the green, white and red of their national flag. When an Italian side first took to the field, vs France in 1910, white shirts and black shorts were worn. But within a year, vs Hungary in 1911, the Azzuri we know today was birthed as they graduated to blue and white, along with the red shield/white cross of Savoy as the crest.

Like with Germany, the relevance of blue predates the Italian state as it was the royal colour of the House of Savoy as early the 14 century. Savoy united Italy into a kingdom in 1868 with blue becoming the national colour and it was adopted by many sporting, political and military bodies including the football team. I have also seen it said that until the 90’s the national football team was technically part of the military, with representing the country counting as national service, and this was why blue was “allowed” to be worn on the kit/uniform. This is unverified, but noteworthy to include as at least a fun theory.

During the years of fascist rule, the coat of arms of Savoy was accompanied by the “fasces” associated with Mussolini’s regime. The symbolism went a step further at the 1938 World Cup, where at the quarter final vs host nation France there was one notable exception to Italy wearing blue or white. In the midst of political tension between the two countries and anti-faicst protests in France, Italy wore a fascist inspired all-black strip instead of their usual white away, apparently at the behest of Mussolini himself.

After the fall of both fascism and the monarchy – and the start of the modern Italian republic in 1946 – the coat of arms was removed from both the flag and the national team shirt. But blue remained as the national colour with any royal connotation now long forgotten to the sporting world. White shorts have most often been used with the blue shirt, with an occasional all blue strip, but black shorts have continued to be worn at times adding another colour not seen on the flag.


Italy wearing white and black for their first international match, vs France, 1910.

Italy in blue and white, with the "fasces" on the crest accompanying the coat of arms of Savoy signifying the fascist era, circa 1935.

Italy's "blackshirt" strip, vs France, World Cup 1938.

Italian goalkeeper shirt with "fasces and Savoy" crest more visible, World Cup Final 1938.

Italy in blue and black, vs North Korea, World Cup 1966.

Italy in all blue, vs Hungary, World Cup 1978.

Italy in familiar blue and white, away to Romania, Euro '84 qualifier, 1983.

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Netherlands

Like Germany and Italy, the Netherlands started international football in white and black, but with the colours of the Dutch flag sashed across the torso of the shirt (the popularity of white and black can also be attributed to the ease of production at the time compared to other colours). This was worn for their first international, vs Belgium in 1905, and the look was later revived as the inspiration for their 2006 away shirt. Black shirts were also used in the early years, as seen at the 1908 Olympics.

But post World War 1, at least by the 1924 Olympics, the famous orange was adopted. The origins of orange can be found in the southeastern French commune (municipal region) of Orange. It had been a principality in medieval times and the Prince of Orange title was eventually inherited by the German-Dutch House of Nassau in 1544.

Prince William of Orange led a successful revolt against Hapsburg rule in the Netherlands in 1581 and his grandson, the infamous/famous (depending on where you’re from) William III became ruler of the Netherlands, Britain and Ireland by 1689. The symbolic use of the colour orange relating to these events would have connotations long into the future, including the Orange Order, orange featuring on the Irish flag, why carrots are orange, and of course ultimately the wearing of orange by the Dutch team as the national colour of the Netherlands.

White shorts and blue socks were originally used but the black element seen in the early years was brought back by the 70’s to create the look most associated with the Netherlands, and used intermittently since then.


Netherlands in orange shirts, white shorts and blue socks, away to Belgium, friendly, 1925.

Netherlands in black shorts and orange socks, away to Luxembourg, Euro '72 qualifier, 1971.

Netherlands in white shorts and orange socks, away to Ireland, World Cup '82 qualifier, 1981.

For more recent writings on all things Dutch, specifically their amazing World Cup ’78-era kits, click here for our Netherlands special Champagne Kit Campaigns #2.

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Northern Ireland

So, where to start with this one. First off, the team of “Ireland” became the 4th ever national side to appear  in football history (after the three British nations) when they took to the field for the first time in 1882, welcoming England to Belfast in a 13-0 loss. Their Belfast based federation, the Irish Football Association (IFA), had been founded two years before. Of course this is when Ireland itself as a whole was still part of the United Kingdom, so the political entity that the team represented was not in the interest of an independent, sovereign Ireland. Hence, we shall refer to this team as “Ireland-UK”.

In these early years, Ireland-UK wore blue shirts – “St.Patrick’s blue”- and white shorts. The use of blue stems from the Anglo-Irish “Order of St. Patrick” (again, an organisation not in the interest of Irish freedom) who adopted it in 1780. It became an unofficial national colour during this time of British rule, along with the more traditionally Irish and well known green. Of course Ireland did not have a national flag of it’s own back then and was instead represented on the Union Jack from 1800 with the red diagonal cross of St. Patrick, another British invention. But the blue on the Jack coincidentally meant that Ireland-UK were playing in a colour that technically did appear on their state’s flag.

With the conclusion of the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the country was partitioned into the mostly-autonomous Irish Free State and the smaller Northern Ireland, which remained in the UK. But this did not apply to the IFA, who continued to claim jurisdiction over the whole island and field teams as Ireland-UK while still wearing blue. This was coupled with the need for a new national team to represent independent Ireland, and it’s governing body – the Football Association of the Irish Free State (FAIFS) – was created in Dublin and accepted into FIFA in 1923. Of course this side wore green shirts.

In 1931, Ireland-UK switched from blue to green jerseys also, apparently to avoid clashes against the navy-blue of Scotland. The socks remained blue for some years before also becoming green and blue would later be commemorated and return as a third colour on some future kits. Meanwhile, the Irish Free State became “Ireland” in 1936, the FAIFS became the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and, like with Ireland-UK, players from “north” and “south” were selected. The IFA had withdrawn from FIFA along with the other UK “Home Nations” in 1928 after long running disputes, meaning that by the mid-30’s there were two Ireland’s, both wearing green, one in FIFA and the other outside of FIFA.

As the official flag of Northern Ireland remained the Union Jack, Ireland-UK were now playing in a colour not seen on their flag (and this later remained true even considering the well known, but unofficial, flag of Northern Ireland, the red and white “Ulster Banner” introduced in 1953, see above). The crest, originally a Celtic-cross and harp motiff, was changed to a shamrock badge, similar to what Ireland were using adding another parallel.

During World Cup 1950 qualifiers, after the UK teams had rejoined FIFA, amazingly the two Irelands participated in different groups with certain players representing both. After this farcical situation, FIFA enforced in 1953 that from now on Ireland-UK be designated as “Northern Ireland” (although they remained Ireland-UK within internal British competition until the 70’s) and Ireland as “Republic of Ireland”. Players could now only be picked for one side based on the political boarders, and the IFA also changed it’s badge back to the original concept.

But as the century went on, and the political situation in Northern Ireland between British loyalists and Irish nationalists deteriorated, the use of green to represent the Northern Irish team became slightly odd. As divisions of identity widened, old symbols which acceptably represented “Ireland within the UK” in previous eras (what today would be called “cultural appropriation”) became unusable as the of the likes of the Celtic-cross, harp and shamrock were now more associated with the fight for Irish independence and unity, as well of course as the colour green. The blue, white and red of the Union Jack , or the orange of the Orange Order referenced earlier, became the “national colours” of Northern Ireland with some hardcore loyalists even known to “ban” green from their houses.

Despite this, the green shirt with it’s “typically Irish” crest remained for Northern Ireland and in replica form has doubtless been the only green garment worn by many an Ulsterman. But to them, the tradition of this green represents a golden age when the green of Ireland came with the caveat that it was the green of an Ireland happily loyal to the UK. Humorously, the use of the more loyalist orange on the shirt is basically out of the question as along with the green and white, this would create the colour palette of the Republic of Ireland flag. Especially ironic since the orange on said flag is there as symbol of peace to the Orangemen who despise it.


Northern Ireland (still referred to as "Ireland" in the British Pathé newsreel) in green shirts, with Celtic-cross badge visible, white shorts and green socks, vs Italy, World Cup '58 qualifier, 1958.

Probably the only instance of "The Troubles" era where Northern Irish loyalists were on the side of "green" against "orange" and not vice versa, vs Netherlands, friendly, 1977.


For even more reading on Northern Ireland, some of which relates to the above, click here for People On The Pitch #4: Linfield vs Glentoran, 1983.

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Extra Time: Honorable Mentions or Non-Political

Republic Of Cyprus

Like Ireland, Cyprus is an island divided into “Republic of” and “Northern” regions. A slight majority of the country is made up of the historically ethnic Greek Republic of Cyprus, who claim the entire island, while the de facto state of Northern Cyprus is of mostly Turkish blood. A British colony as a whole until 1960, Cyprus was partitioned in 1974 following the Greek military junta’s failed attempt to unite the island with Greece and the resulting invasion of Turkish troops.

As Turkey is the only state that recognises Northern Cyrpus, their football team obviously is not in UEFA or FIFA. The Cyrpus that is a member – originally one of Europe’s weakest footballing nations until the introduction of micro states such as Andorra and Faroe Islands – wear white shirts, which is the colour of their mostly white flag (apart from an orange map of the (whole) island and two wreaths). But they do pay homage to their Hellenic heritage with blue trim and shorts, and with blue as the away shirt colour. A Greek white cross on a blue background is also the country’s naval jack.


Cyprus in blue shirts, away to England, Euro '76 qualifier, 1975.

Cyprus in their home white shirts and blue shorts and classic pitch/stadium, vs Yugoslavia, Euro '80 qualifier, 1979.

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Slovenia

Like many states in the region, the flag of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia features the pan-Slavic colours of white, blue and red, and these were the colours of Slovenia’s shirt, shorts and socks respectively for their first international football match, post-Yugoslavia, vs Estonia in 1992. But by the time of their first qualifying campaign as a UEFA member in 1994
(for Euro’96) they had graduated to green as a secondary colour with the removal of blue and red, giving them a distinct look from their neighbours.

As well as featuring prominently on the flag of capital Ljubljana (quite similar to Wales), green is said to represent the mountains and countryside of the lush Balkan state. It is also used by other national sports teams such as basketball, but in recent times has been abandoned by the football team.


Slovenia in green shorts, vs Italy, Euro '96 qualifier, 1994.

Slovenia vs Yugoslavia, World Cup '02 qualifier, 2001.

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Belgium

While all three colours of their flag often appear on their kits (the black, yellow and red of the historical Duchy of Brabant), Belgium share a trait with Romania in that both teams wear a shirt colour that is featured on their flag but not the “first” colour. By normal logic, Belgium would wear black as a home colour insread of red and Romania would wear blue instead of yellow.

But Belgium also have used white as a fourth colour and for away kits, and in the 1970’s their devotion to white went a step further. White became the colour of their first strip in 1970 and for the rest of the decade the previously red devils could be seen in white-hot kits at home, until the normal mostly red and black ensembles returned for the 80’s. This seems to have been a purely aesthetical change, but worthy of inclusion as an unexpected side to have worn a non-national flag colour at home. But like Cyprus’ blue, the Belgian naval ensign does actually feature white, perhaps giving us a deeper link after all.


Belgium in all white, vs Portugal, friendly, 1971.

Belgium vs Norway, World Cup '74 qualifier, 1973.

Belgium, vs Norway, Euro '80 qualifier, 1978.

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