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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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #6 (Gallery)

In this photo-series we take a look at some low-fi old school examples of ultras and hooligan group banners, club supporter group banners and regular club flags, when used in the context of an international match. This was particularly common for countries who would rotate home stadiums on a regular basis and hence visit a lot of clubs’ home grounds (with the most prominent example being Italy), while away games provided the opportunity for the likes of England’s firms to display banners that would not have been seen at Wembley. 

Italy vs Argentina, friendly, 21/12/1989
“Sconvolts” and others of Cagliari Calcio:

England vs Germany, US Cup, 19/06/1993
Bristol City
:

Germany vs Portugal, World Cup 98 qualifier, 06/09/1997
“Dietmar
Bottrop” and “Menden Sieg” of FC Schalke 04, “Blue System” of “Hamburger SV”, and many others:

Switzerland vs Scotland, Euro 92 qualifier, 11/09/1991
Arbroath FC:

Switzerland vs England, friendly, 28/05/1988
Hull City, “Blades Business Crew” of Sheffield United, and “6:57 Crew” of Portsmouth FC:

Slovenia vs Ukraine, Euro 00 qualifier, 13/11/1999
“Green Dragons”
of NK Olimpija Ljubljana:

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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #5 (Gallery)

In this series we look back to an era when supporters were often more likely to represent their local side on the terraces when the national team was in town (or abroad), rather than the national team itself.

Germany vs CIS, European Championships, 1992
KSC Fanclub
of Karlsruher SC:

Italy vs Slovenia, Euro ’96 qualifier, 1995
“Nord Kaos”, “Brigata”, “Arthur Zico Orsaria” and others of Udinese:

Netherlands vs Hungary, Euro ’88 qualifier, 1987
SC Heerenveen:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 1985
“Chelsea-Sutton”
of Chelsea FC:

Belgium vs Wales, Euro ’92 qualifier, 1991
CCFC and other banner of Cardiff City FC:

Netherlands vs Poland, World Cup ’94 qualifier, 1992
Lechia” with Celtic cross (far-right symbol) of Lechia Gdansk:

Italy vs Georgia, World Cup ’98 Qualifier, 1996
Vecchia Guardia“, “Brigata Ultra” and other groups of A.C. Perugia:

 

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #8

In our previous edition of the snappily titled APMFVGFH series, we saw a virtual naked pitch invader and accompaning copper that in our opinion was one of THE seminal moments in football video game history. But now we have a look at an absolute genuine classic, and for once recommend clicking here for the accompanying theme music to play along as you read; preferably on headphones after having just smoked, as it is one of the funkiest things of all time.

That’s right, the above multi-flagged “SOCCER” can only mean EA Sports’ FIFA International Soccer for the Super Nintendo, released in 1993.

After insertion of the game cartridge, and the unforgettable “E..A..Sports. It’s in the game” graphics and audio tag (mind-blowing for the time), the SOCCER text appears along with one of the smoothest jams ever heard in a video game (we get hints of The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and some other “Madchester” influences). A collage of national flags – that contains a suspicious amount of Canadian ones – floats within the text, before the letters flash into solid gold pieces and are joined by the other details scrolling on front of an immaculate pitch:

With that theme music playing alongside, it is goosebump inducing.

The Canadian flags are not actually a coincidence, as the game was developed by EA Canada. The use of the word “soccer” is a further indicator of the game’s North American origin, however considering the vivid colours, beautiful graphics and iconic music, all is forgiven.

Throughout the screens that follow, a very pleasing blue-tone EA Sports and ball motif flows through the background:

After progressing through the main menu – with choices for Exhibition, Tournament, League, Playoffs, Options, and Restore – the team select screen is next. Only countries are available to play as, since this is “International” soccer after all. More lovely flags and colours are on show, and Germany are looking strong this year, eh?:

Via our Facebook page we recently pondered on the inclusion of Democratic Republic of Congo. At least that’s what we remembered. Upon review of a video of the available teams, it seems that DR Congo were not actually in the game, although this could have been a different port. Perhaps this has was a case of mixed-memory, but if anyone knows for sure, please get in touch.

Going to the in-game match itself, the lush perfectly mowed grass is a thing of beauty, along with the classic flag and score graphics. Appropriately we have Canada, playing here in an all-red strip against Germany in their usual white and black. All clear on the kit front anyway:

Of course our favourite thing is always the virtual crowd and this one is excellent, even if they’re sitting rather than standing in a terrace (although some do stand up). A German shot from outside the box gone wide gives us a good look at those behind the goal, with the overly-positive reaction to the missed effort suggesting they are Canadian fans:

A ball gone for a throw-in also gives us good vantage of all sorts of characters in attendance. Look out for the kids standing on their seats and the pensive guy in the white shirt in the first row. The stairs is also great:

Another of the game’s best moments is the Half Time Report, which takes place high in the back of the stadium and features plenty of vintage ’90s North American youth:

Lastly, we come to the goal celebration graphics. They appear after the goal scorer has ran to the touchline and vary for each goal scored, getting progressively rarer the more that go in. Also note the absolutely distraught German defender pounding the ground in the penalty box, and as with all in the game, the goalscorer John Logan is not a real player in case you were wondering:

And that’s it for this installment, where we have enjoyed looking back at what was one of the first true great football video games, both in aesthetic and in fact gameplay. Unfortunately not pictured is one of the best features, where one could score by blocking the goalkeeper’s kick-outs.

Youtube link

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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #4 (Gallery)

It’s time for another edition of the series where we look back to an era when supporters were often more likely to represent their local side when the national team was in town than the national team itself.

Italy vs Belgium, friendly, 1996
Vecchia Guardia” and other groups of U.S. Cremonese:

Germany vs Ireland, friendly, 1994
Bad Bramstedt” (region) of HSV Hamburg:

Brazil vs Japan, Olympic Games 1996
Santos FC and Cruzeiro:

Argentina vs Uruguay, World Cup 1986
La Plata FC and Boca Juniors:

Luxembourg vs Greece, World Cup Qualifier, 1993
Allez-Diddeleng“, F91 Diddeleng (aka F91 Dudelange)

***For all installments of “International Duty”, click here***

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #7

Welcome back to the feature with the most annoyingly long, but obviously necessary series-title in retro football blog history. Probably not in video game history though. What is for sure is that gameplay means zilch here. Last time, you may remember some lush screens, lush graphics, and some chillingly unrealistic kit configurations that were possibly the result of an in-game alternate timeline dystopia situation.

But now we’re going to revisit a gentler and slightly less lush time, and the very first game we featured in this series, Tecmo’s European Championship 1992 for PC-DOS. In APMFVGFH#1 we had a look at the team-select screen with it’s handsome array of 16bit flags and kits, but since APMFVGFH has evolved since then, the game is definitely worthy of another look as it has a lot more old school goodness to offer.

The game opens with the delicious, classic title screen above that just drips DOS. Blue and green SHALL be seen! And while we referred to this as a gentler time compared to Champions World Class Soccer’s future hell-realm (I would rather die than see Italy play in green, white and red), the “grey void” of the would-be terraces and soulless mechanical landscape surrounding the stadium seems to indicate a similarly worrisome time in simanity’s alter-history.

Then comes another intro screen, definitely gif-worthy, with flags (always a plus) scrolling along the top and the Tecmo rabbit logo, which conveniently basically doubled up as the beloved and legendary European Championship rabbit mascot, the greatest mascot of all time in any discipline. The rabbit had debuted at Euro ’88 and was called Berni by the Germans, before being blatantly plagiarised by the Swedes who cunningly renamed him “Rabbit” to cover their tracks.

Next, as we already covered team-select in the aforementioned episode, we are going straight to pitchside and a look at the teams coming out, in this case Germany and England:

There is a lot to love here with player’s tunnel, athletics track, vibrant crowd, and Germany in their green away shirts (a POTP favourite), as well as cheerleaders which is not so realistic or necessary, but the effort is there. The fact that Tecmo is a Japanese company lets them away with it in our eyes, but photographers and officials in place of the cheerleaders could have been a welcome improvement.

Edit: At least that’s what we thought until we were smartened up by blog reader Lucas, who is fast becoming a invaluable fact checking resource:

About the cheerleaders part, it wasn’t made up by Tecmo. From what i remember, in UEFA EURO 1992 matches in Sweden (at the time when the game was developed), before the kick-off, there were two groups of cheerleaders on each side of the tunnel when the players were entering in the pitch. (as you can see from this photo from the final between Denmark and Germany in Gothenburg)

Thank Lucas, once again we gladly eat humble pie with this correction and as always welcome any and all contributions for stuff we may have missed.

It is now half-time and we have a lovely touch that I really appreciated, as a marching band parades across the pitch playing a military like tune. The attention to detail is excellent with smart red and yellow uniforms and simulated trumpets, flutes, tuba, triangle and, of course, the band leader with their baton, all on show.

Of course as always where possible, we must highlight the virtual crowd and we get a great shot of them down near one of the corners, patiently awaiting the arrival of the players (it’s a different match). As video game football crowds go, it really is a beauty:

And now for the pièce de résistance, one of the greatest things ever placed in a video game. I have long been a campaigner (as in I enthusiastically describe it’s potential with friends and loved ones) for the inclusion of VERY occasional fan rioting interrupting video game football matches. Rarer still, sometimes matches would have to be abandoned due to said trouble, merely for the sake of realism.

While we don’t quite have a riot, or any real “trouble”, there is an instance of, if not hooliganism, definite supporter disobedience with an immediate police response required. That is because at times in this game when a throw-in is being taken, a supporter breaks from the terraces and invades the pitch, fully nude, shortly thereafter chased by an irate policeman.

As you can see, the streaker boasts an impressive pubic region and appears to be a Caucasian male of athletic build. The players and officials don’t seem to care too much, barely taking notice, as in 1992 supporter encroachments were as normal and accepted as your standard, old pyro on the pitch. Indeed the inclusion of the easter egg proves the expectation at the time for some sort of incident involving fans at any given game.

Just for kicks, we can make it appear there is in fact a full firm of angry, naked hooligans pouring out from their enclosure:

As this edition of APMFVGFH comes to a close (which considering the above could really have been covered as a special, virtual edition of People On The Pitch), we will leave you with these shocking scenes, the disgraceful example of which perhaps being the ultimate childhood impetus for many of today’s football thugs. Amazingly we are not quite done reviewing European Championship 1992’s aesthetically pleasing moments, of which there are clearly many, but the rest will have to wait for another aesthetically pleasing day.

Youtube link 1
Youtube link 2
Youtube link 3

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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Heroic Hang Jobs #1 (Gallery)

Welcome to the debut edition of our newest gallery series, where in a spin off of What Football Is Supposed To Look Like (and there may be a slight bit of overlap here or there but that’s ok) we celebrate the increasingly lost art of flag and banner hanging.

In modern stadiums, we regularly see soulless competition branding uniformly adorning any available space (well, “we” don’t), making every ground look the same in many tournaments. Even where this isn’t the case, there is often an uncomfortable slickness to the production and hanging techniques of banners by some big, modern day supporters groups, impressive though they still may be. Here we shall look back to a time when this wasn’t the case, when chaos and home-made were king, and the noun “smattering” was amongst the most apt to describe the banner-hanging glory of the era.

Young Boys Bern vs Den Haag, UEFA Cup, 04/11/1987:

Lithuania vs Ireland, World Cup Qualifier, 10/09/1997:

Poland vs Norway, World Cup Qualifier, 13/10/1993:

Getafe vs Real Avilés, Segunda División B, 08/04/1990:

Anderlecht vs Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup Final, 09/05/1984:

CIS vs Germany, European Championships, 12/06/1992:

Luxembourg vs Greece, World Cup Qualifier, 12/10/1993:

Retro Shirt Reviews #3

In today’s Retro Shirt Review we feature this saucy green and white Reebok affair of unknown club or year, but the sponsor suggests a German lower-league/amatuer origin. I like to imagine this shirt as from an alternate 90’s timeline where Ireland wore Reebok, as this template seems to me to be clearly inspired by the Adidas Equipment style at the time which Ireland employed. Some other companies blatantly ripped-off Adidas’ large over the shoulder stripe design, but Reebok borrowed the concept in a different way by plastering their own logo over the upper part of their shirts.

Like the two German shirts featured in Retro Shirt Reviews 1 and 2, this shirt is made with two large pieces of fabric sown together at the top of the shoulders and sleeves, rather than separate pieces for the sleeves like with most shirts. When laid out flat, the unusual cut of the shirt, particularly around the shoulders and wide sleeves, is evident, although not surprising given the style of the time.

In my alternate timeline fantasy, a company known as Sport Schneck has clearly beaten Opel to be Ireland’s shirt sponsor, and presumably Bayern Munich’s. Upon a quick translate search, it seems that Sport Schneck translates to Sports Snail or Sports Slug, which is a great name. Perhaps this is some tongue in cheek joke regarding the irony of a slow snail as an athlete, or something else lost in translation.

Tight shadow striping also hearkens to Irelands’s 92-93 shirt which featured a similar pattern. On the back is a white, felt, “boxed” number 7 (worn by the alternate timeline’s version of Andy Townsend no doubt), which looks slightly small in person.

The label displays a classic, clean Reebok logo with no other information, and frankly nothing else needs be said.

As noted earlier, this general motif was used by Reebok teams throughout the decade, most famously by Chile at the ’98 World Cup who in fact were using an altered, stripped back version (on a shirt also noteworthy for it’s huge front numbers) so as to abide by FIFA’s branding rules. Perhaps in a similar vein, my alternate timeline Ireland jersey doesn’t feature a crest due excessive marketing on the coat of arms of a new materialist, dictatorship of 1992 Ireland.

Bonus: International Selection

  • Country: West Germany (away)
  • Year: n/a
  • Make: Adidas

As teased in the previous edition of RSR, the bonus international shirt this time is a bit of a cod as it was never really worn by a German team. I look on it more as a modern re-imagining of a late 80’s West Germany away shirt, as it combines elements of both their away shirts used at World Cup ’86 and ’90.

The main geometric design is of course inspired by the 1990 away shirt and template used by many teams of the time, but in a blockier, less minty fresh form. The shade of green is more reminiscent of the ’86 shirt, as is the solid white and black crest as opposed to the white outlined used in ’90. But the positioning of the crest, laying directly opposite the trefoil, is more consistent with 1990 than ’86 where it was lower down.

I realise that shirts like this may outrage purists, which I would understand if I was trying to claim it as a style legitimately worn by West Germany. But of course it is not, and I would rather bore a friend explaining the differences listed above (and have done) then try to pass it off as an actually used shirt. Past our usual, obscure, lower-league/amateur German clubs shirts, we are not of the strict match worn shirt collector ilk here (as noble a pursuit that is). I look at this as a piece of football culture art fashion, which is really more the Pyro On The Pitch style. Although in saying that, some may have bought this shirt thinking it actually was used at one stage, so yeah, not cool for them.

Having now accidentally featured 3 German club shirts and (almost) 3 German national team shirts in a row (we like German things), next time we will take a break from our Teutonic theme.

International Duty: Club Group Banners At National Team Games #3 (Gallery)

In this series, which to be fair wouldn’t exist without Italian games to carry it (I nearly called it “Italocentric” but there are a few other countries), we look back at a time where club banners were more prevalent at national team games. Click here for #1 and here for #2.

Italy vs Germany, friendly, 1986:
“Commando Green Stars Curva Sud” and “Bronx” of Avellino



Chile vs Yugoslavia, friendly, 1987:

Universidad de Chile

Italy vs Turkey, friendly, 1994:
“Rangers” (and “Rangers Visto”) and “Park Kaos” of Pescara



Germany vs Netherlands, friendly, 1998:

“Menden Sieg” of Schalke 04

Italy vs Northern Ireland, friendly, 1997:
“Brigate Rosanero” of Palermo