Champagne Kit Campaigns #5: Republic of Ireland, World Cup 1994

After the previous edition of Champagne Kit Campaigns, in which the Irish Republic’s road to USA 94 was examined, we continue with a sort of part two to that story by going on to the tournament itself. While a second round exit meant that not TOO much champagne was warranted (enough will have already been drank after the first game), it would be a historic time in terms of the strip, as Ireland played their last match to date wearing Adidas.

Thanks to world-renowned kit dealer Barry Rojack for some invaluable information.

Background:

For a full background on what was worn by Ireland leading up to 1994, of course check back to the aforementioned CKC#4. But briefly, having started the qualifying campaign still in a 1990-style “trefoil and stripes” design (with an updated crest), most of the matches saw the Irish wear the popular Adidas “Equipment” shoulder bar template in 92 and 93, with all but one in the traditional green shirt/white shorts/green socks combination. The odd game out was the historic last qualifier away to Northern Ireland in Windsor Park that secured a place at the finals, a result matched by the equally fantastic reverse strip.


Ireland's Adidas "Equipment" away kit in it's one and only appearance, worn vs Northern Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 17/11/1993.

The trefoil had been appearing on Adidas kits since the early 70s and even continued to be used by some “behind the times” nations past 1994. It’s Equipment-era successor, on the other hand, initially appeared to have an extremely short lifespan in comparison, with the bars logo first appearing in 1991 and, for the most part, disappearing by 94/95 (later resurrected sans-Equipment branding for World Cup 98). The French foreshadowed the forthcoming change of general direction by already dropping the element from their Equipment shirts in mid-1993, with an enlarged “adidas” wordmark remaining, giving it only little more than a year.


French Adidas "Equipment" away shirt on the left, already without Equipment logo in August 1993 (vs Sweden), contrasted with Portugal shirt with trefoil still being used in November 1994 (vs Austria).

Ireland were in a similar position due to their non-participation at Euro 92 – presumably the reason for their late adoption of the style. It would only be fourteen months from their first game in the new attire against Latvia in September of that year, until the “all-Ireland” clash in November 93; a relatively short time compared to the seven years that the trefoil had been seen on Irish shirts.

The countdown to the World Cup began on March 23rd, 1994, when Russia came to Dublin’s Lansdowne Road for a friendly, with the away side in a kit familiar to those who have read CKC#3. Most importantly though, it was the first chance for the Irish public to see what the team were going to wear that summer in the USA, although the game wasn’t broadcast live on TV.

Using a brighter shade of green than the last kit, the “Equipment” motifs were indeed a thing of the past, with a lone Adidas wordmark appearing on the chest opposite the crest. But incredibly, a trefoil did sort of make it back onto the shirt in the form of the sublimated shadow pattern, that basically portrayed the FAI logo bursting through the iconic Adidas “flower”. Subtle diagonal shadow stripes also incorporated FAI insignia, while a broad green/white/orange v-neck collar was complimented by small Irish tricolours on each sleeve.



The 1994 Ireland jersey in it's debut match, demonstrated by Liam O'Brien who ultimately would not be in the World Cup squad, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

The shorts were mostly plain, but also included fabric pattern. The socks, however, were perhaps the most exciting part of the kit, due to their white turn-overs that featured green/orange/green stripes. This type of “French-formatting” (as seen with blue/red/blue stripes over white French kit elements) had been employed on Ireland’s old O’Neills strips in their green/white/gold colourway, but this was the first time in the Adidas era that Ireland’s stripes weren’t a uniform white or green.



Full Irish home kit featuring green/orange/green stripes over white sock turnovers, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

At the previous World Cup, Ireland had been one of the only Adidas nations to wear a bespoke design, so the use of quite a common template afterwards may have disappointed some over-entitled fans (not us, since we love this era of templates). The 1994 shirt was a return to a unique kit (at least for the home, we’ll get to the away), but with quite a left-field design, it was maybe not what many had expected or hoped for. One source of continuity that hung on for now from the Equipment period was the numbers on the back, featuring an outline and three diagonal stripes in the corner.


The diagonal stripe numbering style first seen on Irish kits in 1991 retained for the new shirt, and Russia jersey, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

As the 90s had progressed, the tight-fitting shirts of the last decade were replaced by looser, baggier cuts and longer shorts, as demonstrated by Ireland’s transition from trefoil to Equipment. But the location of the upcoming World Cup, and it’s devastating heat and humidity, gave another reason for a massive jersey besides style: ventilation. In the Russia game, the deliberate airiness of the new Ireland shirt was demonstrated by 19 year old debutante Gary Kelly especially, wearing the long-sleeve version which incidentally featured plain green cuffs.


Gary Kelly in his debut international wearing the long-sleeve version of the new home shirt, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

New kits were introduced for the goalkeepers also, but, unlike the outfielders, they would be wearing a standard template known as “Predator” worn by many net-minders at the time that featured visible shoulder pads. “Blocks” of yellow and maroon on a black background covered most of the first choice jersey, with an “adidas” positioned on the round-neck collar and a central crest beneath.


Packie Bonner in Ireland's new goalkeeper shirt, Ireland vs Russia, friendly, 23/03/1994.

A 0-0 draw against the Russians was followed by an excellent 0-1 victory away to the Netherlands in April. The form continued to look good in May with a 1-0 win over Bolivia in Dublin on the 24th, and an even better display than the Dutch game with a 0-2 defeat of world champions Germany in Hanover four days later. Throughout all these games the standard home kit was used, but strangely the goalkeeper shirt of Alan Kelly didn’t feature a crest for Germany game (if not the other two also) having initially been seen on Packie Bonner’s version against Russia.



Ireland kit, front and back, above, and Alan Kelly's crestless goalkeeper jersey below, Germany vs Ireland, friendly, 29/05/1994.

The last warm-up fixture was on June 5th at home to the Czech Republic, who had most recently been part of the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks for a failed qualifying campaign and were now on their own for the first time. In a game most noteworthy for the away team’s rarely seen early Puma shirt, the class of the side that would burst onto the world scene at Euro 96 was already evident as they soured the going away party with a 1-3 defeat. But thankfully, the crest returned to Bonner’s goalie top.


The away side cause an upset at the World Cup going away party wearing an interesting early shirt, Ireland vs Czech Republic, 05/06/1994.

Bonner's jersey with crest reintroduced, Ireland vs Czech Republic, friendly, 05/06/1994.

Despite the loss the country prepared itself for World Cup fever, blindly optimistic for a repeat of the euphoria of four years earlier. Accordingly, opportunistic companies were ready to pounce on this enthusiasm with endless amounts of  World Cup Ireland-related merchandise, including “supporter jerseys”.




World Cup fever in Ireland with bunting, t-shirts (featuring a Denmark flag, who hadn't qualified) and O'Neills-made supporter jerseys (Hillary is modeling a 1990 Ireland/Italy version), June 1994.

True to form, former Ireland kit-supplier O’Neill’s produced many of their own “Adidas inspired” versions (based in an alternative timeline where Ireland used the “Spain 1992/93” Adidas template with a 1986-92 style Irish crest, which is actually beautiful), but a new development was the appearance of hideously inaccurate counterfeit shirts that tried to pass for Adidas. Among other missteps and poor material, the “home version” most prominently featured the instant give-away of a lace-up turnover collar.


A jolly fan wearing the hideous, counterfeit "collared" Ireland jersey, June 1994.

The actual official supporters replica shirts, like all Irish commercial jerseys since the 80s, could only be sold with the logo of the FAI’s corporate partner – in this case still Opel. It was a genius money-making move by the the association in which they had no problem turning their loyal supporters into walking billboards, when no other country did. However, lucky South American and Australian Ireland fans will have had versions produced in their regions devoid of the sponsor, as Opel had no presence in those markets.

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Republic of Ireland, 1994 FIFA World Cup

At the World Cup draw in December 93, Ireland had been placed in an all-European pot 3 and ended up in the so called “group of death”, Group E, along with:
Italy from pot 1 (hosts and top 5 ranked teams), Mexico from pot 2 (Africa and Americas) and Norway from pot 4 (lower Europeans and Asia). A grumpy minority lamented that it would have been better not to have qualified at all than face an early exit, but up to three teams could progress to the next round giving the aging Irish a decent chance.


The World Cup 94 draw in Las Vegas at the moment Norway were selected to complete Group E, 13/12/1993.

The specter of the grueling heat would also be present though, with games scheduled for daytime to suit global TV audiences and only two substitutions allowed per match. Somewhat over-cautiously, the Irish contingent brought a set of long-sleeves jerseys as well as short sleeves, but of course they would not be needed.

As always at the World Cup, kit distinctions were also more strictly enforced, meaning interesting kit mash-ups were certain. And rules against excessive corporate branding meant that certain kit-maker related elements sometimes had to be subtly changed for the tournament.

Round 1, Group E

ITALY
MEXICO
Republic of IRELAND
NORWAY

Match 1: Italy vs Ireland
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, 18/06/1994

Ireland were to start the World Cup the way they had finished the last, with an encounter against Italy. Being the “away” side in the fixture they prepared to wear their change strip of white/green/white against the blue/white/blue of Italy, as they had done four years earlier on Italian soil. (From the pre-match graphics it is also interesting to note the branding of this being “World Cup XV” – evidently a Super Bowl-inspired marketing attempt to appeal to the home American audience.)

But upon viewing the Irish team fifteen minutes before kick-off, the FIFA official reported that the Italians had elected to wear their own away kit of white/blue/white, meaning that the Irish had one and a half minutes to change. As reported by Museum of Jerseys here, captain Andy Townsend suggested only changing the shirt to create a green/green/white strip – a request denied by the FIFA official. The teams emerged shortly after with Ireland in their first choice colours; the massive crowd (a majority of whom were Irish) none the wiser of the kit-chaos:

The rush turned out to be somewhat of a blessing, however, as ‘keeper Bonner later recalled how the quick turnaround meant there was no time to think, which in turn took the pressure off. What did cause pressure was the afternoon sun – clearly the reason for the Italians choice of white shirts (in the other match, the “home” Norwegians also chose to wear their white away jersey). In a vein attempt to counter this, notoriously pale left-back-turn-left-midfielder Steve Staunton and the Scottish-born Ray Houghton both took to the field in white caps (along with manager Jack Charlton and some subs), and kept them on as long as possible before kick-off:

As for the kit itself, there were two crucial differences to the version used in the pre-tournament friendlies. The text “Corn An Domhain USA ’94”, Irish for “World Cup USA ’94”, now ringed around the crest, doubtlessly enraging many consumers of the replica who’s shirts suddenly seemed out of date:

The other difference, which may have been lost to more viewers, was the numbers, which had been changed to a standard “box” format. This was a result of the aforementioned branding rules that meant the three stripes on the previous style could not be allowed, despite the fact that the numbers used at Italia 90 were really nothing but stripes. Tournament front-numbers also returned to an Irish shirt after their debut at the US Cup in 92, while players names on the back made their first ever appearance:

Also of note was the fact that left-back Terry Phelan missed team-photo, as he had put on boots with the wrong studs and was busy changing them. As we discussed last time, Phelan had been known for turning the tops of his socks inside out, or indeed simply wearing his own pair, due to muscle issues, and of course this continued into the World Cup with his altered versions clearly displaying less white trim than the other players:

The Italians “white-advantage” didn’t count in the end, as Houghton’s first half goal, along with a mammoth performance from centre-back Paul McGrath, gave the Irish a famous 0-1 win. Despite any reservations anyone might have initially had after the change from the arguably more classy Equipment gear, the new Irish jersey had now been worn in victories over the Dutch, the Germans and the Italians, with clean sheets in all. Could the luck continue for the boys in green?

Result: Italy 0-1 Ireland

Match 2: Mexico vs Ireland
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, 24/06/1994

Three days after the the Summer Solstice, Ireland took to field in Florida at the crazy time of 12:30pm for an ominous first-time encounter against the side in the group most-equipped to deal with the conditions – Mexico. In record heat and humidity for a World Cup match, again Staunton wore his now trademark cap along, no doubt grateful for the water-breaks allowed during the games. Thankfully the Mexicans decided to wear their home colours of green/white/red, meaning that the Irish could use their lighter white shirt and socks for the first time, and, since shorts clashes apparently weren’t an issue, white shorts, eliminating any sort of semi-clash:

If the home shirt was somewhat plain, the bold away equivalent more than made up for it. Remaining from the green jersey was the diagonal shadow pattern, sleeve flags, and a similar collar, although the order of colours was reversed and ratio of orange to green reduced. But the most striking and obvious difference was the vertical green bars emanating from the shoulders and collar, bordered by orange trim, and disintegrating into white as they descend down the shirt:

The ample amount of green meant that the “adidas” wordmark was placed over the colour, appearing in white like it did on the home shirt. The front numbers, on the other hand, were made orange to account for the fact that they spilled over onto the white when in double-figures, contrasting the green names and numbers used on back:

The crest too was placed over a green bar, meaning both badge and maker logo were positioned unusually wide – wider than on the home shirt. At first the template also appeared to be a bespoke design for the Irish, but was later used in modified form by the likes of Karlsruher SC (home and away, 96/97), Stockport County (home 96/97) and Turkey (away, 96-98). Lastly for the outfielders, the socks on display for the first time were not a straight reversal, as the turn-over stayed white allowing the green/orange/green stripes to remain:

In goal, meanwhile, Bonner kept with the first choice ‘keeper kit. The heavy, padded jersey certainly seemed unsuitable for the American baking, and looked an especially out of place oversight compared to the loose, short-sleeved masterpiece worn by a man famous for his shirts at the Mexican end – Jorge Campos:

After a 1-0 loss to Norway in their first match, Mexico bounced back by taking a 2-0 lead against the hot and sweaty western European islanders (Ireland that is). But after an infamous sideline spat that also involved a stubborn FIFA official – who inexplicably wouldn’t allow a change – and an irate Charlton, 35 year old substitute John Aldridge headed in a late consolation goal for the Irish, the goal difference implications of which still gave hope of progression to the next round.

Result: Mexico 2-1 Ireland

Match 3: Ireland vs Norway
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, 28/06/1994

For another early kick-off, Ireland returned to Giants Stadium in New Jersey – contradictorily the home of the New York Giants American football teams. Finally the “home” side, the Irish were now free to choose any kit combination they wanted. But instead of staying loyal to the colour of their country, the choice was made to follow the Italians and Norwegians example by using the away kit and taking the supposed advantage of a white shirt.

For the third game in a row a different combination was achieved, as green shorts were inserted allowing the away kit to be seen in it’s intended form for the first time. From a functional stand-point, perhaps this allowed for more visual recognition for a team less used to playing in all-white, as well as not having to worry about green on the other team’s kit:

There was a change in goal too thanks to the Norwegian’s red clashing with maroon, as Bonner now did join his teammates in switching shirts (no more than that as black shorts and socks were used with both options) to a purple/grey-based version of the first choice. After Italy’s Diadora and Mexico’s Umbro, Norway were the first opponent to use also Adidas, and Bonner’s Norwegian equivalent, Erik Thorstvedt, was in the template too – a black/blue/green variant:

From the bench, we also get a nice look at the amazing Irish t-shirts worn by the players and staff. In an alternate world it could have made a suitable third-choice jersey had the green, white and orange on the sleeves been fully hooped (along with some other details) but, like the goalkeeper gear, the black theme was not a great fit for the heat:

After a frustrating game, 0-0 was the final score. At the same time in Washington, Italy and Mexico played-out their own 1-1 draw, creating the incredible situation where, for the first time ever, a World Cup group had ended with all four teams level on points (four) and goal difference (zero).

As the highest goalscorers, Mexico went through on top, with Ireland’s win against Italy and goal against Mexico being enough to send them through in second. Still reeling from the opening defeat, future finalists Italy crept through as the lowest ranked third placed qualifier, ahead of the eliminated Norway who had only managed one goal.

Result: Ireland 0-0 Norway

Elsewhere at the tournament, Adidas’ colourful templates would be an enduring highlight. Ten of the twenty-four nations present were contracted to the brand, with Romania, Sweden (who, continuing the theme of the heat, came with a white away shirt rather than the usual blue), Bulgaria and Norway (home) using an evolution of the Equipment template that featured dual “rib bars”. The collars and cuts of these jerseys were similar to the Irish effort, with the Swedish version also even featuring diagonal shadow stripes.



Above: The great Norwegian home strip used at the World Cup, which added navy raglan sleeves to the popular "rib-bars" template."; Below: Sweden's white away kit with the same shirt template.

The second most prevalent Adidas theme, thanks to Spain, Argentina (away), and Norway (away), used a smarter turn-over button collar and employed columns of stacked diamonds (not to be confused with Umbro) running down the right side. Already witnessed by Ireland in the friendly, Germany’s sensational first and second choice shirts, with their colourful diamond-flurried chests, were like the Irish away; not in design, but in at first appearing bespoke before being adopted by others.



Above: Spain's "diamond-columned" away shirt; Below: Germany's first choice strip - the away did not see use in the tournament.

The Irish home shirt was still joined by several other unique offerings from Adidas. In almost all cases, however, the templates at the tournament were the superior offerings, as the four specialised USA and Nigeria kits aren’t exactly looked back on favorably. But for kit nerds, the Irish shirt could be considered the most special of all as the only outfield jersey at the tournament to (sort of) feature a trefoil.



Above: The "stars" part of the USA's "stars and stripes" kits; Below: The Nigerian away shirt that looked designed for a trendy nightclub..

Round of 16

Match 4: Netherlands vs Ireland
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, 04/07/1994

On American independence day back in Orlando, it was an even earlier “high-noon showdown” for Ireland against the Dutch in the next round. Again a replay from Italia 90, this time it would be a replay of the kit configuration too.

The Netherlands, as the “home team”, elected to wear their usual (at the time) orange/white/orange strip. As seen back in April, under normal terms this would have meant Ireland in their first choice too, but now, like in 1990, white/green/white was required:

As we have discussed, the use of white suited Ireland anyway. But there was concern from some at this unprecedented third game in a row without the trademark green jersey, considering the alternative had proved less successful on the pitch. Even at the last tournament, a draw and a win on penalties had been delivered in the home kit, while the away had been used in two draws and a defeat.

Unlike when the sides met in Italy, during which the yellow Irish goalkeeper jersey was changed only for the yellow-wearing Romanians, Bonner also used his away top once again to avoid an orange vs maroon/yellow clash. It would turn out to be his last major competitive cap (a Euro qualifier against Lichtenstein would follow), although not his most pleasant one.

Early in the game, an error from Phelan allowed Denis Bergkamp to score, before an innocuous looking Wim Jonk strike was unfortunately palmed into the goal by Bonner. A second half disallowed McGrath effort was the closest Ireland came to a response, and they were out – the curse of the away shirt had struck again.

Result: Netherlands 2-0 Ireland

Rep. of IRELAND ELIMINATED at Round of 16

Baring the initial Italian game, the World Cup had not quite delivered the same delirium that had been unleashed four years prior, but that would have been extremely difficult. Never the less, the team returned to Dublin as heroes to most of the population and received a public homecoming reception/celebration/display of appreciation in the Phoenix Park:

As for the kits, which is the main reason we are talking about all this, amazingly that first game back in Giants Stadium proved to be the one and only time that the ’94 home jersey (and socks) was used in a competitive setting. This was of course because, following the World Cup, Umbro took over as Ireland kit manufacturers, ending a relatively short eight year relationship with Adidas.

Although not the first Irish kit to be only used once in competition, the set and setting for the game makes it’s use makes comparable to the much celebrated Dutch Euro 88 shirt, which was only ever worn for the five games of that tournament (the Irish kit was used more over all thanks to the friendlies). Despite the awkwardly blocky numbers, the lack of any real design elements, and the insane bagginess, the historic result against Italy (Ireland’s first win during 90 mins in a World Cup finals match) will always give this kit great meaning, and time has been kind to the concept as the 90s become more and more retro.

Breakdown
Team: Republic of Ireland 
Year(s): 1994
Competition: World Cup 94
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 4
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 3

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Video Links:
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1993
Sweden vs France, 1993
Portugal vs Austria, 1994
Ireland vs Russia, 1994
Germany vs Ireland, 1994
Ireland vs Czech Rep., 1994
Irish World Cup report, 1994
Italy vs Ireland, 1994
Italy vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Mexico vs Ireland, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Ireland vs Norway, 1994
Norway kit 1994
Sweden kit 1994
Spain kit 1994
Germany kit 1994
USA kit 1994
Nigeria kit 1994
Netherlands vs Ireland, 1994
Netherlands vs Ireland, 1994
Irish homecoming, 1994

*****

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #11

Plunging head first into APMFVGFH time warp once again, this edition takes us to the heady days of the late 90s and early 2000s as we look at a groundbreaking series that straddled the millennia.

If it wasn’t clear from the blurry, vague image above, in this edition we are highlighting both LiberoGrande – released by Namco for the PlayStation in 1997 – AND LiberGrande 2: International –  released in 2000.

The name of the latter suggests that the series had expanded from clubs to also include national teams, when in fact national teams are all that’s playable in either game. But the main point was players rather than team, as instead of playing as a whole XII and continually controlling who was on or nearest the ball, as in most conventional football games, LiberoGrande demands the gamer select one world-class player to control for the entire match.

Having originally appeared as an arcade title, “libero grande” itself translates to “free big” in Italian, referring to the historic calcio position of libero (sweeper), and implying that the game gave the player more freedom than ever before. While nothing spectacular in terms of gameplay (as far as we recall), luckily we care not one jot about that in this series and over both games there are some funny and genuinely impressive moments.

For one thing, like International Superstar Soccer the actual player’s names are not allowed appear due to licensing reasons, and the 21 playable “characters” and 10 unlockables are all parodies, often with unintentionally hilarious results. But we always love some fan action in the coded stands also, and thankfully this game provides more of it than most.

After the title screen, the intro video immediately sets the tone for what this game is going to be like:

Later in the intro, it appears as if the game is being played in an ancient crumbling stadium, or one that’s been bombarded. Some commendable Danish banner hanging is also visible:

Before getting to a match, the gamer must select their player which includes a snap shot of the legend’s face. The real life equivalent of each is fairly easy to figure out, and a full list can be found on the LiberoGrande Wikipedia page, but given the Japanese origins of the game it is not surprising that many of them turn out like anime characters.

First is Raimundo, the friendly N64 Legend of Zelda villager:

Then there’s the inflatable Alfred Shaffer from England:

Lion-Man, Cornelio Valencia:

The Romanian Redneck, Godwin Hasdeu:

Concerned aunt, Jordan Krüger:

Arrogant pirate princes, Antonio Del Pacino and Robin Garrick:

Stoic Latin hero, Renato Gallegos:

And the only Serbian ever to have an “x” in his name, Dormen Smixolovic:

Some other interesting name choices include the combination of Oliver Bierhoff with an 19th century emperor, creating “Oswald Bismarck”; Andreas Möller going Ducth to become “Ajax Möbius”; Romario’s metamorphosis into a keyboard – “Roland”; and they transformed George Weah into “Gerald Wells”, an accountant from the American mid-west.

Another sidenote from the Wikipedia page is that someone thought it important enough to include the  “Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.” just in case the FIFA rules-audit people are skimming through old football game pages.

At last we come to the teams emerging – in this case the Netherlands and USA (the angle of the camera at first makes it appear as if the flags and country names are aligned to the wrong side, but this is rectified as the camera spins around). Immediately the eye is drawn to the crowd in the background as we see flares, strobos, tifo flags, and banner hanging from the Dutch supporters:

The pyro looks even more impressive for night games, and who better than Italy’s virtual ultras to demonstrate:

One thing we love in soccer simulators is when your players crumple the ground pathetically upon conceding a goal or being sent off, and happily, this is the case here. Upon France scoring against Italy early in a friendly game, an intensely huge “GOAL” scrolls along as the whole Italian squad drop to the grass to cry and pound the pitch, and ask God why they were born:

In the background, a quite disturbing celebration is taking place between two French teammates, who are engaging in unholy communion through some sort metaphysical alien bio-technology. But in quite a lovely kit:

You may have noticed above that the wavy flags continue around the pitch in the crowd, with four behind this goal alone:

Getting a closer look, the flags are quite massive with the white pole a pleasing touch, although the flag appears to be waving itself:

Moving on to LiberoGrande 2 as it was known in Japan, or LiberoGrande International in Europe, the game for the new millennium had an updated, clean look that we love:

As the caption says: “This is the ultimate Football game”. As in the last one ever? Here’s some more nice screens:

Libero 2 switches things up by focusing on the country first, rather the players. The team select screen is also great, with four elegant globes above the national flags:

Once you have your team the player then is selected, and this time it can be any of them. Here a nice Portugal kit is on display:

Lastly, we come to a match between Sweden and Germany in the San Siro. As the teams emerge, we see an immense traveling mob of Swedes in mostly black jackets with banners, flags, and bouncing in unison. The slight time delay between the rows creates an amazing effect:

It is one of the greatest scenes in any football video game:

LiberoGrande 2 would not be the ultimate football game, but it would be the ultimate game in the series. The idea of controlling a single player may have seemed boring and pointless to some at the time, but it was later adapted by both the Pro Evolution and FIFA series, showing that Libero really was a trailblazing legend of a game.

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YouTube Links:

Libero Grande Italy vs France
Libero Grande Netherlands vs USA
Libero Grande 2
Libero Grande 2 Sweden vs Germany

*****

International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #8: Portugal Focus, plus more (Gallery)

Last time in International Duty, we took an in-depth, pictorial look at club sides represented in the stadiums of Euro 88. In this edition, we start with the banners of some of Portugal’s premier domestic supporters at national team games, before moving on to the more general selection that we are used to in this series.

Portugal vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 07/10/2000
No Name Boys of Benfica:

Portugal vs Austria, Euro qualifier, 13/11/1994
Torcida Verde
of Sporting CP:

Portugal vs Netherlands, Euro qualifier, 17/10/1990
Súper Dragones
of FC Porto:

Ultra Boys of ?:

Portugal vs Latvia, Euro qualifier, 03/06/1995
SC Braga:

Portugal vs Italy, World Cup qualifier, 24/02/1993
SC Braga:

Portugal vs Czech Republic, Euro 96, 23/06/1996
Súper Dragones of FC Porto:

East Germany vs USSR, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989
Dynamo Dresden:

Ebersdorf:

Italy vs Finland, friendly, 27/05/1994
Brigate of Parma:

Ireland vs Latvia, Euro qualifier, 11/10/1995
Cliftonville FC:

Italy vs Algeria, friendly, 11/11/1989
Vigilantes
of Vicenza:

Netherlands vs West Germany, World Cup qualifier, 26/04/1989
SC Fortuna Köln:

SV Grün-Weiss:

Germany vs Ghana, friendly, 14/04/1993
VfB Stuttgart:

Brazil vs Latvia, friendly, 26/06/1999
OS Fanaticos
of Athletico Paranaense:

Ultras Do Atlético of Athletico Paranaense:

2nd Comando GB’s of Cruzeiro:

Mafia Azul of Cruzeiro:

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YouTube Links:
Portugal vs Ireland
Portugal vs Austria
Portugal vs Netherlands
Portugal vs Latvia
Portugal vs Czech Rep.
East Germany vs USSR
Italy vs Finland
Ireland vs Latvia
Italy vs Algeria
Netherlands vs West Germany
Germany vs Ghana
Brazil vs Latvia

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 4: #76-100

It’s another weird and wonderful array of gifs from our not-quite-daily Gif of the Day on the POTP Facebook and Twitter pages. Once the series goes past another century we will add the next four blocks, but for now click here for parts 1, 2 or 3.

January – February 2019

Gif of the Day #76: 1992Nigerian supporters celebrate in Stade de l’Amitié, Dakar, Senegal, after their team go 1-0 up against Kenya. African Cup of Nations, first round, 14/01/92:

Gif of the Day #77: 1991 – Days before Croatia’s independence referendum, Davor Šuker scores his one and only goal for Yugoslavia on his second and last cap (having already played for an unofficial Croatian selection against Romania in 1990) with the 7th goal in a 7-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands. Great kit too. Euro 92 qualifying group 2, Belgrade, 16/05/91:

Gif of the Day #78: 1986 – Not phones, but lighters in the air act as make-shift pryo for a penalty. Nantes vs Internazionale, UEFA Cup quarter-final 2nd leg, 19/03/86:

Gif of the Day #79: 1983 – 36 years ago today Leeds go on the rampage by the family seats of the Baseball Ground. Derby County vs Leeds United, League Division 2, 22/01/83:

Gif of the Day #80: 1980 – A cold weather European classic with beautiful luminous yellow Adidas Tango ball, often overlooked for it’s equally great orange counterpart. Sochaux vs Eintracht Frankfurt, UEFA Cup 3rd round 2nd leg, 10/12/80:

Gif of the Day #81: 1981 – Raucous scenes in the Idrætspark, Copenhagen, following a fabulous 3-1 victory for the home side. Denmark vs Italy, World Cup qualifying Group 5, 03/06/81:

Gif of the Day #82: 1988Manchester United in beautiful away kit score against Liverpool in Anfield, note the pockets of United fans on the left celebrating in the home sections. League Division 1, 04/04/88:

Gif of the Day #83: 1988 – Ultras Bari in action. Bari vs Bologna, Serie B, 24/04/88:

Gif of the Day #84: 1992 – Classic Adidas Ghana kit and line-up graphics for the day, vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations first round, 15/01/92:

Gif of the Day #85: 2008 – Not as retro as usual, but one of the most emotional and beautiful moments born out of tragedy in football history (along with the Christmas truce of WW1 in our book) as Rome unites in memory of Gabriele. Lazio vs Roma, Serie A, 19/03/08:

Gif of the Day #86: 1973 – Police try to create a terrace divide (apart from one nonchalant fan) between rival supporters in the Eastville Stadium. Bristol Rovers vs West Ham United, Watney Cup first round, 11/08/73:

Gif of the Day #87: 1993 – Flags! Padova vs Ascoli, Serie B, 13/06/93:

Gif of the Day #88: 1988 – What at first may appear to be a running flare-launch attack turns out to be the fusing of an elaborate chain of pyro arranged by Cosenza’s Nuclei Sconvolti (Stoner Core). Cosenza va Reggina, Serie B 23/10/88:

Gif of the Day #88.5: 1988 – Heartwarming joy as the display is deemed a success. Cosenza vs Reggina, Serie B 23/10/88:

Gif of the Day #89: 1966 – Welsh ecstasy in Ninian Park, Cardiff, as the home side go 1-0 up in what was both a British Home Championship 66/67 game and a Euro 68 qualifier. Wales vs Scotland, 22/10/66 – taken from People On The Pitch #2:

Gif of the Day #90: 1979 – A packed terrace, flags and torrential rain combine to make a perfect European night as fans celebrate the goal that will win the tournament (the result of a dubious penalty), Borussia Monchengladbach v Red Star Belgrade, UEFA Cup final 2nd leg, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, 25/05/79:

Gif of the Day #91 – 1977Everton in Swindon Town’s County Ground, FA Cup 4th round, 29/01/77:

Gif of the Day #92: 1994 – Bizarre/great footage of fan-band on pitch (with unplugged instruments..) spliced in between that of supporters and the match. US Alessandria vs Mantova, Serie C1 Group A, 22/05/94:

Gif of the Day #93: 1978Italian fans in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for their tie with France, World Cup first round, Group 1, 02/06/78:

Gif of the Day #94: 1990 – A pre-match fracas breaks out at Landsdowne Road as an English mob scatters the crowd. There would be clashes in Dublin after the game also, coinciding with a protest march against the extradition of an IRA political prisoner (now a sitting member of the Irish parliament) to Britain. Republic of Ireland vs England, Euro 92 qualifier, 14/11/90. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F2IY–CnjM):

Gif of the Day #95: 1993 – Heroic head-gear, tracksuits, and a great Puma template of the era on show from the home team. Ruch Chorzów vs Widzew Łódź, Ekstraklasa (Polish top flight), 21/05/93:

Gif of the Day #96: 1983 – Mesmerising flag and Roma is magic. Roma vs Cagliari, Serie A, 16/01/83:

Gif of the Day #97: 1992/93 – This is great, player for the away team scores a penalty and then runs the length of the pitch, ignoring every team mate as he goes, to celebrate on front of the traveling fans. Cavese vs Nocerina, Eccellenza Campania (Italian 6th tier) Group B, 92/93:

Gif of the Day #98: 1989Japan vs North Korea, kits including a unique Adidas affair for Japan in red, and fans including a sizable amount of Korean support (made up of state officials no doubt) with even a card coreo visible to left. World Cup 90 qualifiers AFC 1st Round Group 6, Kita, Tokyo, 04/06/89:

Gif of the Day #99: 1990 – Absolute terrace carnage and a flying Yorkshireman. Leeds United away to Oxford United, Division 2, 10/03/90. Taken from Supporter Snap Back #4:

Gif of the Day #100: 1985 – ULTRAS, Avellino vs Atalanta, Serie A, 14/04/85:

*****

Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 3: #51-75

The third block of the first one hundred Gifs of the Day from our Facebook and Twitter pages, and it’s another marvelous selection. Anything can happen in the Superpost. Click here for part one, part two or part four.

Gif of the Day #51: 1993 – Hagi scores against Wales in Cardiff. The 1-2 defeat eliminated the hosts while securing Romania‘s place in the finals on the last day of the group. World Cup 94 qualifier, 17/11/93:

Gif of the Day #52: 1993 – To make it up to our Welsh followers for yesterday’s heartbreaking reminder, here are happier times from earlier in the same game as pyro is let off in the Cardiff crowd while Eric Young hashes out with manager Terry Yorath, plus a huge can of Coke. Wales vs Romania, World Cup qualifier, 17/11/93:

Gif of the Day #53: 1985 – Quintessential scenes from the East German DDR-Oberliga as BSG Wismut Aue go 0-1 up away to BSG Motor Suhl, 16/03/85:

Gif of the Day #54: 1988 – The scene as Nacional (Uruguay) and Newell’s Old Boys (Argentina) take to the field for the second leg of their Copa Libertadores final, 26/10/88:

Gif of the Day #55: 1981 – Stadio Olimpico’s Curva Sud ahead of AS Roma vs SSC Napoli, Serie A, 08/03/81:

Gif of the Day #56: 1973 – Flag bearers in Greek traditional dress lead the AC Milan and Leeds United teams as they parade with a large Greek flag ahead of the Cup Winners Cup final, held in Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Thessalonica, 16/05/73:

Gif of the Day #57: 1973 – Violent scenes at the end of the Cup Winners Cup final. AC Milan vs Leeds United, Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Thessalonica, 16/05/73:

Gif of the Day #58: 1985 – Maradona channels his inner Steve Staunton with an “Olympic goal” (that is straight from a corner kick). Napoli vs Lazio, Serie A, 24/02/1985:

Gif of the Day #59: 1983 Manchester United fans chanting at Arsenal, FA Cup semi-final, Villa Park, 16/04/83:

Gif of the Day #60: 1968Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (revered as god incarnate by the Rastafarian movement) watches the final of the African Cup of Nations, alongside the tournament trophy, in the humbly titled Haile Selassie Stadium. Democratic Republic of Congo vs Ghana, 21/01/68:

Gif of the Day #61: 1980/81 – Scenes from the Italian ultra scene. Taken from People On The Pitch #9:

Gif of the Day #62: 1991 – Curva Fiesole ahead of Fiorentina vs Juventus, Serie A, 07/04/91:

Gif of the Day #63: c.1979 – Scarves and smoke in the Shed at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea vs unknown:

Gif of the Day #64: 1998 – Intro to “World Cup 98” for the Nintendo 64:

Gif of the Day #65: 1994 – “Fog of war”, the Rome derby is shrouded in smoke after pyro from both curvas. Lazio vs Roma, Serie A, 06/03/94:

Gif of the Day #66: 1990 – Intro graphic before Barletta vs Torino, Serie B, 25/02/90:

Gif of the Day #67: 1993 – Curva Nord at the Stadio Armando Picchi in Livorno, formally known as Yankee Stadium during the post-WW2 years due to it’s use by American soldiers. Livorno vs Savona, Campionato Nazionale Dilettanti (Serie D), 10/01/93:

Gif of the Day #68: 1991Iceland go 2-0 at home to Spain, en route to one of their greatest victories ever up to that point. Euro 92 qualifiers Group 1 (an unbeaten France progressed), 25/09/91:

Gif of the Day #69: 1981 – A home end Bunnikside bomb explodes by the head of away goalkeeper Joop Hiele. FC Utrecht vs Feyenoord, Eredivisie, 15/02/81, taken from Pyro On The Pitch 13:

Gif of the Day #70: 1987 – A lone dancer solemnly performs a traditional Basque folk dance for veterans of the 1937 “Euzkadiko Selekzioa” (Basque national team) to mark 50 years since their first match abroad (taking on Racing Paris the same day Guernica was bombed in the Spanish Civil War) in the the San Mamés stadium ahead of Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad, La Liga, 17/10/87:

Gif of the Day #71: 2001 – Irish international David Connolly scores his first of two goals in a 3-4 away win at the Ajax Arena, Ajax Amsterdam vs Feyenoord Rotterdam, Eredivisie, 13/05/01:

Gif of the Day #72: 1991 – Stadio Olimpico’s Curva Sud celebrates the first goal in 2-1 win for Roma against Brøndby to send the home side through to the final after a 0-0 in Denmark. UEFA Cup semi-final 2nd leg, 24/04/91:

Gif of the Day #73: 1981 – Scenes of jubilation, as well as aggravation in the away sector, after Norway‘s famous 2-1 victory over England in Oslo, World Cup qualifier, 09/09/81:

Gif of the Day #74: 1982 – A small but colourful away crowd are rewarded as Mick Martin’s own goal silences Lansdowne Road. Ireland vs Spain (final score 3-3), Euro 84 qualifier, 17/11/82:

Gif of the Day #75: 1991 – The greatest “strike” in football history as an away ball boy feels the wrath of home ‘keeper Wolfgang Wiesner during a post-reunification East vs West German club clash. BSV Stahl Brandenburg vs FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, 2 Bundesliga Nord, 16/11/91. Taken from Football Special Report #4:

*****

Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 2: #26-50

Part two of our compilation of Facebook/Twitter “Gifs of the Day”, follow the pages to catch the gifs as they come in real time (thick and fast). Click here for part 1, 3 or 4.

Gif of the Day #26: PAO pryo, Panathinaikos vs Olympiakos, Greek Cup Final, 28/05/1986:

Gif of the Day #27: World Cup 90 coverage on Japanese TV, 1990:

Gif of the Day #28: Red Star banners, Red Star Belgrade vs Portadown FC, Champions League, 19/09/1991:

Gif of the Day #29: Home fans celebrate the third goal in 3-1 win, Lithuania vs Albania, World Cup 94 qualifier, 14/04/1993:

Gif of the Day #30: Winning goal in Ghana 3-2 Italy, Olympics, Atlanta, 23/07/1996:

Gif of the Day #31: AS Roma supporters, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, vs Bayern Munich, 20/03/1985:

Gif of the Day #32: The disappointed “just conceded a goal” terrace sway, Everton vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final, 24/04/1985:

Gif of the Day #33: In 1992, BSV Stahl Brandenburg goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner disciplines a Bayer 05 Uerdingen ball-boy for kicking the ball away. He is immediately sent off:

Gif of the Day #34: Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships, 18/06/1992:

Gif of the Day #35: Crazy Dortmund terrace after goal, Borussia Dortmund vs Auxerre, UEFA Cup semi-final 1st leg, 06/04/1993 (credit to the YouTube channel of the amazing Soccer Nostalgia blog that we love https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrJOu5SKZimBK2s6N4VYUUw):

Gif of the Day #36: Packed Bayern Munich terrace vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final 2nd leg, 18/04/1990:

 

Gif of the Day #37: Recipe for trouble, Ajax Amsterdam away fans celebrate a goal in a terrace also populated by home supporters, vs FC Utrecht, 1979/80:

Gif of the Day #38: FAI Cup final 1996 – after Shelbourne FC goalkeeper Alan Gough is sent off with no sub GK on the 3-man bench (on either side), an unhappy Brian Flood is forced to go in goal. vs St. Patrick’s Athletic, 05/05/1996:

Gif of the Day #39: 1983 – Scoreboard and fireworks, Anderlecht vs Benfica, UEFA Cup Final 1st leg, 04/05/83:

Gif of the Day #40: Italian TV “EuroGol” graphics, 1987:

Gif of the Day #41: 1977 – Superb bicycle trick pre-match entertainment ahead of Hafia FC (Guinea) vs Ghana, 28/09/77:

Gif of the Day #42: 1980’sKarlsruher SC home terrace in their recently deceased Wildparkstadion. Click here for our recently existing article that looked at their UEFA Cup tie with Bordeuax in 1993:

Gif of the Day #43: 1997Italian supporters in Stadio Nereo Rocco, Trieste; the city near Italy’s most eastern point that’s less than 10km from the Slovenian border. Vs Moldova, World Cup 98 qualifier, 29/03/97:

Gif of the Day #44: 1988 – Dutch supporters burn the host country’s flag after victory in the semi final. West Germany vs Netherlands, European Championship, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 21/07/88:

Gif of the Day #45: 1987 – A firm of Chelsea arrive in the away end at Vicarage Road with their side’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Watford already underway, 01/02/87:

Gif of the Day #46: 1979 – A passionate/delirious Inter fan wishes a nerazzurri player well before the match (continuing on for several more seconds after the gif). Internazionale Milano vs Juventus, Serie A, 11/11/79:

Gif of the Day #47: 1970 – Classic terrace avalanche of Chelsea fans in White Hart Lane for the FA Cup semi-final vs Watford, 14/03/70:

Gif of the Day #48: 1991FC St. Pauli going 1-0 up en route to a famous win in the Olympiastadion, away to Bayern Munich, Bundesliga 02/03/91:

Gif of the Day #49: 1985 – *clap clap clap* “United!” The Red Army occupy Manchester City’s Maine Road at Manchester United vs Liverpool, FA Cup semi-final replay, 17/04/1985:

Gif of the Day #50: 1986 – Linesman can’t abide time wasting. Mexico vs West Germany, World Cup quarter-final, 21/06/86:

*****

Gif of the Day Superpost, Part 1: #1-25

Over on our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter, we don’t have an Instagram as of now but it’s owned by Facebook anyway so get off your high-horse) our Gif of the Day series (gifs not guaranteed every day) has been a popular feature, offering up a regular retro dose of aesthetic football pleasure to your timeline. The milestone of Gif#100 has just been passed, but posting them on those site is effectively throwing them into a blackhole after about day (and who knows how long Facebook and Twitter will last either, while we plan on surviving the global revolution/cataclysm), so we realised it is needed to archive them ourselves with the Gif of the Day Superpost.

So as not to totally slow things down, the Superpost will be broken into blocks of 25 and continually updated with new posts as we progress more with the series.
Edit: Click here for parts 2, 3 or 4.

May – September 2018

Gif of the Day #1: Rotating mini scoreboard behind goal at Finland vs England, 03/06/1982:

Gif of the day #2: Eintracht Braunschweig away to Vfl Osnabrück, 02/05/1998, from Pyro On The Pitch #8:

Gif of the Day #3: Take a minute to relax with this beautiful Champions World Class Soccer intro screen (Sega Genesis 1993), taken from APMFVGFH#6:

Gif of the Day #4: Italian pyro vs Brazil, World Cup 2nd round, 05/07/1982:

Gif of the Day #5: Supporters at half-time with make-shift pyro, Universitatea Craiova vs Dacia Unirea Brăila, Romanian Cup Final, 26/06/1993:

Gif of the Day #6: Terrace avalanche at Ajax vs Malmö, Cup Winners Cup 1987:

Gif of the Day #7: The amazing naked pitch invader from Tecmo’s “European Championship 1992“, complete with incompetent policeman. From APMFVGFH#7:

Gif of the Day #8: Estonia score their one and only goal of World Cup ’94 qualification during a 3-1 defeat away to Scotland, 02/06/1993. From Politics On The Pitch #1:

 

Gif of the Day #9: Unidentified flying objects at the end of Netherlands vs France, Euro ’82 qualifier, 25/03/1981:

Gif of the Day #10: Fence climbing youth celebrate a 1-0 win. Vitesse vs Parma, UEFA Cup, 13/09/1994, from Supporter Snap Back #1:

Gif of the Day #11: Brazil fans, World Cup 1982:

Gif of the Day #12: Everton fans upon full-time of a 1984 FA Cup semi-final against Southampton, taken from People On The Pitch #7:

Gif of the Day #13: Yugoslavia celebrate the third goal of a 3-1 win at home to Scotland, World Cup qualifier, 06/09/1989:

Gif of the Day #14: Classic Cryuff goal, Ajax vs Den Haag, 1982, with bonus handshake celebration (and this just happened to be #14 by happy coincidence):

Gif of the Day #15: Diego Simeone successfully throws off a Soviet penalty take during a friendly tournament game in Old Trafford, Argentina vs USSR, 23/05/1991:

Gif of the Day #16: Terrace chaos as Scotland go 1-0 up in a World Cup qualifier away to Wales in Anfield, 12/10/1977 (game played there after crowd trouble at the usual Ninian Park, Cardiff at Wales vs Yugoslavia 1976 and Liverpool was chosen over Wrexham due to the extra revenue from a bigger ground):

Gif of the Day #17: Goalscorer Renato gets far too familiar for his cig’ holding manager Valdir Espinoa’s liking, or the ref’s. Grêmio vs Hamburger SV, Intercontinental Cup, 11/12/1983:

Gif of the Day #18: Spectacular fireworks display at USSR vs Italy, Euro ’92 qualifier, 12/10/1991:

Gif of the Day #19: University College Dublin AFC‘s mascot Henry having a ball, Shamrock Rovers vs UCD, FAI Cup Final 1984:

Gif of the Day #20: Supporters of Sporting Clube de Portugal vs FC Porto, 16/01/1983:

Gif of the Day #21: Crazy stand behind the goal at Antwerp’s Bosuilstadion, Royal Antwerp FC vs Club Brugge KV, 07/10/1992:

Gif of the Day #22: Ravanelli celebration and pyro, Italy vs Slovenia, 06/09/1995:

Gif of the day #23: Streamer – goal – terrace chaos. Sligo Rovers vs Limerick City, FAI Cup Semi-Final 1994:

Gif of the Day #24: English hooligan daily arrest record, Euro 88 news report, 1988:

Gif Of The Day #25: Demolition job, FC Utrecht vs PSV Eindhoven, 19/04/1981. Taken from People On The Pitch #6:

*****

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #9: “In The Studio” Special (Gallery)

Welcome back to another edition of the hit gallery series What Football Is Supposed To Look Like. If it is your first time, this is where we pay homage to the glorious aesthetics of football past by letting the pictures do the talking. After our gritty Belgian league special in WFISTLL#7, we now zoom in once again on a specific area with a look at the television side of football around Europe in the 80’s and 90’s (mostly) with a selection of amazing retro graphics, sets, fashion, and presenters.

Belgium, 1991:

Ireland, 1987:

Italy, 1984:

England, 1982:

Germany, 1996:

Italy, 1987:

Italy, 1985:

East Germany, 1980:

East Germany results, 1980:

Spain, 1993:

Germany, 1991:

Italy, 1999:

Belgium, 1987:

Belgium, 1988:

Italy, 1989:

England, 1970:

Germany, 1993:

Ireland, 1988:

England, 1988:

West Germany, 1989:

East Germany, 1989:

East Germany results, 1989:

East Germany table, 1989:

Denmark, 1992:

Germany, 1995:

Italy, 1982:

*****

 

Pyro On The Pitch #14: Venezia vs Hellas Verona, Serie B, 19/10/1997

We took our first look at Italy’s rich domestic fan scene back in People On The Pitch #9, with Salerntiana’s invasion of Pescara and their pitch. Check out that article for our original introduction to Italian ultras but we are certainly not stopping there, as we now once again head to Serie B in the 1990s.

Background:

The idea of two clubs merging together is one that most supporters instantly balk at, and understandably so. Most modern mergers involve smaller clubs, but some examples of famous teams who exist as the result of mergers include Ipswich Town (1888) and Newcastle United (1892) in England; FC Twente (1965) and FC Utrecht (1970) in the Netherlands; Hamburger SV (1919) and 1.FC Köln (1948) in Germany; and Fiorentina (1926), AS Roma (1927) and Sampdoria (1946) in Italy.

All of the above became huge staples of the community, and any opposition to a union with a local rival at the time of the merger has been long forgotten. Of course these were of a different era, with the proposed merger of Sampdoria with enemies Genoa in 2001 being an example of a modern mash-up that was never going to fly.

Many other Italian clubs have complicated histories of name changes and mergers, one of which being Venezia FC from the city of Venice, founded as Venezia Foot Ball Club in 1907 after the union of Palestra Marziale (Martial Gym) with Costantino Reyer. Over the years they would also be known as Association Calcio Venezia, Società Sportiva Serenissima, Associazione Fascista Calcio Venezia, Calcio Venezia, Calcio VeneziaMestre, Associazione Calcio Venezia 1907, Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia, Foot Ball Club Unione Venezia, and Venezia Football Club Società Sportiva Dilettantistica before finally simplifying back to Venezia FC in 2015.

The main merger in question with regards Venezia occurred in 1987, as club chairman Maurizio Zamparini took over as owner of financially weak neighbours Mestre, also of Serie C2 at the time. The clubs were fused together and became Calcio VeneziaMestre, moving to Mestre’s Stadio Francesco Baracca and adding orange to Venrzia’s traditional black and green strip.

Naturally none of this went down well with many supporters in Venice, particularly the team being moved out of town. In response, Calcio Venezia – a new amateur team claiming the true spirit of the club and wearing the traditional black and green strip – was formed and entered the lower leagues at the start of the 90s.

But there was those who were not opposed to the changes and accepted it as part of football. While old ultras groups at the club such as Panthers, Brigate Neroverdi (Black-Green Brigades) and Gioventu’ Neroverde (Black-Green Youth) had already dissolved pre-merger, Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard) of 1986 continued to offer support into the new era and were joined by a large new group who’s name reflected the reality: Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre.


Banners of groups such as Front, Kaos, and Ultras Unione, Venezia vs Casale, 90/91.

The name VeneziaMestre only officially existed for two seasons and the club moved back to the Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice upon their promotion to Serie B in 1991 (a result of the combination of talent from both former teams), the popularity of which saw the collapse of the amateur Calcio Venezia side. The change of ground also gave rise to new legacy sides in Mestre, who were now without a team.

The memory of the merger was still maintained through the kits (the neroverdi now the  arancioneroverdi) and through the terraces, as the huge Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre banner hung for many more years. The progress that had seen the club rise from Serie C2, to Serie C1 to Serie B continued, and hopes were high as the 97/98 season started that this would be the year top flight football would return to Venice for the first time since the 1940s.

Another side in Serie B that season with an eye on promotion were recently relegated Hellas Verona, who had been unexpected Serie A champions in 1985. Financial collapse soon after brought demotion and the folding of the club, reborn simply as Verona in 1991 before becoming Hellas Verona once more in 1995.

Verona of course possess one of the top followings in the country with dozens of ultra groups throughout the years, spearheaded by the historic Brigate Gialloblu’ (Yellow Brigades) to which many sub-groups claim allegiance. Despite the name being originally drawn from left-wing influences (based on the terrorist Brigate Rosse group, founded in 1970), the Verona curva became known as mostly right-wing by the 1980s, although the peaceful co-existence of left-wing groups such as Rude Boys prove that love of the club trumps politics.


Hellas Verona supporters following a goal during a home match against Udinese, 90/91.

The Match:

1997: A fine sunday in October sees a packed Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice, named after a World War 1 fighter pilot. The ends of the ground are unusual in having no discernible sides or roof:

Many Veronese have made the 121km journey for the clash between two of northern Italy’s famous historical cities:

Before the teams come out, it’s scarves in the air time in Venezia’s curva sud:

With the arrival of the two squadrons green and orange smoke is let off, thickly billowing in an impressive  effect:

Zooming back we can see the reason that this match is eligible for a POTP entry, as a white smoke bomb has made it’s way into the penalty box. A fireman dutifully jogs over to remove it:

The rest of the smoke continues to rise:

A text banner is also unfurled among the home fans, but unfortunately we cannot make out what it says:

Demonstrating a common expression of displeasure, the Venezia ultras banners are placed upside down, probably in lament of some sort of disagreement with the club. From this shot we can also see the “VeneziaMestre” portion of the Ultras Unione banner.

With the comparatively short distance between the cities, the two clubs are among each other’s known rivals and as always security personal are on hand:

While nothing major occurs, carabinieri are on the scene at the away end as the traditionally belligerent Verona supporters get extremely animated at some sort of injustice:

At the other end, Venezia’s capos watch on pensively:

In the end, a single second half goal is enough to give the home side the win and send curva sud bouncing to see out the day:

The scoreline would be repeated when the sides met again in March 1998 with both results being crucial in Venezia’s ultimate 2nd placed finish and promotion to Serie A, while Verona would have to wait another year. The dream of Zamparini had been realised, but whether the merger from 11 years before was a success for the city or remained a soulless selling out of the Venezia’s football tradition, is up to you.

*
YouTube Link 1
YouTube Link 2
YouTube Link 3
*****

People On The Pitch #9: Pescara vs Salernitana, Serie B, 09/06/1996

Welcome back to another edition of People On The Pitch, the series in which the “People” in question should not technically be on said pitch (as opposed to the players and match officials). As we have seen already, there can be several reasons for this such as spontaneous outbursts of celebration, supporter demolition jobs, and pure drunken mischief. But we have also seen episodes of pure violence and this is once again another one of those times, so send the children to bed right now.

Background:

In Europe, certain fanatical supporter groups such as “Torcida” of Hajduk Split (established in 1950), “Gate 13” of Panathinaikos (1966), and many in England, are often rightly cited as pioneers of the universal fan scene that has evolved to the present day. But surely few would disagree that the location of the true historical crown is Italy – home of the ultras and arguably the most influential of all of nations in the supporter culture world.

While “Torcida” was formed in Split by inspired Yugoslavian sailors who had been on hand to witness the colourful home support of the 1950 Brazilian World Cup (“torcida” being Portuguese for “crowd”), the Italians weren’t far behind as their own domestic breed of group reportedly began to spring up from 1951, with Tornio’s “Fedelissimi Granata” (Faithful Maroons) leading the way. In 1968 came Milan’s “Fossa Die Leoni” (Lions Den), considered to be the first true ultras group.


Demonstatrion of early "ultra action" - pyro comes from the crowd as AC Milan and Ajax Amsteram emerge for the 1969 European Cup final, Santiago Bernabéu Madrid, 28/05/69.

The term “Ultras” itself (from the Latin for “beyond”) was originally used by some groups as a stand alone name. But the phrase was so apt that it soon came to be synonymous with these ultra-passionate tifosi (fans) units as a whole, with an explosion of activity particularly from the 1970s onwards.

Partly inspired by the flourishing English fan scene (much more colourful at the time than it would later be), but very much born of a uniquely a continental zest, most clubs across Italy soon had their own ultras groups; each with their own name (many deriving from a set selection of motifs), stadium sector, group banner, and often a political affiliation. Large flags, immense creative banners, chaotic pyro and tremendous noise were characteristics on the “curva” behind the goal, where the groups were mostly to be found, but an equally important element was that of violence.

With provocative new regiments from rival cities now entering your turf as away fans on a regular basis, it was natural that like minded supporters organised to defend their town, stadium and the club’s “regular” support, as well as to urge on the team during the game. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere was reflected in some regularly incorporated group names that evoked images of New York city street gangs, such as “Commandos“, “Fighters“, “Brigate“, “Militia“, “Vigilantes“, and “Rangers” (as well as the straight up “Hooligans” moniker”).


Scenes from the Italian ultra scene, circa 1980.

As in England, a general sense of meaningless in the post World War 2 decades had left a generation disillusioned with a society that was hollow to them. But the football club and the group was something real and tangible; a social microcosm to be defended with pride and an important local symbol, as well as being a platform to promote the extreme political leanings of many supporter pools.

By the 1990s, club success in Europe and increased domestic footage through lucrative international television deals meant that Italian football and it’s fan scene were exposed to new audiences, many of whom marveled at the amazing atmospheres and tifo displays. Again as in England, big clubs like Juventus, Milan, Inter, and other premier teams of the 90s greedily increased their global fan bases as they began to evolve from football clubs into corporate brands.

But away from the eyes of the world, lower league match-goers continued to support their less glamorous sides with just as much passion as those in Serie A, along with equally passionate clashes against rivals and the police. Thusly, for our featured incident it is to the Serie B of 1996 that we now turn, with a tie between two clubs that have only spent a combined 8 years in the top flight of Italian football at the time of writing: Pescara and Salernitana.

Pescara are a club we have come across before on the site through International Duty #1, with some groups’ banners present for an Italy vs Norway friendly hosted in their Stadio Adriatico in 1988 (a common theme for Italian clubs with the national team’s brilliant rotation of home staiums). While many sides’ fans would generally swing one way or the other with regards politics, Pescara present an interesting (but not unique) example to the contrary using the two groups on show at this match: “Park Kaos” display a Jamaica/Bob Marley flag in the middle of their group banner signifying a left-wing leaning (with Jim Morrison on one version), but this regularly sits happily beside the “Bad Boys”‘ equivalent that featured a US Confederate flag (with overlayed Confederate solider parelling Marley), indicating the opposite alignment.


Pescara group banners at Italy vs Norway, friendly, 19/10/1988.

Of the other Pescara groups, among the most prominent were “Rangers”, “Bronx” and “Cherokee” (with the banner of Vicenza’s “Fabio Group” also often present, due to a strong friendship between fans of the two clubs). While Some members of these groups were no doubt involved in the incidents that were to come on the last day of the 95/96 season (with nothing to play for for solidly mid-table Pescara), it was the promotion pushing visitors from Salerno who would take the main focus.

Salernitana, another maroon/granata wearing team of a mostly right-wing persuasion, were very well represented on the terraces of their 30,000+ capacity home Stadio Arechi. Throughout the years, this included the groups “South Force”, “Ultras Plaitano”, “Salerntiana Bersagliera” (Sharpshooters), “East Side”, “Fighters”, “Dragano Granata”, “Panthers”, “Wild Group”, “Nuova Guardia”, “Nucleo Storico”, “Point Break” “Iron Boys”, “Scon Volts” (sconvolti directly translating to upset, but Italian slang for “Stoners”), and “Ultras Ghetto”.


Salernitana's home curva in all it's glory, circa 1988.

Going into the final series of games in 95/96, the team needed a win away to Pescara in order to be in with a chance of securing the last promotion place of the top four still up for grabs – and in doing so make it to Serie A for the first time since their one and only appearance up to that point back in 47/48. But going up would be still out of their hands, as they had to hope that Perugia didn’t get more than a draw at home to Verona at the same time.

The Match:

Pescara vs Salerntiana, Serie B, Stadio Adriatico, 09/06/1996

With a decent home crowd in the Adriatico for 9th placed Pescara’s low-pressure last game of the season, the away end is definitely packed out with hopeful Salernotanians, many of whom are volatile young men:

Arguably this is Salernitana’s biggest game of all time, as victory on the pitch could potentially deliver huge away trips to Italy’s top clubs the following season for the first time in many of the supporter’s lifetimes. Showing their appreciation for the concept of the club itself rather than the player’s efforts, emotional text banners are displayed roughly translating to “You are our pride” and “There is not a thing as beautiful, as unique, as immense as you are when you want; thank you for existing”:

The sentiment may seem grandiose to those football fans who lazily support bigger clubs on television, which often also brings a tendency to look down on underachieving sides like Salernitana. But the great days and sense of community that the club had given the Salerno tifosi over the years had clearly instilled something in them that will forever be lost to many unknowing bar-stoolers.

The home support display banners of there own, including at least the words “you will be luckier” – presumably as part of a message implying that luck won’t be with their opponents today:

But the dramatic optimism of the traveling contingent seems to pay off, as after only ten minutes striker Giovanni Pisano pounces on a rebound to knock the ball into the goal on front of  the away end. Through the ecstatic scenes that follow on the terraces, we get a look at “Bologna Maroons“, “Iron Boys” and “Nucleo Storico – Ultra Salerno” group banners:

Earlier in the season, Pescara had come to Salerno and won 0-2. But expectations of a reverse result tentatively rise as the ultras’ drums beat:

Things get even better after half an hour when a supporter with a classic 90s mobile phone relays that Verona have scored in Perugia, triggering another heartwarming outpour of emotion among the away fans:

Everything seems to be going to plan for the Granata, until two goals in two minutes for Perugia just before half-time suddenly shifts things around. The second half produces more nervy moments as the home side go close to scoring, giving us a chance to see more of the away support’s array banners:

At least two flags from allied fans seem to be among them. Salernitana are known to have links with Bari, Brescia and Reggina, but here an unknown “OFC” is represented in blue and white on the left:

While on the other side of the goal, a possibly related banner hangs. If you have idea of what team(s) this could be, do get in touch:

80 minutes into the game, news suddenly filters through that Verona have scored again to make it 2-2; as it stands, a relieved Salernitana are going up:

But in a matter of moments, the Salerno May-daydream turns into a daymare, as Federico Giampalo shockingly equalises for Pescara only one minute after the Verona news. This is shortly followed by Marco Negri scoring the goal that will send Perugia up in the other match, making the whole thing academical.

The Pescara fans have been generally quiet in this whole affair, but members of their support are the first people on the pitch as the final whistle is blown, clearly taking great joy in the part their side have played in ruining the visitor’s party:

Meanwhile, the understandable devastation of the away fans swiftly evolves into rage among some, who are quick to make their way through the containment fence off screen. Clearly anticipating something like this, a combined riot squad of state police and Carabinieri (we’re guessing) begin to make their way from the running track by the centre of the pitch towards the away end:

They are met with a barrage of projectiles, including smoke:

Seen in the background of the gif above, a small troop (including one in a brown suit and helmet) is already on hand at one section where some ultras have attempted to break through through, plugging the hole:

Never  the less, the coppers are stretched and many fans do make it to the pitch. Hand-to-hand confrontations between the two sets of fanatics occur on the grass, with the ever popular belt a common choice for auxiliary weaponry:

With some police standing around utterly aimlessly, eventually they attempt to break up the main scuffles. But not before one topless Pescara maniac clearly gets the best of a stripy-topped Salernitana supporter (visible in the gif above already on the back foot), who has obviously been caught up in the excitement and is in over his head:

Below we see another popular weapon of choice in this sort of situation, as a long bendy flag pole stick is employed. A devastating graze on the knuckles may have been delivered before the clumsy coppers swarm, with the threat of a whack off the butt of a rifle enough to send the fan back towards the away end:

The security forces later get a grip on things and successfully divide the supporters. In one somewhat farcical scene, an entire army surrounds a woman as she “delivered” to a sinister man in a beige suit:

On a progressive note, her presence proves that the hooligan game is not male exclusive, demonstrating that perhaps the infamously chauvinistic Italian culture could learn some lessons from the tifosi. The camera man still makes sure to get a shot of her legs as she led away, just to make sure we know it’s a female:

Back to the main “front” at the running track and there are still a lot of shady characters lurking around and throwing things, while smoke bombs continue to reign down from those in the stand:

It would be remiss not to highlight that one smoke canister does end up on the playing surface, meaning that this whole episode would have qualified as an entry for Pyro On The Pitch, but it’s a small footnote in the over all story with the match already long over. As this happens, a photo-journalist argues with an officer along side the man in the brown suit and helmet, who has shown his experience by confiscated the corner flag:

One careless supporter gets too close for comfort to the guards, receiving several licks of the baton before fleeing and probably exclaiming the Italian equivalent of “Ow! My back! My comfort!”:

By this stage, the hardcore home support has realised that this is no longer their battle and have retreated to stand on front of their curva, curiously watching the show:

The overall scene now appears to be a warzone, with “Nuovia Guradia”‘s large NG banner hanging defiantly in the middle:

In addition to the smoke from the fans, the police also appear to be firing something into the crowd:

A large majority of the Salerno support take this as their cue to get out and turn to escape through the exit in a potentially dangerous panic/crush situation. Here we see that many others are also wearing the horizontal striped shirt seen on the fan on  the pitch earlier:

But not all are intent on leaving, such as one incensed man who careers back down the steps with a huge flag poll (and no flag to wave with it):

On the track below, the riot squad now zone in on individuals, with the old bill taking their anger out on this unlucky fellow who had been holding a pole earlier as well as seen on the picth:

Clearly identified as a serious threat, he is engulfed by even more police (now including the man in the beige suit – he too has found himself a riot helmet to add to his expensive ensemble) and given a violent thrashing:

Amazingly the beaten man actually walks away from the assault, bruised but free. His jersey appears to be an away shirt using the clubs original colours of sky blue and white vertical stripes:

Some police briefly attempt to infiltrate the away sector itself via an internal stairwell, before furious fans make sure to know they are not  welcome. A helicopter surveys the scontri (clashes) from above, showing the seriousness of the situation in the eyes of the authorities:

As the Iron Boys take down their banner, here we get a view of the action from the perspective of  the home supporters who are left:

Needless to say, they are absolutely loving this:

Finally the last stragglers are literally hunted down in the corners of  the ground:

With all banners now removed from the curva and most fans on their way out, the exhausting situation at last simmers down:

No amount of sticks, smoke or rage were going to change the fact that Salernitana wern’t going up. But for certain individuals, the ritual conflict that transpired may well have been just as exhilarating as watching a group of strangers winning a sports game.

Within a couple of years, the long wait to get back to the big time would in fact end as promotion was achieved at the end of 97/98 (going straight back down the following season, never to be seen in Serie A again).

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