Politics On The Pitch #4: Groups of Death Part 1 (1950-1969)

Back in Politics On The Pitch #3 we looked at how the football world adjusted to life after World War 2, with carefully selected qualification groups removing the chance of “politically awkward” clashes. Now we take a look back to when this was not necessarily the case, and at some historical competitive fixtures with a non-sporting significance that could not be ignored.

Background:

Despite being widely recognised as one of the most corrupt organisms on the face of the planet, and turning their flagship tournament into a money making facade where sport is basically an afterthought (it is on this site too to be fair), FIFA is responsible for some good.

The World Cup’s hideous over-commercialisation can always be countered by the fact that the festival of football does bring simple folk from random corners of the world together when their teams are drawn. The often good-natured affairs, as well as the conscious global gaze upon each match, displays through the medium of football that no matter where somebody’s from, their class, race or if they’re religious, humans do have common ground through our unifying love of the game.

Even teams representing states of competing ideologies and their fans can come together in friendly rivalry, as an average population can often be far less enthusiastic about hating their fellow members of the species than their national regimes, or stereotypes, might lead you to believe. With countries like Cuba and North Korea joining the USA and it’s allies in the organisation’s ranks, the case of FIFA’s corruption is at least equal opportunity corruption.

But of course FIFA’s global inclusiveness also creates the opposite situation, where two peoples with a genuinely tense political or ethnic history (or present) are occasionally brought together for a sporting manifestation of their international grudge. At times this will be deemed concerning enough an issue for a country to not play altogether, as was the case when the British nations withdrew from FIFA in 1919 in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers teams after World War 1.

Many times these games have gone ahead though, which inevitably creates interesting situations in the stadium, and on some occasions the simple novelty or expectation of an interesting draw is enough to secure its place in history. In this vein we will now look back at some of the most noteworthy groups, tournaments and match-ups from the 20th century that had elements beyond mere football competition.

  • 1954 World Cup Qualifiers

Group 1:

Norway
Saar Protectorate
West Germany

For the 1954 World Cup qualifiers, FIFA itself rather than it’s regional confederations was still arranging all qualification groups. They were organised by geographical consideration, although not necessarily by continent as Egypt and Italy proved in Group 9. Groups 7 (Hungary and Poland) and 8 (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania) comprised solely of eastern European communist representatives.

However it was Group 1 that stood out for it’s inclusion of a small side making it’s one and only appearance in a competitive campaign, and another much larger new state making it’s first in it’s current form. The group did not actually pit sworn rival nations against each other, quite the contrary. But the two referenced participants were born out of the greatest period of slaughter the world has known.

Located in southwest Germany, the Saarland (after the River Saar, which flows from northwest France into Germany) had become the French and British ruled Territory of the Saar Basin in the aftermath of World War 1. A plebiscite with 90.4% in favour returned the region to German hands in 1935, but ten years later the Allies would be back and again take control of the now renamed Westmark of the Third Reich. Following the end of World War 2, the region was partitioned from the rest of Germany and placed squarely under French control, becoming the Saar Protectorate in 1947.

The mostly ethnic German population still considered their land as part of Germany and never intended Saar to become it’s own country. Never the less, such national symbols as a flag (paying homage to both nations involved with the colours of the French flag divided by a white Nordic cross) and an international football federation were created. The clubs of Saar competed in the local Ehrenglia league, with the strongest club 1. FC Saarbrücken competing and winning in France’s Ligue 2 as guests in 1948/49.


Flag of The Saar Protectorate.

Three months after the Saar Fussball Bund was admitted to FIFA in 1950 (having rejected merging with it’s French equivalent the previous year), the Deutscher Fussball Bund also rejoined, now representing the Federal Republic of Germany, aka the partitioned state of West Germany, but claimed mandate over Germany as a whole. Both teams were placed in Group 1 of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers along with Norway, whose status as part of the Nazi occupied lands in WW2 under the puppet Quisling regime officially made this the “Reich group”.

By the time the qualifiers were to begin in 1953, Saar had already played a number of friendlies and had participated in several other sports at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But as stated, they preferred not to be referred to as their own country, and in football the term “selection” was more commonly used than national team. Given the area’s German self-identification, it seems slightly frustrating that one of their few shots at international football competition was “wasted” on their follow countrymen, and not someone more exotic.

The Saarlanders would go on to display the prowess of German football even if  confined to a very small area, by defeating Norway 3-2 away from home and earning a 0-0 draw in Saarbrücken. Logically then, their bigger, but no more proudly Germanic neighbours would prove impassable. A 3-0 home win in Stuttgart on 11 October 1953 was followed by the last game of the group in March 1954, as West Germany again scored three (with the home support politely applauding each goal) but Saar at least grabbed a consolation penalty on home soil.


Interesting section of Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, West Germany vs Saar Protectorate, World Cup '54 Qualifier, October 1953.

The West German’s 5-1 demolition of Norway also guaranteed that Saar would not finish bottom of the group, securing a German one-two final positioning. As West Germany went on to win the World Cup they had qualified for, the people of Saar doubtlessly would have been rooting for them and over joyed at their success. As the following year, 20 years after the original plebiscite to join Nazi Germany, another referendum was held with the same result. The Saar Protectorate was absorbed into West Germany and once again became the region of Saarland in 1957, ending it’s brief adventure in international football.

 
The crowd applaud the home side's goal in a 3-1 defeat, Saar Protectorate vs West Germany, World Cup '54 qualifier, March 1954.

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  • 1958 World Cup Qualifiers

CAF/AFC Second Round

Egypt
Indonesia
Israel
Sudan

For the next World Cup, FIFA handed over responsibility to the regional confederations for the organisation of their own qualification systems, and enforced defined geographical zones. This proved particularly problematic in Africa/Asia (with the CAF and AFC sections combined for this campaign), first as Turkey withdrew in protest at not being included in Europe. They had been scheduled to play Israel, who progressed automatically into a second round group (somewhat surprisingly Cyprus were also in Asia, giving it three different teams who would later “become” European)

This created another issue due to the Arab League boycott of Israel, the current iteration of which being in effect since the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1949. The Arab League members of Egypt and Sudan hence refused to play Israel – who had actually previously competed as Palestine British Mandate before their independence in 1948 – and withdrew. It was to be the first of two successive World Cup qualification campaigns from which the pair would withdraw without playing a game, as for 1962 – with Egypt then competing as United Arab Republic –  FIFA refused their ultimatum to reschedule matches to avoid the monsoon season.

Another mostly Islamic state in Indonesia was the remaining team left in the group, and although they were prepared to play the Israelis, they were not prepared to travel the entire length of Asia to do so. Like Israel, the Indonesians had once competed under their pre-independence colonial name: the Dutch East Indies. But this time FIFA refused the Indonesian request for the game to be played on neutral ground which forced them to also withdraw, meaning that Israel had made it through two rounds to an intercontinental play-off without touching a ball. Here they would be at last stopped, as Wales were happy to play and defeat them for a place at the tournament.

UEFA Group 6

Finland
Poland
USSR

Back in the UEFA section itself, countries were also still placed in groups rather than drawn by seed. Cross Iron-Curtain encounters were now becoming more common, although still somewhat regional with Finland going to the USSR and Poland, Greece to Yugoslavia and Romania, but again slightly further afield for Wales who were placed with Czechoslovakia and the newly created East Germany (who’s entry during the years of Saar existence meant there had been three different German federations in FIFA at one point).

Group 6 with Finland, Poland and the USSR was the most emotionally charged on paper with both the Finns and Poles being former colonial subjects of Russia, and much more recently the Soviets’ (unsuccessful) Winter War against former and partition of the later (as well as events such as the Katyn Massacre, although Poland was by this time a satalite-state of the USSR). But knowing the steadfast resolve characteristic of all three peoples, it was surely business as usual as the Soviet Union ultimately made it to their first finals (Poland had previously competed too at 1938).


Finland vs USSR, World Cup '58 Qualifier, August 1957.

UEFA Group 1

Denmark
England
Republic of Ireland

On the other side of Europe, the Republic of Ireland met their own former colonial masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting, along with Denmark in Group 1 (with the English coming out tops). Although distrust of Englishness remained for many, with 36 years having elapsed since the Irish War of Independence the encounter was perhaps now not as significant as it would become later in the century when tensions on the island of Ireland dramatically increased once again.

At this time Ireland was also somewhat sportingly-divided between football and it’s own native Gaelic sports, with the rules of the latter forbidding those who played, or indeed watched, the “foreign” (English) sport of soccer from their ogranisation. Those who preferred football were sometimes scornfully looked down upon as “less-Irish” than those involved in Irish games, with more nationalist types therefore likely avoiding international football altogether.

  • 1966 World Cup and Qualifiers

World Cup Semi-Finals and Final

England
Portugal
USSR
West Germany

The ’66 World Cup in England was somewhat of a reunion for several of the major players from World War 2. While England, the USSR and West Germany had all qualified for the previous two editions, the West Germans had avoided their old regime’s two European enemies in ’58 (who played each other in the group stage) and all three had been knocked out in the quarter finals of ’62 before having a chance to meet.

But in 1966 the Germans would finally come up against their former double-fronted foes, first beating the Soviets in a Goodison Park semi-final before the famous final defeat to the hosts, which also crucially involved a Soviet linesman erroneously awarding England’s third goal.


Many men in suits and ties watch West Germany vs the Soviet Union in Goodison Park, World Cup 1966.

Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group

Australia
North Korea
South Africa
South Korea

The other stand-out thing was the appearance of North Korea, although the authoritarian dictatorships present in their fellow qualifying countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Hungry, Portugal, Soviet Union and Spain at the time makes it not so novel. Their surprise debut at the finals was helped by the withdrawal of their South Korean cousins, citing logistical reasons in the combined Asian/Oceanian qualifying group. Given that few states held political ties with the North Koreans, all games were to be hosted by their allies Cambodia, but South Korea had been expecting Japan and left the group after the decision.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the group was also to contain South Africa (a weak Australia was the fourth team). Kicked out of the Confederation of African Football in 1958 due the apartheid regime’s player policy – by law only an all-white or all-black team could be selected – South Africa were in fact admitted to FIFA in the same year and placed in the Asian zone for the time being. But FIFA did give them one year to comply with their own anti-discrimination laws, which of course wasn’t done.

While the rest of the African teams boycotted the qualifying system entirely due to the lack of an automatic qualifying spot – as well as the original acceptance of South Africa into FIFA – South Africa were banned before their group games started (formally expelled in 1976 following the Soweto uprising) and wouldn’t play another international until 1992. This left North Korea with just two easy games against the Australians to qualify.

  • 1970 World Cup Qualifiers

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 1

Australia
Rhodesia

The following tournaments qualifiers saw a similar situation: this time the unrecognised state of Rhodesia switched continents to play in the Asian/Oceanian section. Like South Africa, the country was ruled by a white minority elite, who had broken away from the British Empire in 1965.

But as Rhodesia agreed to FIFA’s regulations regarding mixed-race squads, they were allowed to stay in. Their only group opponent was Australia, with both games (and a third play-off game after two draws, won by Australia) played in Mozambique after the Rhodesian players could not attain Australian visas.

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 2

Israel
New Zealand
North Korea 

Israel were also back in Asian/Oceanian having played in the UFEA zone for geographical reasons at the previous qualifiers (and originally Syria too before withdrawal). Although no other Middle Eastern side was involved this time, their presence still caused an issue as now North Korea refused to play them on political grounds and withdrew.

Victories over New Zealand and Australia meant that Israel were now going to their first World Cup, but under the initiative of Kuwait they would be expelled from an AFC with more middle eastern influence in 1974, and return to playing European and, later, more Oceanic opponents in the following decades.

CONCACAF Semi-Final Round, Group 2

El Salvador
Honduras

One of the most famous war related match-ups occurred during this campaign in the semi-final round of the North/Central American and Caribbean CONCACAF section, when El Salvador were drawn with neighbours Honduras. It is often said that their violent three games (again a play-off was needed and held in neutral Mexico City) sparked what is known as the Football War between the two countries, a 100 hour conflict (and so also known as the 100 Hour War) that remains officially in dispute at the time of writing.

While intense rioting had occurred at the two regular group games (as it was considered a group of two as opposed to a two-legged knock-out game), as well as violent play on the pitch, it was more a case of perfect timing rather than the actual cause of the war, as tensions had already been growing between the countries for bigger reasons. With the backing of large American fruit corporations, harsh new land and tax laws had come into effect in Honduras, that were particularly threatening to the large, undocumented El Salvadorian ethnic minority in the country.


Supporters of both teams and riot police, El Salvador vs Honduras, World Cup '70 qualifier, June 1969.

By the day of the play-off on 26 June, 1969 (3-2 to El Salvador after extra-time), the smaller but more populous El Salvador officially cut of ties with Honduras and would invade on July 15th starting the war. The situation was resolved through negotiation from the Organization of American States, lasting 100 hours, but the reluctance of El Salvador to withdraw meant their troops remained occupying part of the country until August. The bad blood between the two states, who share a common language, religion, general look and very similar flags, proves that not matter how close groups of humans seem, we can always find other reasons to hate each other.

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Youtube Sources:
West Germany vs Saar, 1953
Saar vs West Germany, 1954
Finland vs USSR, 1957
USSR vs West Germany, 1966
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969

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Heroic Hang Jobs #2 (Gallery)

It’s high time for another edition of this new series where we look at classic flag and banner hanging, great and small. Throw in some of the best sinister old school railings and fences for a winning formula.

Austria Vienna vs Zalgiris Vilnius, UEFA Cup, 07/10/1988:

Netherlands vs Greece, Euro ’88 qualifier, 25/03/1987:

West Germany vs Argentina, friendly, 12/09/1984:

Slovakia vs Romania, Euro ’96 qualifier, 15/11/1995:

FC Den Bosch vs Feyenoord, Eredivisie, 14/09/1986:

Hamburger SV vs Nottingham Forrest, European Cup Final, 28/05/1980:

Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup ’94 qualifier, 17/10/1993:

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

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

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

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

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

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Germany/West Germany

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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East Germany

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

East Germany vs West Germany, World Cup 1974.

East Germany vs Greece, friendly, 1983.

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

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

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Italy

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Netherlands

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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Extra Time: Honorable Mentions or Non-Political

Republic Of Cyprus

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

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


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

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

***

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.

***

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.

*****

Champagne Kit Campaigns #2: Netherlands, World Cup 1978

As the specifically “kit-interested” tentacle of Pyro On The Pitch continues to grow and thrive, like some sort of wonderful, psychedelic, kit-obsessed weed, we now break down a mouthwatering selection of Adidas ensembles worn by the fascinating and funky Dutch at Argentina ’78.

 ***For the debut installment of Champagne Kit Campaigns where we focused on the beginning of Norway’s 90’s golden age, click here.***

Background:

In the 1970’s, the Netherlands were the people’s champions of international football. At club level they dominated much of the decade as Feyenoord had won the 1970 European Cup with Ajax securing the following three, and Feyenoord and PSV also picked up UEFA Cup wins. But internationally, despite playing some delicious football (or so I’m led to believe, this website isn’t about the actual sport of football) success at the major tournaments eluded them.

Of course this really only adds to their heroicism, like how Jake The Snake Roberts was never WWF Champion because he never needed to. Similarly, the Dutch were so cool and so good that in the end they didn’t really need to win a tournament as they are looked back on as fondly as the West German and Argentinian World Cup Winning sides of the decade, and more so than 1976 European Championship winners Czechoslovakia (the Netherlands came 3rd at that tournament; West Germany won Euro ’72).

What adds to the allure of the Dutch was their strikingly handsome orange, black and/or white kits that would help define the era. In 1971 they were among the earliest adopters of Adidas branding, wearing shorts and tracksuit tops with 3 stripes going down the sides including, at this stage, Johan Cryuff.


Netherlands wearing three striped shorts vs Luxembourg, November 1971

In the early part of the 20th century, kit consistency within a starting XI wasn’t guaranteed but things had become more uniform by the 60’s. The Dutch would also turn this on it’s head with new concepts and more fluidity of the kits within their sides. What was to come was already evident in 1971 as Cryuff can be seen in a line up wearing a round neck shirt while the rest of team wore v-necks. By the end of 1972, Cryuff was wearing non-Adidas tracksuit tops due to his exclusive deal with Puma before three stripes were even worn on the shirts. By the time of the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, the three stripes did appear on the sleeves, except on Cryuff’s which only had two.


The Dutch at World Cup '74 showing Cryuff's two striped shirt among the regular three striped shirts.

This is well known of Cryuff’s shirts, but two-striped jerseys were also worn by other Puma sponsored 70’s Dutch internationals Rene van der Kerkhof, his twin brother Willy, and Dick Nanninga. In the same era, the Dutch crest was equally likely to appear on the left or right side of the chest, sometimes with variants on different players in the same match (vs Italy, 1979). Similarly, sometimes the lion on the badge would be facing west, sometimes east, and again at times depending on the player (vs Northern Ireland, 1977).

Other items such as warm up jackets and shorts also varied. Some two-striped warm up jackets worn by the non-Adidas crew would feature a Dutch crest in place of a trefoil, while Adidas versions in the same squad could feature a trefoil OR crest. An alternate Dutch crest appeared on the players black shorts at Euro ’76, but this was also used by R. van der Kerkhof on a two-striped warm up jacket in place of a trefoil, while Cryuff’s featured no insignia.

When the Dutch used white shorts featuring black trim rather than the usual orange against England in 1977, this alternate crest was used on Cryuff’s two striped shorts where a trefoil appeared for the rest of the players. But interestingly, Cryuff’s two-striped black shorts worn against Northern Ireland in the same year did feature a trefoil.


Cyruff vs England, 1977, with alternate Dutch crest on shorts instead of trefoil.

Cryuff vs Northern Ireland, 1977, with trefoil visible on shorts.

Similarly, in a 1978 squad photo, two-striped Rene van der Kerkhof was oddly the only player to actually bare a trefoil, where Nanninga’s two-striped shirt displayed a crest like the three-striped versions. In 1979 against Switzerland, van der Kerkhof also wore a two-striped shirt that featured a trefoil and crest, this time along with the rest rest of the squad.

With black, white and orange options for shorts and socks, all of this made for a hell of a lot combination possibilities within the one team. In the modern day, this sort of thing is of course unheard of, although in an era where players are becoming “bigger” than clubs it is actually kind of surprising that the idea of a player wearing a kit made by their own particular technical partner, no matter what club they are at, hasn’t caught on.

While Cryuff ruled himself out of the squad in political protest against the military junta of World Cup host nation Argentina, the kit novelties continued all the way up to the tournament. The shorts used against England returned as part of a rare white and black away kit worn away to Tunisia in April ’78. They were also used in the final warm up game against Austria in May ’78, along with a shirt that featured a black turnover collar uncharacteristic for most Dutch jerseys of the decade.


Netherlands away to Austria, May 1978.

Netherlands, FIFA World Cup
Argentina, June 1978

Round 1, Group 4:

Netherlands
Peru
Scotland
Iran

Match 1, vs Iran:

After defeat in the final of the 1974 World Cup to West Germany, the Netherlands returned in 1978 with a 3-0 victory against tournament newcomers Iran on June 3rd. As no part of the kits were meant to clash, an all orange kit was worn against the all white of the Iranians:

A crest on the heart side of the chest facing west had been settled on for the tournament, with the usual black roundneck collar (seen since ’76) and black stripes. Apart from the two-striped tops of the van der Kerkhof brother’s and Nanninga, a trefoil also now appeared (with no “adidas” text underneath) but the colour and/or material used meant that it appeared faint on some shirts or sometimes completely invisible. Of course knowing Dutch kits of the time it is nearly equally plausible that some shirts just didn’t have one:

The Dutch shirts are also instantly noticeable as being of a shinier, smoother material than before which also changes the tone of orange (compare with Austrian game above). This is because this batch was manufactured by Adidas Ventex France, unlike the usual Adidas Erima:

Both shirts used similar Adidas templates, who’s kits were worn by 10 of the 16 teams at the tournament (the Italian kits, while featuring no branding, have also been reported to be Adidas made, but this has been confirmed to have been a myth by renowned kit experts Simon Shakeshaft and Giampalo Bon). One difference, besides the colourways, was the Dutch return to a numbering style of solid black with white outlining as seen at World Cup ’74, compared to the commonly seen Adidas stripe style used by Iran (see above) that the Netherlands had also used at Euro ’76:

Match 2, vs Peru:

Four days later the Dutch would come up against the red-sashed Peruvians and draw 0-0. As Peru wore all white, the same kit configurations as the first match were used:

Again there appeared to be a lack of trefoil on some shirts, or so it seemed to the naked eye:

Another Adidas side, Peru used different numbers to both Netherlands and Iran employing solid black. Unfortunately, this did not really stand out over the sash and actually could have been improved by incorporating something similar to the Netherlands’ crisp black and white style:

Match 3, vs Scotland:

On June 11th, in the last game of the group, the Netherlands would come up against an Umbro clad Scotland in what would become a famous moral victory for the Scots. The Dutch slide in form continued as they were defeated 3-2, but still managed to finish second in the group ahead of Scotland on goal difference and behind Peru, qualifying for the next round and knocking the Scots out. This time, as the “away team”, the Dutch wore white shirts with orange numbers and trim, orange shorts, and oddly orange socks as this was dangerously similar to Scotland’s red:

Perhaps this was sheepishly overlooked by the referee as the sock clash even extended to him and his officials who were wearing an all-red alternate kit, ironically to avoid a clash of black with Scotland’s navy shirts:

Like the home version, some shirts featured a lone trefoil with no “adidas” text underneath. However, other shirts did actually contain the “adidas” text but covered up with black felt due to FIFA shirt branding rules of the time. This meant, combined with the unbranded two striped versions, that three distinctly different shirts were being used by the Dutch team:

Through this game we can get a glimpse of goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed’s unusual squad number of 8, which he retained from 1974 when an alphabetical numbering system had been used:

Round 2, Group A:

Austria
Netherlands
Italy
West Germany

Like at the previous World Cup, the eight group winners and runners-up from Round 1 were placed in two new groups for Round 2. The Netherlands found themselves in a fully European Group A with Austria, Italy and West Germany. In Group B, Poland were surrounded by South American opposition in Argentina, Brazil and Peru. The winners of the two groups would progress to the World Cup final, with a third place play-off for the two runners up.

Match 4, vs Austria:

The Netherlands got back to winning ways on June 14th with an emphatic 5-1 thrashing of the side they had just played last before the World Cup. In their fourth game of the tournament, the Dutch were finally able to wear their regular home strip of orange shirts, white shorts (having officially replaced black as first choice for now) with orange trim, and orange socks against the white and black kit of the Puma wearing Austrians:

But the shinier material from the first two games was gone as the Netherlands now reverted to Adidas Erima shirts and their noticeably less vibrant shade of orange, all of which featured a felt covered “adidas” under the “faint” trefoil:

The difference of the text between two versions does make sense considering that Adidas shirts of the French national team rarely featured more than just the trefoil until the 90’s, so this clearly seems to have been a particular trait of Adidas Ventex France. Oddly exempt from the censorship was the shirt of alternate goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers, wearing number 1, who’s logo remained untouched:

Here we can see a two-striped shirt of a van der Kerkhof as he is treated by a physio in what is a fantastic coat:

Match 5, vs West Germany:

For the second game in a row, the Dutch came up against a German speaking nation who wear white and black, this time in the form of West Germany in Erima. This would allow the Netherlands to use their first choice kit again as they would draw 2-2:

Again, the Dutch Adidas Erima shirts were used:

From this match we get another nice view of that pleasingly sharp black and white numbering:

The Netherlands’ Austrian manager Ernst Happal was also a style icon of the era and can be seen in this match sporting the beautiful Dutch team raincoat:

Match 6, vs Italy:

In the last game of the group on June 21st, the Dutch would secure their place in a World Cup final against the host nation for second consecutive time by beating Italy 2-1. Again the away kit would see action, but this time with white socks which one would have imagined would have made more sense to wear against Scotland:

Since the difference in the two home shirts has now been established, it seems safe to say regarding the aways that the covered “adidas” suggests Adidas Erima versions. But as some appeared not to feature the text (as mentioned above) it is possible that there were shirts from two difference batches being used at the same time:

Here we get a look at the Adidas and “non-Adidas” versions of the shirt side by side:

One detail worth highlighting from the Italian opposition was their unique, white line numbering:

World Cup ’78 Final

Match 7, vs Argentina:

For the final against Argentina on June 25th, The Netherlands returned to their first choice strip. But the day would start in controversy before a ball was even kicked as the hosts first arrived late on the pitch before protesting the wearing of a cast on Rene van der Kerkhof’s wrist, despite it’s presence throughout the tournament:

While the players and officials argued, an extremely sinister and creepy mascot with giant dolls headed paraded around the pitch waving an Argentine flag:

You can imagine what no-nonsense Ernst thought of all this, now decked out in a suit for the final under his trademark jacket:

In yet another kit change, this time the Adidas Ventex France shirts were used with the white shorts for the first time:

From pre match team photo, its is clear that the trefoil does in fact appear on every Adidas shirt, although more clearly on some (bottom row, second from left) than others which look like they had been fading for 30 years. With the invisibility of the trefoil compared to how a bold version would have stood out more on film, perhaps this was an intentionally cautious approach at branding considering FIFA’s rules. Although the forced censorship of the Adidas Erima shirt suggests no such foresight.

Under the shadow of the military junta, and with the possible help of a suspect ref, the Adidas wearing Argentinians were able to triumph with a 3-1 win after extra time triggering scenes of patriotic jubilation in the River Plate stadium known as El Monumental.

With the bad spirit in which the game was played, the Dutch squad walked off after the match refusing to take part in the post final ceremonies. In doing so they struck one last blow against corruption and convention, even in the face of defeat. Throughout the decade they had won hearts and minds with their free flowing style on the pitch. But for us, the same can be said for the free flowing style of their fascinatingly inconsistent kits. Hence, from this day forth, we shall affectionately dub this era as…the age of the Orange DISorder.

Breakdown:
 Team: Netherlands
 Kit Supplier: Adidas
 Competition/Year: World Cup 1978
 Games: 7
 Colour Combinations: 4
 Technical Combinations: 5

Cold War Classic #5 – Bulgaria v West Germany, 1984

We are now in full swing with our Cold War Classic series in conjunction with MuseumofJerseys.com. See below for a teaser of episode 5 and a link to the full article. Awesome kit illustrations masterfully done by the MoJ maestro Denis Hurley.

*

Cold War Classic no.5, Bulgaria vs West Germany, 1984

“…The 1980 game, a World Cup qualifier in December, set the stage for what was to come in 1984 as snow could be seen in the areas surrounding the pitch. But, either it wasn’t really too cold that day, or else footballers were still harder in 1980 than their counterparts four years later, as the players wore what they normally would for any match.”

“As we saw in CWC 4 though, a precedent for players wearing extra gear to keep warm in cold weather had already long been set. And while this was originally restricted to tracksuit bottoms for goalkeepers (whose position inherently means they won’t be able to keep as warm during a game as the outfield players who run more, so fair enough), by the 80s this had graduated to leggings being worn liberally by outfielders on particularly”cold occasions.”

-READ ON-

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.

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #5

We had originally planned on only including one picture from this episode’s featured video game, which we had screen grabbed a while back. But upon re-review of the YouTube video, it quickly became apparent this would have been very wrong.

That game is 1992’s Super Soccer for the Super Nintendo, which we did not own. But we did just realise that it’s been starring us in the face for months as it’s featured on an original SNES poster we have on the wall, having been part of Nintendo’s European SNES launch lineup in order to cash in on that soccer craze everybody was talking about.

The game intro starts with some delightfully classic and hectic SNES music which could have been straight from the Street Fighter 2 cutting room floor (if you could actually somehow psychically cut 16-bit music with a blade and leave some of it on a floor). As it starts we also get the following ominous message flashed on screen:

Who is this mysterious “He”? Is it God himself? Perhaps a critically acclaimed, multilayered, long-form career mode transcending clubs, countries and dimensions explains all.

Before we have time to think too hard though, a few cool images flash up recreating a scene from the 1990 World Cup final between West Germany (reunified by the time the game came out) and Argentina, but in dramatic darkness:

The German is of course a dashingly handsome, blonde man as you’d expect. His Argentinian opponent however, who is quite gangly and awkward, possess hair and skin colour suspiciously quite unlike any of his real world counterparts.

Upon closer inspection, the kits are fairly accurate albeit with 2 stripes instead of 3 on the shirts and Argentinian shorts, which is fair enough. The West German shirt “ribbon” is especially well done. However, for some reason the crest, “trefoil” and shoulder stripes came out blue giving the effect of some sort of West Germany-Olympique Marseille hybrid team, which I would now like to be called Western Olympic (Fr: Olympique Occidental ; Gr: Western Olympisch).

The other glaring issue is the blatant shirt, shorts AND sock clash that is going on here, which for one reason or another the ref has decided to allow happen. Surely a local strip could have been at least sourced at the last minute if no other option was available, ala France vs Hungary at World Cup ’78.

The German apparently rounds his inept opponent with ease and leaves him seething on the ground. At this point we get the first animation of the game as he strikes the ball and it comes directly towards the viewer, an effect which would have undoubtedly left ignorant 19th century folk clutching at their faces in a desperate act of defence. Luckily, now we know it’s just a game and so I was not shocked.

After the main menu there is another lovely graphic while selecting player mode; a Brazilian in action clearly decked in a Topper made kit, c.1986:

But the kit accuracies end here. The in-game kits are of course extremely simplified compared to the above static images, but in the team select preview we see that the developers have seemingly given Belgium new maroon shirts with sky blue vertical stripes on the torso. Red is retained for the shorts and socks though, creating a totally jarring look that will have no doubt been complained about by both fans and kit connoisseurs alike, virtually speaking.

The players stances indicate that they are ready for fighting in 1950’s America; that kind of thing always being always a plus and thankfully all of the national flags on show are relatively close to real life. The playable teams are basically the last 16 of the 1990 World Cup but with France, USA and Japan in place of Spain, Costa Rica and Czechoslovakia for obvious, but soul destroying, marketing reasons.

Back to the kits and the Belgium shirt change is tame in comparison to what was happening in the Balkans. Perhaps due to ethno-political conflicts in the region limiting supplies of material in the national colours of blue, white and red, Yugoslavia make an appearance eccentrically clad in electric green with black stripes, shorts and green socks. It’s like a forgettable Celtic third kit from 2013 or something.

Justifiable, spontaneous rioting would have surely broken out in several major cities upon the announcement of this kit, uniting broken communities and once again proving football as a vital catalyst for world peace. FIFA(TM) World Peace 2018(TM), sponsored by Kodak(TM).

Lastly for this entry, we see the stocky Italian number 10 Primo has scored for his country and is celebrating. But above him is an image of what appears to be the opposition’s supporters, because they are not looking like they are celebrating with him:

Some have their arms raised but I think it’s more in an angry, fist shaking way, directed squarely at the this flamboyant, Latin gentleman who has just ran past them in arrogant, continental jubilation.

On closer inspection the crowd is nearly entirely, young, smartly dressed men, stood on a terrace with not a team scarf or replica shirt in site and a sinister pitchside fence containing them. Yes, Primo is celebrating on front of a massive 1980’s casual firm.

There actually are a few grandmotherly types in among them, but fair dues they look as up for a row as anyone.

YouTube Link

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #3 (Gallery)

Our now regular look back on the golden days of yore.

***Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2***

“Hollywood”, Brazil vs Finland, Friendly, 1986:

Ireland away to Luxembourg, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Turkey kits, Turkey away to Italy, Friendly, 1994:

West German boys in green securing the tunnel for West Germany boys in green and Swedish boys in Yellow, West Germany vs Sweden, World Cup 1974:

Classic fencing and (possible grassy knoll) terracing, Austria Vienna vs Laval, UEFA Cup, 1983:

“AiR B’A’RON”, Germany vs Italy, Friendly, 1994:

Packed end and banners, Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

Ticker-tape and confetti pitch, Brazil vs Argentina, Copa America, 1983:

Classic graphics, Norway vs Netherlands, World Cup Qualifier, 1992:

Gargantuan Aztec Stadium, Mexico vs Belgium, World Cup, 1986:

White pitch, orange ball, blue vs red, Arminia Bielefeld vs Bayern Munich, Bundesliga,1981/82:

Supporters safely packed to the cage, Italy vs Malta, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like (Gallery) #2

The second installment of this HOT new series where we get straight to the aesthetics of real football! (For #1, click here)

Unorthodox stadium layout and muddy box, Hungary vs Cyprus, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Classic keeper, Austria away to Sweden, World Cup Qualifier, 1973:

Band, teams, press and officials, Sweden vs West Germany, World Cup, 1974:

Packed Cold War era bowl, Bulgaria vs Belgium, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Insanely packed terrace and classic replay “R”, Scotland away to Wales, European Championships Qualfier, 1977:

Dutch flags, Netherlands vs Hungary, European Championships Qualifier, 1987:

Quintessential old school score board, Romania vs Austria, European Championships Qualifier, 1986:

Birmingham hooligans pose mid-riot to have picture take, Birmingham City vs Stoke City, Third Division, 1992:

Retro Shirt Reviews #1

  • Club: ???
  • Year: ???
  • Make: Erima
  • Sponsor: STORR
  • Number: 4

One word: STORR. Which is altogether appropriate, as on a recent trip to IKEA I noted that the shirts the staff were forced to wear are quite similar to this remarkably beautiful jersey. I even considered taking a sly photo of one of the staff members to include on this blog and refer to the top as “the IKEA shirt” from now on. But I feel that would be doing it a vast disservice.

This classic, slim fitting Erima work of art was most likely used by some sort of non-league/regional/amateur West German club side from the 1980’s, (which hopefully will be a reoccurring flavour in this series). In a look reminiscent of something Eintracht Braunschweig might have worn (perhaps I should have used them as a comparison instead of IKEA earlier), the unique blue/white/blue striping combined with smart wrap-around collar, raglan sleeves and “box” number on back make this an amazing shirt. “STORR” on the front pushes it to possible “Best Thing I Own” status.

Erima are also one of those brands that has a special place in my heart, possibly due to a love of general West German aesthetics on my part, and when I think of them I’m reminded of West Germany’s white/black/green kit combination at the 1978 World Cup which is a very good thing.

Overall, I give this shirt my highest grade: 7 and a half thumbs up.

Bonus, International Selection:

  • Country: West Germany
  • Year: 1988-1991
  • Make: Adidas

Ok, I know it’s nearly cliché to be highlighting what is generally accepted as the greatest shirt of all time, but it seemed appropriate to include this masterpiece. There is nothing to say about it that hasn’t already been said, except that when I mentioned the Erima shirt being possibly the best thing I own, this one was definitely the undisputed king for a while. I enjoy wearing it for the feeling I get attracting many glances and double takes from men, to which I’m like “eh, my eyes are up here, boys”. This also applies to some other shirts which will be highlighted in upcoming editions of this new feature, so stay tuned for more jersey porn!