It’s in the Name

Experimentations through the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought about assigning team numbers to different positions on the field, with results curiously varying from country to country. The advent of commercialism in sports, greater media exposure and such the ability for spectators to resonate with players later in the decade added personality to the digits.

Jersey numbering were thought to have first come about in a rugby union game between representatives of Queensland and New Zealand in July 1897. Player names on the shirts were a much later innovation, believed to have been initially tried out by the New York Americans for the 1926-27 National Hockey League season.

Names on the back became consistent in North America through the 1960s, as its major sports were regularly taking to the airwaves. Just like its reputation over there, soccer was late to catch on, the NASL made naming a requirement in 1975.

On the other side of the Atlantic, they were a bit more wary of the modernisation but Scotland tested the waters in 1979. One of their eminent clubs, Celtic, gave it a go a year later for Danny McGrain’s testimonial. Considering how reluctant they were to taint the backs of their hallowed hoops with numbers, it’s odd how they allowed such sacrilege for a legend.

South of the border, player naming became mandatory in the Premier League from its second season, Manchester United’s laundry room reportedly being too small prevented this from being in place straight away. Liverpool can boast to be the first English team to utilise the practice, in their 1981 Intercontinental Cup tie against Flamengo.

Its permanent adoption in the country coincided with the use of persistent squad numbers for the players, both concepts were trialled in the finals of the Football League’s and Football Association’s cup competitions for 1992-93, both contested between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday in another English football first.

Arsenal claimed a then-unprecedented cup double and the latter triumph earned them the right to face inaugural Premier League champions Man United for the Charity Shield. Arsenal used squad numbers for the 1993-94 curtain raiser but United stuck with the 1-11 numbering system once more, creating an anachronistic mess between them.

Premier League rules stipulate that players should use sport their family name on their backs, anything else would be subject to approval. Typically, nicknames and that are permitted if players have established themselves under such alias, Everton’s Predrag Radosavljević was allowed to have ‘Preki’ in the formative years, before he returned to his adopted homeland.

An early example, if not the earliest, to fall foul to this ruling was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Joining Leeds United the season the League introduced their own Optima-derived typeset, 1997-98, he opted to wear ‘Jimmy’. In spite of impressing against eventual champions Arsenal on his debut, Premier League officials weren’t happy as his birth name is Jerrel. He was made to use his surname from then on.

South American teams were late to catch onto it all, typically featuring names in competitions that were overseen by FIFA. They didn’t become compulsory in the Copa América until 2004 and in the 2010s, their big teams were still using the classic 1-11.

For the 2002 World Cup and 2004 Copa América, Cristian González of Argentina was registered under his birth name, despite going by Kily on club duty. Both instances had his initial preceding his family name although it was only the latter there was another namesake in the squad; Luis, AKA Lucho.

Cristian and Luis were joined by Mariano González for the 2004 Olympics who — owing to the popularity of his surname — went through the true form of his given name through his club career to distinguish himself. Strangely, Kily went by his nickname for the tournament but the other two used their surname, with their initial now following it.

Returning to England, via the USA, Eric Djemba-Djemba was part of the Manchester United contingent on a pre-season tour. He went by the single name whilst on their excursion but come the proper competitive football, he had to revert to the double-barrel, using smaller lettering so it could fit.

Eric was allowed to go by ‘Djemba’ for the Community Shield and Champions League qualifying at the start of 2004-05, presumably making use of the shirts that were left over from the summer. This meant he concurrently went by two different names, as the qualifiers sandwiched two Premier League games, which he featured in.

One United player to go by a nickname is Javier Hernández, better known as Chicharito (Little Pea). The League permitted this as he established himself under that in Mexico, although not all footballing bodies are supposedly this lenient.

Allowed to go by ‘Chicharito’ for his country under the auspices of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL (as Copa América invitees), he hasn’t made a World or Confederations Cup appearance under that name. Instead, he follows his teammates and uses his initial and surname. Despite not making an appearance for Real Madrid in the 2014 Club World Cup, he was registered under the nickname so it being outlawed by FIFA can be up for debate.

Raúl de Tomás going just by his initials is one of the biggest pet peeves in modern football. Fortunately, UEFA saw sense for once and were not amused by his antics so during his brief stint at Benfica, they forced him to go by something proper on his back in the 2019-20 Champions League.

An additional oddity is Wesley Sneijder for the Netherlands in 2014, this instance being more to do with aesthetics than abiding to governing bodies or national associations. The Dutch alphabet contains the digraph ‘IJ’ which can be rendered as those two separate characters, a single ligature or as a ‘Y’.

The typeset for the country included the combined digraph for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil and Sneijder duly used it, whereas Stefan de Vrij stuck with the two letters. Their blue away strip was replaced with a white one a year later, with the numbers receiving a slight cosmetic update but weirdly, the ligature was ditched from the new batch of identical orange lettering.

I started this post to look at players who used more than one name during the course of a season. As the introduction dragged on to go on about how shirt numbering and player identification came about, plus four additional illustrations since penning this, I’d rather not rid such information but explain the rapid change of subject.

Wales v New Zealand – 2007

This is not a pleasing clash nor unpleasing, which will get its moment soon enough, but it’s an intriguing one still.

When Wales hosted New Zealand on 26 May 2007 in Wrexham, they chose to wear a brand new white kit heavily containing green and red, including each sleeve in either colour. The right sleeve featured a sleeve patch to celebrate 130 years of them playing at the Racecourse Ground, the oldest international football venue still in use.

The All Whites had to change, debuting an all-blue piece which would seem out of place today. We are used to them wearing a reversal of their home strip reminiscent of their rugby union counterparts, which they have continuously kept up with since their next kit launch.

Of what was on show, only New Zealand’s was seen again — in the opening game of the OFC Nations Cup against Fiji later in the year. The competition doubled up as Oceania’s World Cup second qualifying round, which the Kiwis automatically started from as they reached their second ever championships, 24 years after their maiden appearance.

That match was incidentally the last time the blue was worn, giving both uniforms sported in Wales on the day a combined total of three outings.

York City – 1997-98

Over the last few years, it has been all the rage for manufacturers to take cues from their old designs and rehash them for the modern age. Adidas have been championing this recently and whilst some could argue the case for nostalgia, the more cynical can return with it being a lack of imagination.

Arguably the first leftfield football kit template would be ‘tramlines’ of Admiral, introduced in 1975 for Coventry City. The company from Leicester championed the replica kit market, obviously wanting to give teams a distinct identity. They even went as far as making copies of kits for teams they weren’t contracted to, without the branding — which only started to emerge on a wide scale — to avoid being taken to the cleaners.

One of Admiral’s partners in the day were York City, joining the ranks in 1976. Though their bespoke ‘Y’ shirt was more likely specially commissioned for them in-house, if not brought over from Umbro, where the transition also swapped the team’s main colours. Contemporary designs from the brand were eventually used two years later and the ‘Y-fronts’ have been sporadically readopted since, including at present with a more conventional colour scheme.

Despite not being part of the initial wave of tramliners — which also included Wales, Dundee and the Vancouver Whitecaps — the Minstermen were given a remake of it for 1997-98, their third season back with the East Midlands firm after 13 years away.

York are one of those teams who have a set of colours but beyond red shirts, there has not really been a uniform way of how the rest of it is set out. It took the place of the original maroon, making brief stints since, and white has more or less been ever-present. Black made up the last of the club’s first tricolour layout but it has long since been replaced with navy blue, which Nike have tried swapping for a royal shade.

Admiral are trailblazers for the Yorkshiremen, they introduced navy to their outfit (as shorts) in 1978 and added white socks to the mix the following season. Their first all-red kit was the aforementioned tramline rehash, although that combination didn’t take the capital of God’s “own country” by storm, Nike diddled with it a few times thereafter though.

The away kit for this season was a cut of the same cloth, quite literally, with the red and navy swapping around and still separated by white trim. Being in Division Two, The Football League’s stringency on clashing components could have brought an array of mix-and-matching opportunities but there was no one around to let that happen.

From the get-go, it was Oldham Athletic away. Another team with a history of suffering identity crises, they were sporting blue and red hoops at the time which rendered both of York’s new kits useless. The previous season’s away strip, consisting of blue-and-white stripes was somehow deemed suitable, still with its socks in a mismatching lighter shade of blue.

When it was time to travel to Brentford, the host’s red/white stripes and black bottoms was a perfect opportunity to mix up the tramline kits; away shirt with the home short and socks. Instead, the white 1995-96 away shirt — used as the third kit for 96-97, having the same collar and shadow pattern of the club crest as the stripes — was retained once again and used for this occasion some reason.

New white shorts were used, featuring the sheared alternating Admiral pattern and updated crest — the Micklegate Bar depiction having one less window and the foundation information now curved — both seen on the new kits. The 96-97 blue away socks were worn with it as well, topping off a bizarre combination.

This being in the age of dial-up internet and analogue television, it’s hard enough to gather information of these lower-league games as it is, let alone finding out what they wore at Bournemouth. If navy was OK at Burnley, who were in quarters then, then who knows what the strip could have been at Dean Court. Aside from all this, it was an unspectacular season for the club as they finished 16th.

The home kit was kept on for 1998-99 but a white-sleeved green shirt became the change. They succumbed to Division Three at the end of the campaign by one point, finishing with 50 in total.

Team GB – 2012

What is it like to support a team that has only just came about, or at least come out of a long hibernation? This was the case for many Brits (well, just the English pretty much) at the 2012 Olympic Games. Personally, your heart’s properly not in it.

The way football works, FIFA has more members than the United Nations and so, the United Kingdom are four separate entities instead of the one, for now. The integral role the home nations played in codifying many team sports is why, usually playing against each other before a worldwide body was formed.

This is not the case with the International Olympic Committee, although football is represented in the British Olympic Association by The Football Association so if England qualify via the European Under-21 Championship, they can represent Team GB, if only it was that easy.

Qualification in Europe used to have its own tournament overseen by the IOC, allowing a Great Britain team to participate. Originally for amateur athletes, the BOA could not prepare a football team to aspire for Montreal 1976 as The FA abolished the distinction between amateur and professional players two years prior.

Professional footballers were allowed to partake from 1984, limited to those who’ve not appeared in the World Cup for European and South American countries to not hinder its prestige. The under-23 (plus three over-aged) rule came into effect for 1992, scrapping the European Olympic qualifiers, or just doubling up the U21 Euros as the preliminary rounds.

Although permanent members of the International Football Association Board — who gatekeep the Laws of the Game — the associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t take too kindly to a unified team existing even by name, fearing it could jeopardise their independent statuses within FIFA.

The early days of a United Kingdom Olympic team were essentially a rebadged England Amateurs, with the Union Jack on the chest of the white shirts instead of the altered Arms of Plantagenet. When players were finally picked from the Celtic nations, the uniform still followed the existing principles.

So when London won the right to host the 2012 Games in 2005, it was inevitable that a football team had to be formed. The same old squabbles continued well into the night but even with assurances from the governing body, paranoia still lingers.

With less than a year to go and hype definitely in the air, BOA partners Adidas produced a blue Roman-themed Team GB supporters’ shirt for the football team, with none other than Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey (plus the uncontentious Jack Rodwell) showcasing it. As expected, the FA Wales weren’t too pleased.

The Olympians’ gear was unveiled in March, designed by Beatle daughter Stella McCartney on behalf of the German firm. The uniforms were predominantly navy, eminently featuring the Union Jack in shades of blue and white, with red relegated to the trim. The flag features in its true form heat-pressed onto the left sleeve, or on the back if the tops were lacking them.

The Three Stripes don’t feature at the Olympics, and haven’t done so after Athens 2004 due to an IOC ruling on branding later that year. The other football shirts can look very odd without them, aided with their association badge replaced with a flag or National Olympic Committee logo — if they don’t wear something made for the NOC instead. The unfamiliarity of Great Britain playing football and the busyness of their shirts give it a pass in my books.

The men only used the navy kit in the tournament, debuted in a warm-up match versus Brazil’s hopefuls, until a rather familiar exit on penalties in the Quarter-Finals. The women’s team — which has no eligibility restrictions — wore a light, muted version in their opening game against New Zealand. Navy was seen for the rest of their campaign, also ending at that stage.

To appropriate Scottish lingo, the rUK associations won’t be in a hurry to sign off a men’s GB team to compete through the traditional route so we’ll have to wait for another home Olympics for that to happen, if the Union is still a thing then.

Concessions for British female representation were made in 2018 by the four associations and FIFA to be eligible for future Olympiad, to help promote the growth of the discipline. After England reached the Semi-Finals at the Women’s World Cup the following year — being one of the top three UEFA nations — they will feature at Tokyo 2020, in 2021 (at the earliest).

Outlining Monaco

Footballing bodies around the world have their own rules on commercialism. It typically depends on how much money its competitions make; the more lucrative it is, the less reliant its participants are on sourcing funding through its own channels.

In France, they permit multiple kit sponsors, which can result in some unsightly outfits especially for smaller sides. It can get pretty tedious in cup games, where competition partners in the national cup replace the club’s existing ones or sit with them in the league cup.

It gets more farcical that clubs charge the customer to display those extra logos on their replica tops, which is the exact opposite of how sponsorship works. So if you want a cleaner look as seen in UEFA competitions, it costs less.

With all these prints for kitmen to get their heads around, its not surprising that items are provided blank from the manufacturers, if teams have the facilities to apply them at least.

For AS Monaco, the 2010s were a turbulent time. An exodus of key players saw the team on the Riviera depleted and relegated to Ligue 2 in 2011. A takeover by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev brought in Claudio Raneiri, who won them the second division in their second season down there and shot up to Ligue 1 runners-up a year later.

Champions League football returned to the principality for 2014-15, after a nine-year absence from the Group Stage, their first game back in the big time was against Bayer Leverkusen at home.

Fedcom has been ubiquitous with Monaco since the late ’90s, with their logo adorning the chest of their jerseys (originally on the back). Typically printed in white with a black border to stand out on the red-and-white diagonal halves, it was not the case this time. In this instance, the wordmark was solid black.

Things were sorted from then on, what was used on the home shirt for the rest of the tournament was white on black. The player typeset then had a white outline, which was just plain black on Matchday 1.

We are barely scratching the surface if you count their situation between the sticks in Europe, even though Danijel Subašić accumulated all the minutes back there. His green kit had the same properties as his outfield counterparts in the opener but since then, it all went haywire.

Favouring short sleeves, he chose long ones for their visit to Zenit on Matchday 2. The standard home sponsor was used but the markings on the back were white, as would be used on the blue outfield change strip. Next up was Benfica at home, the same combination at Zenit was worn but with short sleeves.

The reverse tie at Benfica was next and this time, a previous combination was used in its full extent, the one from Bayer Leverkusen. The trip to Germany was next, it was long sleeves again and the updated sponsor stayed, though it was the outlined type on the back. Zenit at home was the short-sleeved version of what was worn in Leverkusen. The shorts number remained black from the off.

The knockout rounds brought out the purple uniform. At Arsenal in the Last 16 first leg, the markings matched the Croat’s teammates in being all-white as they wore blue. Only the bordered sponsor was matched in the return leg, white identification was almost certainly a necessity.

Progression on away goals drew up Juventus in the Quarter-Finals. The kit in the first leg was the same as it was that stage the previous round, the second leg saw what featured at home to Zenit in the final group game. Monaco’s European journey came to an end, losing 1-0 on aggregate to the Turin giants.

That was a total of seven goalkeeping combinations worn between two kits in their 10 Champions League games, kept up with what was worn when?

The Writing on the Back for UEFA

It has been long established that no commercial branding can feature on the player typeset used in Europe’s main competitions, though a few instances have slipped through the net. Teams have complied by using the set supplied by their league or kit manufacturer, albeit blank, or have their own produced that can feature team markings.

UEFA experimented with a third option for one season; their own in-house fonts for its competitions, with the respective tournament logo at the base of the number. They were introduced for 2008-09 but were first used in the Finals of the season prior. Interestingly, provisions were in place for this in the 2004 Kit Regulations (article 8, paragraph 6).

The UEFA Cup Final in Manchester was when one of the family made its debut, which was based on Gill Sans. Zenit and Rangers had unbranded league fonts through the season, with the latter using white instead of red continentally. Both wore the newly-commissioned effort from UEFA for the showpiece, with the emerging Saint Petersburgians taking the spoils.

The following Wednesday, only Chelsea used the Champions League type against Manchester United, with their brand new kit (the blue socks formed part of the outgoing lot) — they used the Bauhaus-inspired Adidas font on their old strip. United stuck with their own partially bordered, futuristic style on their way to conquer Europe for the third time.

Meanwhile, the European Championship didn’t get this treatment over the summer but come the return of club football to the centre stage, the Super Cup was not left out. Zenit opted for the italicised font used in the logo of the “competition”, the one of the three to have outlined letters, as they upset the odds against Man United.

The losers went in-house again, a traditional-looking production this time to tie in with their upcoming European change kit, celebrating 40 years since their maiden triumph on Europe’s biggest stage. It got a sneak peek six months earlier, without the lettering and silver trimmings on their special 1950s-style kit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.

With the governing body’s option available for the new campaigns, just five teams in the Champions League chose it — Chelsea, Arsenal, Villarreal, Zenit and Celtic. Of course this gave the Russian side the distinction of wearing all three UEFA typefaces but away to Juventus and at home to Real Madrid, they sported their own.

In the UEFA Cup, it was again favoured by British teams — namely Portsmouth, Everton, Motherwell, Aston Villa and Manchester City. Tottenham didn’t opt in and until the group stage, neither did City.

Zenit dropped into the second-tier competition for the new year but instead of wearing what they were one of the first to showcase, they took to the field in the unbranded Super Cup font for the rest of their ride, which lasted until the Round of 16 against Udinese. They used it again in the next campaign, though they fell at the hurdle before the groups.

Werder Bremen went the whole season with a modified version of Crillee on their backs and upon reaching the Final, they pulled an identical stunt to the previous year’s participants, complete with dropping the club name below the squad number, which would have looked out of place otherwise. Eventual winners Shakhtar Donetsk done what most did and stuck to their guns.

UEFA brand player identification were ditched after just one season. Part of the reason could be contributed to the UEFA Cup becoming the Europa League from then on, putting to waste that particular set, but it could have boiled down to even representatives from the weakest associations choosing something else.

Out of the darkness immediately came a new placeholder, also with lower case naming and favoured by British clubs. It was completely unbranded so it was much more versatile, had a neat little tonal effect within the numbers and were more compact. It proved more successful than its spiritual predecessors, lasting for five seasons — the lettering did at least, on Motherwell’s home shirts during 2013-14 Europa League qualifying.

An updated version has since adorned the Rangers shirt from 2018-19, with the tone now cut out. It is uncertain as to whether the letters are still produced as the SPFL design are preferred by the Glaswegians.

A Diplomatic Row You Can Wear

Not to put a dampener on things but what does the Lockerbie bombing have to do with a football shirt 15 years later?

It’s got to do with Juventus’s commercial activities at the turn of the new millennium, Tamoil became one of their principal sponsors in 2002 and the club joined forces with Nike a year later. The problem? The nationality of the institutions.

Tamoil was the trade name of the petroleum company owned by the Libyan government, who were placed under heavy sanctions by the United Nations over its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. Assets derived from the country’s fossil fuel market were exempt so the Tamoil logo was allowed to be displayed on the Juventus shirt, though this was limited to cup games as Fastweb were contracted as the shirt sponsors in Serie A and for friendlies.

Because of the United States’s role in the implementation of Libya’s sanctions, in place due to Colonel Gaddafi’s refusal to comply with the Lockerbie investigation, they did not want their country to be associated with anything American.

The spat resulted in Juve’s cup shirts to not be produced with the Nike logo on show, recently switching from Italian firm Lotto, so the scudetto moved from its central position to the right breast.

Those particular shirts did not actually feature the Swoosh on the front so if they weren’t champions of Italy, there would be nothing to deputise its space. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary (for them) for another sponsor to take its place on a technicality, the club did exactly that for 2000-01 and LASK are currently getting away with it in the Europa League.

Libya’s influence on the Juve board, which included Gaddafi’s son Al-Saadi — who signed for Perugia for 2003-04 and made his only appearance for them against his holding club, is what brought the sponsor in. Floated on the Italian stock exchange in December 2001, the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company bought a minority stake in the club weeks later.

The Old Lady‘s Stateside pre-season schedule is a subject of great curiosity. Whilst there was nothing to shout about with their opening game of the ChampionsWorld Series against Barcelona — their first since the Nike deal came into effect — maybe apart from the return of white shorts and socks but four days later against Manchester United, something was off with the shirts.

Although forced to wear black socks as United donned their alternate home shorts and socks, the shirts had black cuffs and the Nike and Fastweb logos weren’t outlined. Supplies seemed to be very limited as Marco Di Vaio came on wearing a normal one.

Their next game of the tour was a rematch of their last competitive game, against AC Milan on neutral soil. Stakes weren’t as high as a Champions League Final but there was still a trophy to play for, this time the Supercoppa Italiana at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The luck of the penalty shootout now went in the favour of the Turin side.

As this was a competitive cup game and in spite of the aforementioned political crisis, the Tamoil shirts were used on American soil. One can assume that despite the beef, the host country weren’t as severe with the display of Libyan brands, as long as UN sanctions are still adhered to.

Alternating between black and white bottoms for the past three seasons, it was the turn of white being the preferred choice. The navy-and-black third top had black pairs and as demonstrated pre-season, they were interchangeable with the home kit. Pink shirts made their return after a five-year absence, slate was its secondary colour and featured heavily on its corresponding legwear, with pink socks on standby.

To help the player printing stand out, the home set had a black border around the characters but some black fabric needed to be pre-applied to satisfy UEFA. The change and third sets were a single colour but the latter was rendered bolder.

The goalkeeper shirts were from Nike’s latest catalogue and were heavier than the outfield counterparts. They utilised the same shorts and socks as their teammates; mainly the black pairs, occasionally white and dark tracksuit bottoms if conditions call for them.

It wasn’t unusual to see the pink outfield top used by the custodians either and if that or the navy were superfluously worn by the ten men in front, the stripes got their time to shine between the sticks — apparently the first time in modern times the goalkeeper truly got to represent the bianconeri.

The Lega Calcio updated their sleeve patches come the end of January, now mounted on a circular disc and featuring League sponsor TIM and stating the division the teams were playing in.

Juventus finished the season in third, ultimately 13 points behind champions Milan, surrendering their right to wear the scudetto for another year but their season wasn’t yet over when the league title was decided.

They reached the final of the Coppa Italia, earning the chance to sport the coccarda instead, with Lazio standing in their way. Played between two legs two months apart and probably with preparations for Euro 2004 to take into account, the second leg took place days before Serie A concluded.

Lazio were drawn as the home team for the first leg but as they did against Milan in the semi-final, they opted to wear white. Obviously, this forced Juve to change, choosing navy.

Throughout the course of the season, the sanctions placed on Libya were lifted and relations with the USA were warming. By the time full diplomacy was restored, Juventus had just one cup game left in the calendar, being knocked out of the Champions League by Deportivo La Coruña the week before the first Final tie.

The logos of Nike and Tamoil were seen together at long last for the second leg at the Stadio delle Alpi, the shield made its penultimate outing on a Zebra jersey for the time being in its usual spot.

Despite trailing by two goals from the initial game, they put the tie back level shortly after the start of the second half but a late resurgence from their Roman opponents saw them run out 4-2 winners on aggregate. Besides the two ever-present stelle for their 28 national championships (rounded down to the nearest 10), no honours would grace their shirts for the following season.

The club underwent a rebrand by updating the crest for the new campaign. A new league sponsor was also found in the form of Sky Italia, with its sports network being promoted. And for the first time since 2000-01, the same colour shorts and socks were kept on.

Nike produced three new kits in its Total 90 template; the stripes on the home were at their thickest for a while, the away was navy with a pink half/stripe hybrid of gradual width, and the third was predominantly blue with navy panels and yellow piping.

Tamoil were cup sponsors for the third season but they were designated their own home shirts. To comply with UEFA regulations on multiple-coloured backs, a large round black panel was cut to accommodate the squad numbers. For the sake of efficiency, these were also used in domestic competition.

Different style numbering was used in the cups, also to appease the European footballing authorities. The yellow league numbers had a thick black and white border but that was one too many colours for UEFA’s liking, so it was decided that none should be used.

Juventus got through their Champions League Third Qualifying Round and progressed to the group stage, where they were paired with continental royalty Bayern Munich and Ajax, and debutants Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The first five games passed without incident but the sixth was away to the Israeli minnows. Relations between the Jewish state and the Arab world are rocky at the best of times so of course, the Libyan government did not want the logo of one of its subsidiaries to be flaunted about in Israel.

The solution was to go sponsorless but the only shirts available were of league specification, the supposedly retired practice of transferring the numbers onto a piece of fabric pressed on the shirt was brought back one more time.

A Game of Three Halves

The inevitable end of the Golden Summer of Sport was realised with the start of the football season and if you ignore the lower leagues, that traditionally kicks off with the FA Community Shield.

Typically played at Wembley, the curtain-raiser had to be relocated due to the Gold Medal men’s football match to be played there later in the day, abroad was off the table and the other big stadiums in Britain were unavailable as they were still in ‘Olympic mode’.

Villa Park, with a rich pedigree of FA Cup semi-final history before “financial reasons” took them to Wembley, was chosen for being more or less equidistant between the bases of Premier League champions Manchester City and FA Cup holders Chelsea.

Chelsea were drawn to wear their home kit before proceedings, forcing City to wear maroon (actually “zinfandel”). Society has progressed in the eight years since and it just took almost a year and a half for this match-up to be no longer considered a clash, for better or for worse.

All the while, City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon was given their second-choice “wisteria” (let’s just stick to ‘purple’) goalkeeper strip for the game, which he wore during the pre-match formalities. Kevin Friend and his colleagues deemed the colour to be too close to Chelsea’s royal (“reflex”) blue so he had to change to the three-tone yellow third top, his purple legwear was acceptable so they were still worn.

During the half-time break, Pantilimon changed his shorts and socks to the corresponding pairs of the yellow shirt. Favouring short sleeves, he got them cut off after going the first half with them rolled up.

This begs the question that if the yellow strip was already available, why wasn’t it chosen from the off? Granted, it brought about a zazzy combination but only through a lack of common sense, if sky blue was already considered a clash against a standard shade of the colour.

Atlético Madrid – 2006-07

At the time when Nike was going back to basics with its design cues, they sought a new direction for Atlético Madrid.

The stripes were ditched and two white-halved shirts were launched, with the change complemented with navy. What may have been a 10-year foreshadow of the much-maligned Vapor template, the colours of the shorts and socks were switched. And despite playing in a division with plenty of teams in white, no third kit was called upon, yet…

Reaction from the fans regarding the change in style was overwhelmingly negative, the furore caused Nike to keep on the outgoing home kit for one more season. As a compromise, the new one became what Americans call a ‘road uniform’, becoming Atlético’s primary kit for away games.

The traditional look was back at the Vicente Calderón once again. Conversely, the default configuration of the literal away kit was seldomly seen — the red Total 90 socks being the preferred choice with that combination, slightly off-put by the mismatching yellow Nike logo. There was no consistency with the colour of the shorts sponsor either, as to whether its fore or back colour was blue or white.

The proper change kit (or third now) was never worn in its default layout competitively, pre-season friendlies against Dynamo Dresden and Kashima Antlers were the only time the navy socks got an outing. The red components of the two home strips prevented full-on clashes at Mallorca and Osasuna, with just the socks needed at Gimnàstic.

As the striped kit had a much greater emphasis on red, it did help on the other side of the city and trips out east to Zaragoza, Valencia and Seville — with the red shorts being deployed in the middle two cases. Halves were deemed acceptable at Racing Santander for some reason.

The real cause for concern would be at Athletic Club. Was it planned that the yellow-and-navy should have been retained for this occasion? Most, if not all, of Nike’s big hitters in Europe kept on one kit for this season. Anyway, a combination of all three uniforms were worn in Bilbao; the navy-halved shirt with red shorts and socks.

Pleasing Clashes #1 – Hull City v Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1976

How often do a set of circumstances come together and result in a thing of splendicity? That’s exactly what happened in a Second Division match in October 1976.

At the time, Hull were in their second season with Europa, who gave them black stripes again after a 10-year absence. White shorts made a return to the home kit after 40 years (barring the odd couple of seasons in the interim where they experimented with blue shirts) and white socks were paired with them for the first time, primarily at least.

Inevitably, Wolves had to deviate from gold and black. Their go-to was all-white but for obvious reasons, the home shorts and socks had to be used. The resulting look was two teams kitted out in three similar colours — sunglow*, black and white.

The return fixture would have had Hull in white as well, their default change strip had black shorts and socks so offered greater interchangeability with the home than their opponent’s. Despite the lack of evidence from Molineux, I would assume the white home shorts would have deputised as they did at Chelsea in their final game, a combination that wouldn’t quite match up to the initial encounter.

Hull reverted to amber and black bottoms the season after whilst Wolves’s stint in the second tier was brief, winning the division championship at the first attempt, not allowing these combinations to face off again (unless Wolves have an away kit in that configuration by default).

*Neutral term, both sets of fans would hunt me down if I said ‘orange’.

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