[Editor’s Note: Several readers have been asking for more soccer coverage. Since I’m too soccer-clueless to handle the task, reader Bernd Wilms has stepped up with an outstanding guest-written entry on the uni history of the Euro tournament. It will be presented in two parts, beginning today. Enjoy. — PL]
By Bernd Wilms
Across Europe, UEFA Euro 2012 has been the most hotly anticipated sports event of the summer. From a European soccer fan’s point of view, the tournament is the other big event on the international calendar, scheduled neatly in between World Cups.
Because of this timing, soccer uni design today moves in two-year cycles. Kit makers have come to use major national team tournaments as a showcase for the templates and designs they’ll be outfitting clubs with for the next two years. A brief look back at Euro history, however, shows that the standardization of these product presentation methods and life cycles is a fairly recent development.
1960 (host: France; winner: Soviet Union): This clip from the third-place game of the first “European Nations Cup” gives a nice visual impression of the red star/Czech lion logo on the Czechoslovak kit, as well as the very traditional general aesthetic. Yugoslavia and France may have played blue/white on blue/white — it’s hard to tell from the footage available. The Final was won by the Soviets, who ran out with mismatched CCCP lettering on iconic red jerseys. Note the equally iconic, non-lettered all-black long-sleeve kit preferred by goalkeeper Lev Yashin.
1964 (host/winner: Spain): A weak draw saw Denmark advance to amass two losses of which no visual evidence apparently exists. Hungary wore an unusually frisky horizontal double stripe, while Spain bested the Soviet Union in a red-on-red final.
1968 (host/winner: Italy): The presence of the blue-clad Italians forced both the Soviets and Yugoslavs into all-white change kits for the first time. The Italians also employed a goalkeeper kit design that would last all the way until 1982, and that Gigi Buffon’s jersey for 2012 harkens back to somewhat.
1972 (host: Belgium; winner: West Germany): Kit-wise, the outstanding moment of this tournament occurred in the quarterfinals, technically the final qualifying round. West Germany traveled to Wembley and beat arch-rivals England, 3-1 in what’s generally considered the greatest game ever played by a German side. The fact that they did it in their green change shirts made that design instantly legendary and is the basis for Adidas inscribing “1972 – the beginning of a success story – 2012” inside the collar of this year’s change shirt, the first green Germany shirt since 2002.
Incidentally, the English beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final wearing their red change shirts. Years later, this would lead to several instances of one-upmanship. England wore change shirts at home against Germany at Euro 1996 and in 2000. The Germans tried the same move in 2001, but a 1-5 home loss ended these shenanigans, at least for the foreseeable future.
1976 (host: Yugoslavia; winner: Czechoslovakia): Antonin Panenka won it for the Czechoslovaks on the sexiest penalty ever taken, but the Adidas stripes apparent on his team’s shorts and socks were conspicuous already. Hosts Yugoslavia and Holland joined the Adidas-branded crowd completely, albeit with the van de Kerkhof brothers, as the photo shows, still under Puma contracts and still up to their usual stripe-dropping tricks. West Germany, however, were still being outfitted by a small firm named Erima. This was the year Adidas elegantly solved that problem by simply buying the company. Their shirts were of the same design as in the 1974 World Cup and were the first widely distributed as merchandise replicas, a trend that would greatly influence kit design in years to come.
1980 (host: Italy; winner: West Germany): West Germany prevailed again this year, playing in Adidas-branded jerseys produced by Erima. Yellow or white squares of tape on jerseys indicated a new issue: UEFA was still banning the display of makers’ marks on jerseys in all its competitions. Hence, German replica jerseys from that year included the Adidas logo, while the team’s actual shirts did not. Shirts from this era were also the first to include rayon in addition to the previously standard 100% cotton material. Furthermore, Germany’s uniform numbers represented an Adidas template used throughout the 1980s at the club level, foreshadowing increasing standardization in this regard.
The West Germans further complicated matters by sporting their 1978 World Cup jersey — again sans (Erima) logo — in their group matches. Spain set an example of a trend that persisted in club soccer into the ’90s by having their goalkeeper sport differently branded gear. And England debuted perhaps their most beloved shirt, made by Admiral.
1984 (host/winner: France): With current UEFA president Michel Platini at the height of his playing powers, France debuted the beautiful signature look that would become the basis for French shirts at the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000, Euro 2004, Euro 2008, and the 2010 World Cup. Numbers on this kit were slightly more rounded than the Adidas standard and were also used by Belgium, among others. Speaking of Belgium, they debuted a beautiful argyle-based shirt that brings to mind similar Adidas designs used in tennis by Ivan Lendl. Meanwhile, Spain used a le coq sportif design with snazzy socks, Romania inexplicably wore black numbers on red kits, Portugal used a rare diagonally striped Adidas template, and Denmark wore Hummel’s herringbone shoulder stripe. Adidas furthermore introduced a diagonally striped goalkeeper template that became a staple of club play shortly thereafter. A wildly aesthetically pleasing tournament, in my opinion.
That’s enough for today. We’ll have the second and final installment tomorrow.
Tee-ing off: Paul here. With T-shirt season now in full swing, remember that I’ve designed some very cool shirts based on old clothing label designs. They’re available at the Uni Watch shop on Zazzle.
Uni Watch News Ticker: New basketball court design for Cincinnati (from Neil Parsley). … New football field design for Wisconsin. “They’ve added logos, and they replaced the old ‘Badgers’ with ‘Wisconsin,'” says Nate Neumann). … Dennis Couvillion notes that the uni numbers on the Saints’ practice jerseys appear to be flaking off (there are many photos that show this, so it’s not an isolated thing). “Makes me wonder if Nike already has a problem,” says Dennis. … Rocky Lum found a Flickr account full of photos of soccer match balls, vintage Adidas soccer ads and soccer ball making. … Several readers noted that Sokratis Papastathopoulos, a Greek defender, wears FiNOB, presumably because “Papastathopoulos” won’t fit (screen shot by Hayden Charles). … Also, several readers noted that Greece was wearing a match-specific kit for that game against Poland. … Just what the world needs: a pink tennis court (from Tom Van de Kieft). … Here’s something that isn’t exactly gonna help people take the WNBA more seriously: Rookie Samantha Prahalis of the Phoenix Mercury wore No. 7 for preseason games and is listed under that number in the team’s media guide, but she switched to No. 99 when the regular season started. Why? “Apparently someone in the Phoenix front office forgot that they retired No. 7 for Michele Timms back in 2002,” says Kevin Brown. “They changed Prahalis’s number after many fan complaints.” … Not a great photo, but it’s still pretty cool to see the Steelers and Eagles playing basketball in 1947 (from Jerry Wolper). … Big Ben was wearing No. 78 in practice the other day, as a shout-out to Max Starks, who’s no longer with the team (from Brad Susany and Craig Boley). … Never seen this one before: Starlin Castro of the Cubs, who gunks up his helmet with pine tar, had sunflower seeds stuck on his helmet on Friday (great spot by Ron Roza). … Domenico Delgado spotted Yoenis Cespedes of the A’s was wearing a Nike Elite shooter’s sleeve the other day. … Even if you’re not into tattoos, you’ve gotta like all the old MLB logos this guy has on his arm (big thanks to John Okray). … The Diamondbacks are using a flag-desecration logo to promote their July 4th game, which is odd, since this year’s pandering caps are G.I. Joe, not flag-desecration (as noted by Sam Lam). … Speaking of which, the Yankees wore G.I. Joe pandering caps on Saturday, for “Military Appreciation Night.” … Orange stirrups! That’s Steve Cishek of the Marlins (from Ben Foster). … Also from Ben: “On Wednesday night the Oklahoma Sooners softball team went to their ‘throwback’ shorts in their loss to Alabama in the final game of the WCWS. I didn’t realize until Wednesday that shorts are required in international softball but have largely disappeared from the college game. OU pitcher Keilani Ricketts went seven innings sporting stirrups.” … FedEx was the sponsor of the St. Jude Classic golf tourney in Memphis, which explains why the tee boxes were marked with little FedEx trucks (from Dustin Semore). … It’s standard for championship teams to give a jersey to the President, but I’ve never seen them formatted like this before. John Muir saw that in a hotel in San Francisco. … Latest team to go gray: WVU football. Oh, and a gray helmet, too (from Evan Snyder and Jason Bernard). … Good observation by Brian Skokowski, who writes: “Jason Grilli, who has worn No. 39 since the Pirates signed him last year, has ‘Grilli #49’ embroidered on his glove. Now, he wore 49 in Detroit, Colorado, and Texas but has always been 39 with the Bucs. Also, his glove doesn’t appear to be 3+ years old, which was the last time he wore 49 in the bigs. 49 is neither retired nor currently being used by a Pirates player, so if he has such a strong connection to the number, why doesn’t he wear it?? Strange.” … Here’s this year’s World Series logo/patch. I don’t care for it — the last few versions had autumnal colors, which seemed appropriate for the Fall Classic. This one, with red and blue, feels generic. … Check out this artist who’s made large collages from hockey sticks and pieces of leather baseball gloves (from Rob Walker). … Daniel Murphy, who wears No. 28, was apparently using someone else’s bat on Saturday. Murphy’s been stuck in a slump, so that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that he’s apparently using a bat that belongs to reliever Tim Byrdak. … Here are the Japanese Olympic badminton uniforms (from Jeremy Brahm). … Also from Jeremy: Interesting throwback uniforms on tap for the Seibu Lions, who’ll wear Nishitetsu Lions uniforms on July 1. As you can see in that photo, all the uniforms have No. 24. That’s for former Lions player Kazuhisa Inao, who’s number was recently retired. The game is being played on his 75th birthday, and there’s also a special logo for the occasion. … Leo Strawn has created an Aussie rules football uni-database site. Good stuff, although it’s still in its embryonic stages. … Also from Leo: New Era will soon start selling a line of Aussie rules football caps. … A high school softball player in Vermont has been catching and throwing with the same hand, à la Pete Gray, after suffering a thumb injury (from Tris Wykes). … Jaime Galindo notes that Cristiano Ronaldo changed from long sleeves to short sleeves during halftime of Saturday’s Euro 2012 match. … I’ve seen lots of sports-themed wristwatches before, but never one shaped like a helmet (from Teamo Bigg). … The NCAA has a rule that corporate signage is supposed to be covered up during postseason baseball play, but apparently the folks at Oregon didn’t get the memo. “That is just ridiculous,” says Kevin Wos. … Oregon golf coach Casey Martin helps pick the Ducks’ football uniforms each week. So in a nice bit of turnaround, football coach Chip Kelly is picking Martin’s wardrobe for the U.S. Open (Jeremy Brahm again). … There’s some chatter about the Panthers possibly adding a black set of pants. Don’t know if it’s legit, but I can tell you that there are no black britches shown for the Panthers in the NFL Style Guide. … Kudos to Jake Kessler, who wears all manner of stirrups while competing in softball tournaments. “I get some compliments, I get some teasing,” he says. “I’ve earned the nickname ‘Throwback.’ If someone asks why I do it, I say it’s because I’ve always done it, and it’s the proper way to dress for the sport. If someone says, ‘I stopped wearing stirrups when I was 8,’ I inform them that was around the same time I stopped wearing my PJs out of the house.” … Dig the crazy sock match-up from the Ireland/Croatia match yesterday — checks vs. micro-stripes! (Big thanks to Jim Howicz.) … Current rules require a full face shield for college hockey players, but now the NCAA is looking into three-quarter shields (Tris Wykes again). … It’s tough to see, but it appears that Notre Dame football is wearing 125th-anniversary patches this season (from Jake Watterson). … FSU outfielder Josh Delph is a single-glover and Stony Brook first baseman Kevin Courtney is a bare-hander. I feel like those phenomena are even rarer in the world of aluminum bats than in the bigs (from Kyle Speicher and Matthew Dowell). … In a related item, Red pitcher Homer Bailey batted bare-handed last night. Not sure if that’s a new thing for him or not (screen shot by Brooks Baker). … I feel better about today’s youth after seeing this. The catcher is the son of reader Chris Fernandez. Nicely done! … Here are some “behind the scenes” photos of some of Nike’s players at the French Open. … New football uniforms for Middle Tennessee State? Apparently, based on this photo. “A friend of mine is at camp there, and his father posted that photo to Facebook,” says Clint Richardson. … Kent State baseball wore some very cool throwbacks for their game against Oregon (from Adam Wagner). … John Kimmerlein is spending some time in Alaska, where he’s discovering that the ballpark fare includes at least one menu offering not often seen in the lower 48. Also: one hell of a view. … In last week’s ESPN column, I mentioned that Tim Lincecum has worn at least three different shoe brands this season. But Michael Ludwig took a closer look at those photos and noticed that Lincecum also appears to be wearing three different glove designs (although all from Rawlings) in the three pics. … There’s a city bus in Hull City that’s decked out as a tribute to the local soccer team, the Tigers (from Les Motherby).