After the 1998 World Cup the Argentina Football Association unexpectedly struck a deal with Reebok to produce the national team’s kit. The resulting shirts were somewhat ugly, and not at all in keeping with the South Americans’ tradition of simple, stylish uniforms. They even had navy shorts! So it was with some relief when I discovered Argentina had reestablished their long partnership with adidas just in time for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.
I first noticed the change in a February friendly played in Cardiff. The shirt had a black V-neck collar and there was a wide white trim on the hem of the shorts. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was merely a stop-gap kit: by the time Argentina played Germany in April they had a completely new strip, one that matched the template adidas was introduced for the World Cup. The shirts were equipped with what adidas was calling “dual-layer” technology, meaning that a thinner layer of fabric was sewn into the inside of the garment, supposedly to keep players muscles warm. The numbers were a quirky italicized font, with tiny NFL-style holes.
The kit was certainly simple, perhaps overly so. The black shorts bore the usual three white stripes, while the socks were bereft of trim altogether. Oddly for Argentina, the V-neck collar and sleeves were blue (as opposed to white).
Despite boasting a squad packed with attacking talent, Argentina crashed out of the World Cup at the first hurdle for the first time in forty years. They started well enough, a Batistuta header enough to earn a 1-0 win over Nigeria. But against England they succumbed to a David Beckham penalty, leaving them needing a victory in their final group game against Sweden. They only managed a draw.
Argentina wore their home kit just once in Japan, in the defeat to England in Sapporo. Four years earlier England had changed and lost. Beckham once again made the headlines, but this time the boot was on the other foot.
When Argentina unveiled their new kit for the 2010 World Cup, the first thing keen observers noticed was that the design of the shirt was a clear nod to that worn by the South Americans the last time they won the tournament in 1986. Though it wasn’t the first time adidas had referenced a celebrated shirt from the modern era (see France’s 1998 update of their Euro 84 shirt), it was unusual in that Argentina’s kit in ’86 was produced by the French company Le Coq Sportif. But the decision did have a strange logic to it. After all, Argentina’s coach in South Africa would be none other than the man who had captained them to victory twenty-four years earlier, Diego Armando Maradona. Though Maradona wouldn’t be wearing the shirt himself this time, presumably the thinking was that if his Argentina team wore a similar kit to that worn in the sunshine of Mexico, this year’s tournament would perhaps have a similar outcome.
To casual fans the 2010 shirt may have appeared like any other worn by the albiceleste, but there were several details that evidently drew from its iconic predecessor. The first of these was the simple crew neck collar: Argentina had only worn V-necks, fold-over collars, buttoned collars and modern variations of the same in recent years. Likewise, for the first time since the mid-nineties there was no black trim on the shirt. Perhaps the most noticeable similarity to the ’86 shirt was the AFA badge, set on a bold blue background that had been absent since 1991. Rather than be placed over a blue or white stripe, the badge itself was positioned over the point where the two stripes meet, just as in ’86.
Attention had even been paid to the stripes’ sequence and arrangement, with white being chosen for the central stripe (a rarity outside the ’86 tournament). Even the shirt’s fabric was a modern update on the breathable airtex material originally used to beat the heat in Mexico. While the ubiquitous adidas branding dictated somewhat the design of the sleeves, and the classic Argentina numbers were long gone, adidas had done a fine job at updating a classic. In practice of course, the kit bore little resemblance to ’86. The players’ shirts would become inevitably tarnished with the modern-day clutter of front numbers and sleeve patches, while the beautiful gold embroidered badge used on commercially available replica shirts was replaced by a plastic heat-pressed version (I still don’t understand this, but I’m sure adidas would claim it makes the shirt half an ounce lighter). In addition, temperatures in South Africa were considerably lower than they’d been in Mexico, causing several players to opt for a long-sleeved “Techfit” version of the shirt.
Maradona had drawn criticism for his squad selection prior to the tournament. Many were surprised to see Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso miss out at the expense of less experienced players, particularly since both had been instrumental in achieving a historic treble for Inter that season. He’d also kept faith with aging midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón, now in the autumn of his career at Estudiantes. Argentina got off to a positive start in South Africa, winning all three of their group games. Fans looked to new number ten Lionel Messi to inspire the team, but the Barcelona star was outshone by his teammates. Defender Gabriel Heinze headed the only goal against Nigeria, then Gonzalo Higuain grabbed a hat-trick against South Korea. A number of first-choice players were rested for the final match with Greece, where two Martins — defender Demichelis and veteran striker Palermo — got on the scoresheet.
Argentina faced Mexico in the second round, in a match that saw two peculiar changes to their kit. The first was a discreet white outline that had been added to the shirt numbers, presumably to maximize their clarity, although it barely made any difference. More obvious was Argentina’s unprecedented and inexplicable choice to wear blue shorts and socks with their home shirt, a decision no doubt enforced by the latest FIFA edict regarding colour clashes. The match itself was overshadowed by a refereeing controversy (one of several in the tournament). Thanks to replays broadcast on the giant screens in Johannesburg it was clear to everyone in the stadium that Tevez’s first goal was offside. But the goal stood, and Argentina went on to score twice again through Higuain before Tevez sealed the win with a screamer from long range into the top corner.
Germany now awaited Diego’s men in the quarter-finals in a game packed with historical subtext. Argentina had lost to Germany on penalties at the same stage four years earlier, while Maradona had defeated West Germany to lift the trophy in ’86, only to lose to them in the final four years later. Their 2010 meeting had none of the drama of those matches, as Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 victors. It was an unfortunate and perhaps cruel end for Maradona, who had thrown himself into his new role with the same passion and desire he had exuded as a player. It was clear from watching their matches that Argentina’s player-coach relationship was unique. Maradona garnered not just the requisite respect from his players, but something rather approaching adoration, such is the level of idolatry that his legend demands. Prowling the touchline, arms folded or nervously stroking the grey streaks in his beard, at times it seemed that not being out there with his team was too much for him to bear. I often wondered if he had his playing kit on underneath his bulky grey suit, just in case a chance presented itself.
The AFA chose not to renew Maradona’s contract after their quarter-final exit, sparking a bitter row between the dismissed coach and the association’s national team director Carlos Bilardo, whom he branded a traitor and a liar. Bilardo coached Maradona at two World Cups, and maybe he knew already what the rest of Argentina learned in 2010: that their God is just a mortal without a ball at his feet.
*Exact date unknown
Having devoted a vast portion of my waking (and non-waking) life to football I’ve become pretty good at identifying football shirts and ascertaining their date and provenance. Yet even with the wonders of the internet at my disposal and several bona fide experts on the case, I have yet to establish the precise origin of this rare Brazil shirt.
It was given to me in the summer of 1991 by an Italian teenager whom I hadn’t met until the evening his father, Dr. Consoli, a well-appointed local surgeon, took me and my family out for dinner at a remote restaurant in the Tuscan hills. It was one of those hidden places that can only be reached by a seemingly endless drive along dark and winding country roads, but then you finally enter to find the joint bustling with locals and the requisite display of Fiorentina posters plastered all over the walls. Anyway, after a typically rustic blow-out we returned into town to the Consoli family’s villa in Scarperia. The doctor’s two teenage sons, Lorenzo and Giacomo, were more than happy to show me and my younger brother their impressive collection of shirts, the jewel of which hung on Lorenzo’s bedroom wall. I instantly recognised it as a white number 20 Italy shirt from the early ’80s, but my jaw must have hit the floor when Lorenzo quickly confirmed that it was indeed the shirt worn by Paolo Rossi against Cameroon in the 1982 World Cup. I was too much in awe to ask how he’d got hold of it, but evidently Dr. Consoli had friends in very high places.
Paolo Rossi photographed shortly after Italy’s 1-1 draw with Cameroon in Vigo on June 23rd, 1982. The Juventus striker has clearly just swapped shirts with an opponent — how his shirt later found its way onto an Italian teenager’s bedroom wall remains a mystery.
In recognition of my knowledge and enthusiasm, Lorenzo kindly offered me the adidas Brazil shirt reproduced in the photographs on this page. Though Brazil had worn an adidas kit at the 1978 World Cup, I knew this not to be a conventional Brazil shirt, which in 1991 had been manufactured by Topper for a decade. I also knew that adidas had produced the Brazilian football team’s kit at the last two Olympic Games, where in lieu of being able to use the CBF badge the shirt had instead featured the word “BRASIL” emblazoned across the chest. But without much means of further research, and my Italian not what it is now, I simply thanked Lorenzo for the lovely gift and we went downstairs to the kitchen to watch the Copa América match between Colombia and Uruguay that had just kicked off. That’s my last memory of the evening — I wore my new mystery Brazil shirt a lot during the rest of the summer and the one that followed, then sometime later I lost track of it.
I only came across it again this summer while visiting my parents in England, after my mum found it at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. To my surprise it now fits me better than ever, and so I brought it back with me to New York. Since then I’ve recommenced — or rather, commenced — my research, for which I am now aided by the endless supply of online information. I first checked for images of the Brazil teams at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. The shirts used in Los Angeles and Seoul were each made by adidas, and both featured the “BRASIL” lettering, but neither matched the shirt I had in my possession. I then wondered if it might be older than I had believed. Brazil did not compete in the Moscow games in 1980, and though my shirt doesn’t seem that old, I went back even further to 1976. As I suspected the kit worn in Montreal, while differing from the CBF strip of the period, bears even less resemblance to the shirt in question.
The Brazil team that finished silver medalists at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Keen followers of Brazilian football will recognise former international sweeper Mauro Galvao (back row, fourth from left) and 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga (front row, second from left).
Digging a little deeper I felt I was getting warmer when I learned of an event known as the Pan-American Games, held every four years the year before the Olympics. After viewing several fuzzy YouTube videos of dubious source I am sadly no closer to a definitive answer. At the 1987 edition held in Indianapolis Brazil won the competition wearing the same shirts used at the ’84 Olympics. Four years earlier in Caracas they’d finished runners-up wearing a kit that appears to be a hybrid between their regular Topper strip and the shirts used in 1976. I have so far been unable to find any photographic or video evidence of Brazil’s games at the 1979 tournament in San Juan.
The Brazil side that finished runners-up at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul featured a host of players who would enjoy successful careers playing in Europe. Back row: André Cruz, Taffarel, Luiz Carlos, Aloisio, Ademir, Jorginho; front row: Bebeto, Romario, Milton, Geovani, Andrade.
Having exhausted all my leads I decided it was time to seek outside help. I contacted John Devlin, Scottish football shirt expert and author of True Colours, but he could provide no further information. I also wrote to São Paulo-based kit nerd Evaldo Rui Oliveira Junior, who digitally reproduces historic football kits in meticulous detail on his site Erojkit. He agreed that the shirt was from the 1980s, but suggested it was released purely for commercial purposes, and never used in an actual match. I even submitted it to Old Football Shirts, an online photographic football shirt archive, but have yet to hear any news. More recently I came across two shirts for sale online — one located in Los Angeles and another in Brasilia — each of which were remarkably similar to mine. The only real difference was that both had basic V-necks and green sleeve stripes (mine are blue). I contacted both sellers in the hope of gleaning some further insight into their respective shirt’s history, but neither shared my level of interest nor obsessive need to solve this particular puzzle.
Two shirts recently spotted for sale online in Los Angeles and Brasilia. The primary differences between my shirt and the one on the left are the V-neck collar and the colour of the sleeve stripes.
So after many, many hours of detective work I am no closer to an answer than I was a few months ago — or even twenty years ago for that matter. If anybody out there cares to weigh in or offer any additional clues I would be very appreciative. In the meantime I have found Lorenzo on Facebook, so perhaps it’s time I just asked him…
When the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol announced a new kit deal with English company Umbro in 1991 for many fans it was the end of an era. Brazil’s kits in the last three World Cups had been manufactured by the South American brand Topper, barely altering in that period, so it was hard to imagine the Seleção wearing anything else. (Brazil had worn Umbro kits at the 1962 and 1970 World Cups, but without access to the team’s changing rooms few fans could have been aware of this fact.)
After finishing runners-up at that summer’s Copa America in Chile, Brazil introduced its new Umbro kit in a 3-1 win over Yugoslavia in October 1991. But these were the days before internet or even cable TV, and so my first close glimpse of the new shirt came in May 1992 when Brazil faced England at Wembley, a game I watched on the BBC. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with goals from Bebeto and Platt, but was best remembered for Gary Lineker’s squandered penalty, an uncharacteristic miss which denied him the honour of equalling Bobby Charlton’s record tally of 49 goals for his country.
My parents bought me the new Brazil shirt that Christmas. As was typical of the Umbro kits of the time, it featured an abstract “CBF” pattern on the sleeve that was echoed throughout the fabric. The shirt was essentially a yellow version of the Tottenham kit of the same period. I later bought myself a pair of blue Umbro shorts to further enhance the look when kicking a ball about at the park or in the garden. Two minor changes occurred to the kit between ’92 and ’93. The pattern at the top of the socks reverted to a traditional green and yellow stripe, while the classic English-style Umbro player numbers that had been used initially were replaced by an outsized poster typeface that was decidedly more South American (both Mexico and Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys sported similar numbers at the time). Brazil and England drew drew 1-1 again the following summer, this time at the RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the US Cup, essentially a preparatory warm-up for the organizers of USA ’94. Brazil beat the hosts 2-0 at the Yale Bowl and drew 3-3 with world champions Germany, against whom veteran striker Careca scored his last international goal.
Just eight days later Brazil were back in action opening their Copa América account in Ecuador. Carlos Alberto Parreira’s squad was made up almost exclusively of home-based players. This allowed young full-backs Cafú and Roberto Carlos a chance to impress, but it also meant the absence of experienced key men such as Jorginho, Branco, Bebeto and Raí, as well as PSV forward Romário. The striker had been not been called up to the national team since December, when he’d not hidden his frustration at travelling from Eindhoven to Porto Alegre for a friendly match only to be kept on the bench. In such circumstances, the team struggled in the first round. A goalless draw with Peru was followed by a 3-2 defeat to Chile. It was left to unproven talents Edmundo and Palhinha to engineer a 3-0 victory over Paraguay, a result which ensured qualification and briefly restored some optimism. In the quarter finals Brazil met their old foes Argentina, whose goalkeeper Sergio Goycoechea yet again proved decisive, saving Boiadeiro’s penalty in an epic shoot-out.
Later in 1993 I also obtained a rare training top as used by Brazil at that summer’s Copa América. Made of heavyweight cotton and featuring some lovely embroidery, it was the kind of thing that teams don’t seem to wear to train in anymore, and as a result now looks quite retro. The design certainly screams mid-nineties, but it made me the envy of several classmates during the 1993-94 school year. I recently rediscovered this special garment at my parents’ house back in England, where it has been perfectly preserved for the past twenty years.
Brazil’s busy summer continued as a tightly scheduled qualification for the 1994 World Cup commenced. The team found it tough to shake off the Copa América disappointment, drawing 0-0 with Ecuador and losing 2-0 to Bolivia. A five-goal thrashing of Venezuela steered the Seleção back on course, and they ended their turbulent campaign with a spectacular run of results. In the space of two weeks they beat Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, scoring twelve goals without reply. In their final qualification match Brazil needed a win against Uruguay at the Maracanã in order to finish top of the group and secure their ticket the USA. Under increasing pressure from fans and journalists, Parreira finally succumbed and recalled Romário, who had not featured in any of the qualifiers thus far. Back in this hometown stadium the Barcelona forward scored both goals in a 2-0 victory. When asked about his decision afterwards Parreira stated, “God sent Romário to the Maracanã.” Meanwhile, Copa América champions Argentina had faltered, conceding five goals at home to Colombia in Buenos Aires (a record home defeat) and eventually requiring an own goal in a last-gasp play-off with Australia to book their berth in the pot for the World Cup draw.
Umbro unveiled a new Brazil shirt in time for the tournament in the United States, where as usual Brazil were counted among the favorites, though Parreira was quick to play down their chances. They couldn’t even count on the backing of Pele, who maintained that dark horses Colombia would lift the trophy. As it happened both were happy to be proven wrong. In the glistening sunshine of Pasadena Brazil became the first nation to win a fourth World Cup, a victory that put an end to a twenty-four year spell in the relative wilderness. Though blessed with talent and a decisive cutting edge up front in the pairing of Bebeto and Romário, Parreira’s team was perhaps less flamboyant than previous Brazil sides. Some described them as excessively “European”, a harsh criticism perhaps given that the nucleus of the team had been based in Europe’s top leagues for years. Romário emerged as one of the stars of the competition, but for the elegant number ten Raí it was a less positive World Cup. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had gone into the tournament as first-choice playmaker and captain, only to lose his place to Mazinho following the group stage. In the knock-out phase he was only used as a substitute, and missed out on the final altogether. Consequently, Dunga, who had taken over the armband, got to lift the trophy at the Rose Bowl. It seemed unfair that Raí was not offered the chance to share this honour, and his international career subsequently fizzled out.
Brazil’s period with Umbro ended in the summer of 1997, when CBF launched its first kit manufactured by Nike, at the time still a marginal player in terms of soccer apparel. Every Brazil shirt for the last fifteen years has been emblazoned with the iconic swoosh device, instantly familiar to fans everywhere from Bangladesh to Belo Horizonte. The days of Topper and Umbro were long gone, and a global homogenization of football kits had begun.
Though Colombia had not reached the finals of the World Cup since 1998, the team arrived at Brazil 2014 as many people’s dark horses. The reason was that over the last two or three years Los Cafeteros had produced a crop of exceptionally talented players that had begun to make names for themselves across Europe. The first of these was Radamel Falcao, who after enjoying Europa League success at Porto had joined Atlético Madrid in 2011, now coached by Diego Simeone, who had worked with the striker as a youngster at River Plate. Falcao won a second successive Europa League title in 2012 but left the club the following summer to join Monaco, where a knee injury in a Coupe de France game threatened to keep him out of the World Cup.
While neither Jackson Martinez nor Teófilo “Teo” Gutiérrez would quite fill the void left in the absence of Colombia’s star striker, both could be a handful for defences. But it wasn’t just up front where Colombia looked strong. Tricky winger Juan Pablo Cuadrado’s career had taken him to opposite ends of Italy, first at Udinese and then Lecce, before settling in Florence, where he’d become a key member of Vincenzo Montella’s exciting Fiorentina side. Even the defensive players, Zapata, Zuniga and captain Yepes, had several years experience playing for top clubs in Serie A.
Colombia’s most promising talent was their young number ten, James Rodriguez. The midfielder had also joined Porto as a teenager, before following Falcao to Monaco. At twenty-two, Rodriguez was already considered one of South American football’s top prospects, having been nominated as the successor to Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama — by none other than Valderrama himself.
The man handed the task of harnessing all this creative talent was the Argentina José Pekerman, who’d led his own country to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2006. Colombia had finished behind Argentina in qualifiying, yet found themselves among the eight seeded teams for the World Cup draw. Consequently, they were joined in their first round group by Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. On paper it looked a relatively easy proposition, but fans were wary of suffering a repeat of 1994, when Colombia had been tipped by Pelé to win the competition, only to lose their first two games and suffer a humiliating (and ultimately tragic) exit.
Fortunately, 2014 would prove a far more joyous tournament. Colombia won all three of their group games, scoring nine goals in the process and impressed audiences with their skillful attack-minded football, not to mention carefree celebrations. James Rodriguez lived up to his potential early on, finding the net in every match, but truly fulfilled his promise in the second round against Uruguay. At Rio’s Maracana, this all-South American clash was Colombia’s sternest test yet, but Rodriguez had found his form at just the right time. For his first goal, he controlled the ball with his chest before volleying into the top corner from outside the box. It was undoubtedly one of the goals of the tournament, and recalled that of another Rodriguez — Maxi — for Pekerman’s Argentina against Mexico in 2006.
In the second half Rodriguez doubled his side’s lead with a tapped in finish from close range. Neutral followers were delighted to see Colombia progress at the expense of Uruguay, who’d won few friends for their performances or behaviour in Brazil. Now Rodriguez and Co. faced the hosts in Fortaleza, who themselves could be considered fortunate to have got through their second round tie with Chile. For the first time, Colombia were forced to wear their red and navy away strip, a change with which their entertaining World Cup run came to an end. Two goals by central defenders (Thiago Silva and David Luiz) settled the contest, but Rodriguez still found time to get his sixth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot, thus maintaining his record of scoring in every game and ultimately earning him the Golden Boot. Though the match was overshadowed by Zuniga’s foul on Neymar which ended the youngster’s World Cup, at full-time Rodriguez was consoled by his opponents and applauded for his fine performances in Brazil.
Colombia’s wholly enjoyable displays in Brazil coincided with an unprecedented new kit. Unlike most national teams, Colombia have changed their home colours with unusual frequency. Between the 1930s and 1980s the team sported sky blue, white, navy, orange and red shirts before finally settling on the current yellow in the early 1990s. In 2014 adidas unveiled a new shirt with a navy diagonal sash, into whose design was incorporated a sombrero vueltiao, the traditional hat of Colombia and one of the symbols of the country. The new kit also saw the abandonment of the traditional tricolore strip, Colombia instead reverting to white shorts and socks. Oddest of all was the inclusion of a hashtag — #UnidosPorUnPais — located on the back of the shirt just below the neck. While team slogans and motifs have been incorporated surreptitously onto shirts for a few years, this was the first instance I’ve seen of social media directly infiltrating kit design. Having finally witnessed a player excel at the World Cup with my own name on his back, naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a yellow “JAMES” shirt to add to my own collection.
They say that the most important events in English history always occur in years ending in “66”. 1066: The Battle of Hastings. 1666: The Great Fire of London. 1966: England win the World Cup. For anyone who is English, or has even spent significant time in England, the year 1966 (or even the number 66 when taken out of context) is inexorably linked with the national team’s sole footballing triumph. Sadly this is an inevitable phenomenon, borne out of the disappointing truth that England has rarely come close to replicating that success in the ensuing half-century. With every failed campaign so 1966 has become deeper ingrained into the nation’s consciousness, to the extent that the cultural and psychological weight of that victory is now far greater than the sporting achievement itself.
England had snubbed the World Cup at its inception. Believing their superiority to be without question the FA deemed England’s presence at the first three tournaments unnecessary. When the team did travel to Brazil in 1950, they suffered an unthinkable defeat to the part-timers from the United States. But subsequent back-to-back hammerings at the hands of Hungary in 1953 compelled England’s footballing authorities to reassess its global standing.
Nevertheless, encouraging performances in 1958 and 1962 plus home advantage meant that expectations were high in 1966 for the host nation. It was an England side whose qualities were truly English in an old-fashioned sense: class, hard work, personality. Leicester City’s Gordon Banks was in the process of taking over the mantle of best goalkeeper from the Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin. Blond captain Bobby Moore was England’s answer to Franz Beckenbauer: an elegant, modern defender though perhaps not as versatile as his German counterpart. England’s mix of skill and doggedness was exemplified by the balding Charlton brothers, Jack and Bobby. The latter’s darting runs inside from midfield and powerful shots from distance made him virtually impossible to mark.
As is often the case in World Cups, fate had a strong hand in the narrative. England’s first choice centre-forward, Tottenham’s Jimmy Greaves, suffered a shin injury in the their final group match against France. His replacement, West Ham’s Geoff Hurst, scored the winner with a glancing header in the quarter-final against a cynical Argentine side (brandished “animals” by Alf Ramsey, who refused to let his players swap shirts with the South Americans). In the semi-final two timely strikes by Bobby Charlton ended the hopes of Eusebio’s Portugal. Now all that stood between England and World Cup glory was West Germany.
Conditions in London on July 30, 1966 were representative of the English summertime: throughout the 120 minutes the weather seemed to rotate between cloud, rain and sun at quarter-hour intervals. 98,000 spectators crammed into Wembley Stadium to see a match soaked through with drama and steeped in subtext. Hurst replied to Haller’s early strike before the third member of the West Ham trio, Martin Peters, pounced on a loose ball to put England 2-1 up. A last gasp equalizer by Weber sent the match into extra-time, during which Alan Ball’s marauding run and cross reached Hurst, whose quick turn and shot hit the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line. Anxious seconds passed before the Soviet linesman validated the goal, which to this day remains perhaps the most controversial in World Cup history. At the time replays proved inconclusive, but endless theories and analysis over the years have suggested England got lucky. To this day whenever a shot bounces on the goal-line cliché-ridden commentators are always fast to quip, “Ah, shades of ’66…” In Germany, a goal scored in this manner (bouncing on the line after hitting the bar) is commonly known as a “Wembley-Tor” (Wembley Goal).
Besides Hurst’s second goal, so many aspects of the 1966 World Cup Final have become a part of English folklore, from toothless Nobby Stiles’ post-match jig around Wembley to Captain Bobby Moore wiping his muddy hands on his shirt before receiving the Jules Rimet trophy from her majesty. Perhaps most famous of all is BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s timeless and much-imitated utterance as Hurst completed his hat-trick seconds before the final whistle: “They think it’s all over…”
England’s victory over West Germany was made even more memorable by the fact that since both team’s first choice colours were white, the hosts donned a change strip of red shirts and white shorts. Of course, viewers at home saw the match in black-and-white, but photographs and official film of the match have immortalized the occasion in glorious Technicolor. Four years later in the heat of León, Mexico, England wore a lightweight mesh version of their red kit as they faced West Germany again in a quarter-final, though this time the strip didn’t bring the same good fortune. Yet over the years the red shirt has become equally popular with fans as the white home kit.
By the early 1990s football in England was undergoing a reappraisal of its history and subculture, and a rapid remarketing of the game soon followed. The shirt you see in these photographs was produced by Arkright (“The Old-Fashioned Football Company”), perhaps the first retro football shirt manufacturer of its kind. This faithful heavyweight cotton reproduction of England’s red ’66 shirt proved to be its bestseller. In 1993 I wore the shirt to a World Cup qualifier between England and Holland at Wembley. England wore their usual white and the match ended 2-2. I actually met Hurst (still the only man to score three goals in a World Cup final) at a bookstore in 2001 after I’d heard he’d be signing copies of his autobiography, 1966 And All That. He was a thoroughly nice chap, and ribbed me for not buying several copies for my whole family, adding CHEAPSKATE! to his dedication to the Taylors.
Today retro football is an industry unto itself, and old school shirts have become popular enough with fans as to directly influence modern football kit design. In 2010 England sported a ’66-style red shirt in their second round match at the World Cup in South Africa. Their opponents, yet again, were the Germans. Just before half-time, a Frank Lampard shot bounced down off the crossbar and out again. Replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the goal-line, but this time the referee disallowed the goal. After a forty-four year wait, Germany had got revenge for 1966. Proof that in football as in fashion, what goes around comes around.
If you have a spare couple of hours, check out the BBC’s full coverage of the match (complete with Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary). However, this British Pathé footage is the best I’ve ever seen of the final. Who knew they had HD in 1966?