Category: Brazil

Brazil 1980s*

*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.

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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.

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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.

1984 team
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.

1988 team
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.

brasil adidas for sale
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…

Brazil 1991-93

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

brasil 93 training top
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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