Have you been enjoying the Euros? I don’t mean the currency, the “Euro”, though if you have been enjoying those then good on you. I remember the changeover, I was living in France at the time, when it seemed like every other Franc was a counterfeit, the switch to the Euro was pretty welcome. Fourteen years on, and I live in America and don’t care. For the record I do care really, but I want to talk about the football, not European Single Currency (remember when they used to use that term? Hey, remember the “Ecu”? Again, not relevant, I’ll get back to the footy.) The Euro 2016 tournament is over a week old and already teams are out. Well Romania is for sure, having lost today to Albania. France drew with the Swiss and wore a different white away kit than the one they sell in the shops, the one I drew in my last post about the Euro 2016 kits, which had a red arm and a blue arm. Apparently UEFA didn’t like that, too confusing for their referees, so they wore something else. Still a France kit, still a Nike kit; I wish they had gone with green and white stripes like when they had to change into a local club’s teamwear during the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. I was two and didn’t even see it but still remember it to this day. So without further ado, here is the second of three posts where I tell you about the football shirts of Euro 2016. So you know, I’ve been doing some normal non-soccer-jersey-related urban sketching as well, as I spent a week vacationing down in San Diego, and will scan and post those soon.
Whenever there is a major football tournament, you usually start out by giving the trophy to Germany by default and then coming up with compelling reasons why they shouldn’t win it. If you can’t think of any, Germany get the trophy. That’s how football actually works. Gary Lineker famously said that football was “a simple game: twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” I’m pretty sure he meant 120 minutes plus penalties. Will they win Euro 2016? Ich weiss nicht. However, the kit is CLASSIC GERMANY, none of the nonsense white shorts and red chevrons seen in the last World Cup. Simple, except for the stupid big gold World Cup shield in the middle (FIFA, is there a more tasteful way of saying “We Are The Champions, Mein Freund?”). It looks lovely and if they won in this kit they’d deserve it. Right. The away kit. Ach du lieber Gott, was ist das? Ok I like Germany to have a green away kit, tradition. But this thing is just nonsense. The dummkopfest thing about it? It is reversible. Ah, that’s brilliant I hear you say, wunderbar, but the inside is lime green and meant to resemble a training pinny. Just, why? That idea is just the wurst.
Remember the last Euros, held jointly in Poland and Ukraine? Poland didn’t do so well. They went out in Round 1. They don’t have the pressure of being the hosts this time so might do better. So far they have drawn with Germany, and narrowly beaten Northern Ireland. Also this time you can come third and still get through so they are probably ok. They do have a superstar striker in Robert Lewandowski who is destined to be like all the other star strikers in these Euros and score nothing at all. The kit is a basic Nike template (“Vapor” as Nike calls it; “Vapid” would be more appropriate) though if you look very closely you can see little curvy lines meant to represent historical Polish Winged Hussars, because obviously. Nike shirts by the way are made from 16 recycled plastic bottles, because of course. That will be $90 please. The away kit is just like the home kit but red. I’ve been to Poland, Krakow to be precise. Some skinheads stole my glasses (I got them back though). I’d like to go and sketch Gdansk some day.
Remember the last Euros, held jointly in Poland and Ukraine? Ukraine did marginally better than Poland but still went out in Round One. Their kit had a nice traditional Ukrainian pattern on it. This time is features a strange yellow plaid pattern that I assume is a tribute to Rupert Bear’s yellow tartan trousers. Rupert (I’m guessing) is probably hugely popular in Ukraine along with his friends Bill Badger and that elephant one I always forget. Edward Trunk, that’s it. I used to get the Rupert annual every Christmas, I loved Rupert. I even loved the Frog Song by Paul McCartney, I watched that video over and over when I was 9. I hope they play that at one of Ukraine’s games, “We all…stand…together (bom bom!)” So far, Ukraine have been pretty awful, losing their first two games 2-0, being eliminated already. They still have to play one more game – against their old co-hosts Poland, who will probably be qualifying for the next round by then. They might roll out that blue kit for that game. The blue tartan kit by the way is I assume a tribute to the Scotland team, to be worn when going out of competitions early.
I’ve waited so long for this!!! Since Mexico 1986, to be precise, when I was ten. Since then I have of course followed the Republic’s rise in football stature; my family is from both sides of Ireland, so I root for them both, and I’m overjoyed that both made it to France 2016. Northern Ireland qualified in style, topping their group. As for the kit, well…I do like when Northern Ireland adds a bit of dark blue into their designs (a reminder of St.Patrick’s Blue, the original colours of the Irish national team back in the Olden Days) and it distinguishes them more from the kit of the Republic but this kit is, um, divisive. Not for any political reason, I mean it’s just not that good of a shirt design. When it came out petitions were formed to get it changed to something more reminiscent of the great ’82 and ’86 World Cup teams, but to no avail. You might think that strange band across the middle looks sort of stylish, but it isn’t. The team of course are not fashionable anyway, and they don’t mind that. The away kit is alright, something about a simple white Northern Irish shirt that has a classic feel to it; they have messed about with it a lot in recent years. They have won a game already though, beating Ukraine 2-0, and who knows – they may just get a result against the Germans. I certainly hope so!
I love Croatia’s unique home shirts, but this time they will very likely wear all blue in every game. So, UEFA, here is an idea. Tell teams to release their kits after the draw has been made for the Euros. Then, if any team is in a group with Croatia, they should refrain from having a red shirt when their home is white, or a white shirt when their home is red, but go for something that doesn’t clash with red and white shirts. Blue, or green, or black or yellow or turquoise (ahem, UEFA, Turkey did actually do that). That way, Croatia can actually wear their home kit without confusing your already confused referees. Because as a fan of Croatia’s unique home shirt design, made so famous in Euro 96 and World Cup 98, I want to see it on show. Okay, Euro 2012 they did wear it twice. Alright, they wore a lot it in the 2014 World Cup too. But in Euro 2008 it was blue only, and this time around it looks like the same will happen. The current iteration of the famous red and white chessboard is made to look like a flag flying in the breeze, which by the way Nike is really hard to draw in MS Paint, thanks for that, so I had to take the checkers and distort them in Photoshop. It’s not entirely accurate but you get the general idea. I’ve never been to Croatia, but it’s been on my list of Places I’ll Get To Eventually since I was a kid in the 80s, when my sister was a travel agent for Lunn Poly and I would read the “Yugotours” brochures at her work. “Why don’t Yugo someday?” I would say to anyway who would listen like it was the funniest thing in the world. Hey it was better than the Lunn Poly “Get Away!” adverts that used to be on TV all the time.
Turkey usually go for a nice safe kit design, a bit like Poland, not doing too much out of the ordinary, so when I saw this one it was like WHOAH BABY, what the? The home kit is red but with black diagonal criss-crossing lines that get thicker as they go down the shirt. Really quite difficult to pull off in MS Paint – I spent a very long time trying to do it – so in the end just took the pattern into Photoshop and added a gradient over the top, before bringing it back into Paint. Black shorts and socks! Albania are looking at this and doing the Muttley grumble, “rinkumshinkunrurkey!” It looks damn fine. And then there is the away kit! Same design but white and turquoise, with for some reason red socks. It’s pretty lovely, very calming. So the Turkey team, will they do well? Probably not. They have lost their first two games and will probably not stick around much longer. Shame, because if it comes to a tie-breaker and kit design is a deciding factor, I reckon they’d do alright. Also they are looking good for the beardiest team of the tournament (though Joe Ledley of Wales is winning that particular honour all by himself). I should do a guide to facial hair of Euro 2016, and then another dedicated to players’ actual barnets too. If any of you have the Panini sticker album, check out the obviously-some-sort-of-disguise of Olkay Sahan. Definitely expect him to pull that off at some point in a game, whip out a microphone and turn into the ghost of Jeremy Beadle, strolling about the pitch.
I like it when the Czechs have red shirts, white shorts and blue socks. But oh no, they had to do an all-red number, and have weird pointy-down chevron things splashing down the middle pointing down at their shorts for some completely innocent reason. Well, there are no other kits quite like it in these Euros, so that’s something. The away kit is standard Puma fare, white with that blue that was missing from the home kit. Yawn. I’ve been the the Czech Republic twice, just to Prague, both in my early 20s which involved a lot of cheap beer (“pivo”) and a few cheap hostels too. Me and my mate Tel went there for the best part of a fortnight. I wanted to look at old buildings and bridges; he wanted to look for video stores. We took the old overnight Eurolines bus there and back, this was right before cheap airlines really took off. I still have a small mug that I bought there with a little drawing of a man lying down being all happy and stuff. The naivety of youth.
And finally, from one set of favourites Germany to the other set, Spain, reigning European champions, and looking for a three-in-a-row victory. In the last World Cup Spain had a horrifying all-red kit which thankfully led to them being knocked out early before it could do more damage to my sensitive disposition, but this time they are back with what I must say is one of their best ever kit designs. Red with yellow trim (Adidas stripes under the arms this time, I like it), proper blue shorts, and black socks (well, very very very dark blue). As it should be. I am happy. Adidas, you are knocking it out of the park this year. And then there is the away kit…I sense the room go quiet, people pausing at their drinks and looking over nervously, and I slowly start to smile, and nod my approval, and the whole room erupts in celebration. What a crazy and beautiful kit! All those triangles, all those bits of yellow and red, it looks a bit like one they had 20-odd years ago but put into a blender. I love it. I enjoyed making this one. I was ten when I first went to Spain on a family holiday. It was to Ibiza, the Mexico 86 World Cup was on, I remember going by myself to a local restaurant (while my family were either at the pool or a nearby pub, the Snooty Fox I believe it was called) to watch a game and eat beans on toast. As for the team, they have started in style, qualifying for the second phase after two wins. Spain are back!
And that is that. Join me again when I show you the kits of Groups E and F, the final groups, and in the meantime enjoy the rest of the Euros, while they last. The football tournament, that is, not the currency. Though if you enjoy the currency, do enjoy that while it lasts as well.