The third and final kit review of the Euros. I should have done one for the Copa America too (Columbia’s home kit is now white?) but it took me a little by surprise. We are at the end of the Group Stages now and the worst teams are starting to pack up and go home, while the teams coming third in their groups are waiting to see whether they will be one of the four best-placed third-placed teams out of six, causing heads to implode trying to figure out the permutations and arrangements. Albania for example might yet go home if other teams are deemed to have done better. In the case of teams having identical records, it goes down to goals scored, goals against, coefficient, length of beards, number of supporters arrested (outside the ground against inside the ground), and if they are still tied after all of that then Cristiano Ronaldo gets to judge how much of a “big country” or “small country” mentality a team has. It’s a complicated system. I still think it should all come down to kit design. On that note, let’s crack on with the final two groups: E and F.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
My team. Well, them and Northern Ireland. And England I suppose, though I’ve a soft spot for Wales, etc. Gone are the days however when I knew the names of all the players – Tony Cascarino, John Aldridge, Pat Bonner, Ray Houghton, you know, Phil Babb, all those guys. Now, I know Robbie Keane, and all the other guys. The same to be honest can be said of any team, international or club, except of course for Spurs, even though I watch football all the time, read football magazines and collect football sticker albums. “I Am Forty”. I do have a lot of Ireland shirts though, dating back to the USA 94 kit (the special jersey my mum got me commemorating Ireland beating England in 1988 doesn’t really count, I doesn’t fit any more too). My favourite is the last one, more of an old rugby shirt style, and this new one does something similar, but is a little less to my liking, although the orange trim is quite tastefully minimal. It’s still a much nicer shirt than, for example, the Northern Ireland home shirt. The away is alright, the little stripes on the arm look like something someone suggested and then looked at it afterwards and said, “meh, but who cares”. Now the Irish started well, being unlucky to only get a draw out of the Sweden game, but they got utterly tonked by Belgium. Yeah, we may not beat Italy in the last game but you never know. I still have a t-shirt celebrating “beating Italian ass on American grass” in 1994. Come on Ireland!
Italy have started well, couple of decent wins. They defend well, have a good manager in Conte (Chelsea-bound), and the best national anthem of all, probably. The kit is decent as well, simple effort, unfussy (they like the word ‘fussy’ these football kit describers, “it’s a bit of a fussy design” they say, to make themselves sound like real fashion and design afficionados) (I like “unfussy” because it’s not really a word; well it wasn’t, but I suppose it is now). Italy don’t have the superstars of old (well, they still do, like Buffon, but they are actually old) (Buffon by the way, the legendary goalkeeper, is my man-crush, he’s a handsome chap is Gigi). I like Italy but I need to explore a bit more of it, I’ve been to Venice three times but that’s really it. On the third time in Venice, I got engaged to my wife. Happy memories! Italy – the Azzurri – wear blue because that was the colour of the royal house of Savoy, and boy do they wear it well. The traditional white away kit has the Italian flag running down the middle.
Sweden is all about Zlatan. It shouldn’t be, but it is. He rolls around the pitch being a genius looking frustrated that the rest of his team aren’t all Zlatans, but if the were all Zlatans then he would not be Zlatan. Zlatan has what you might describe as a rather large ego. In fact it’s better to just zlatan the way Zlatan does. This zlatan is the latest zlatan to come from Zlatidas and features three zlatans down the zlatan and a slightly more zlatan shade of zlatan. The away zlatan is zlataning, with its zlatanesque zlatans. In the first zlatan, Zlatan were zlatan to get a zlatan against the Republic of Zlatan who I felt zlataned the whole zlatan, though Zlatan did zlatan the zlatan the zlataned the Zlat defender to zlatan an own-zlatan. Ok Zlat’s enough of Zlat. I do like an Adidas Sweden kit, thinking back to the great Swedish side of the early 90s (or “BZ” as Zlatstorians prefer to number those years), Tomas Brolin and co. This one is lovely. Shame you won’t see much more of it this summer.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. This is my favourite kit of the Euros. I have a soft spot for Belgium having lived there for a year back in 1999-2000 (I lived right across the street from the stadium in Charleroi where England played Germany, remember that one, fans of chair-throwing and water-cannons? I’ve wanted a Belgian shirt for a long time and they have had so many duffers (those Burrda ones for example) but I think I will stump for this one. The yellow is a more day-glo shade and the black on the chest really offsets that red. I can imagine wearing this while wandering the streets of Brussels with a sketchbook. The away shirt is nice too, reminds me of a cycling jersey, since the sport of cycling is very popular in Belgium. That year I spent there was very formative in many ways for me, though I could have been more creative with my time, I felt I didn’t get a lot done. I had a guitar and wrote some songs, I did a lot of personal writing but very little concrete stuff of substance, I drew a little bit but not that much, and I didn’t know many people so would just go to the chip shop and then to the local pub with the other locals, but looking back I think all of this was a life-long inspiration of as-yet-unformed ideas. Maybe I was just lazy. I would go up to Brussels and spend the whole day going around the city on the streetcar reading novels, then go to see a movie, go for a beer, and get lost on the Belgian train system trying to get home. And then there is the rain, the endless, constant rain. I think of all of this when I see that Belgian football badge, and I’m glad I got to know the place for that one year. As for the football team, I like them because they have a few of the best Spurs players on the team, though I’m not a fan of their goalie Thibault Courtois, because he a) plays for Chelsea and b) looks like the Republican speaker Paul Ryan.
Okay, I am drifting in these reviews a little, lets get back to the kits. Austria have a standard enough Puma kit, which is red because a few years ago when they co-hosted the Euros with Switzerland, who also wear red Puma kits. Austria used to wear white withblack shorts, so when they turned up to the party wearing EXACTLY THE SAME BLOODY CLOTHES AS SWITZERLAND, the Swiss just facepalmed at their neighbours, oh you are so embarrassing. Oh right, next you are going to copy the whole mountains, watches and cuckoo clocks thing too aren’t you. Well this time, they still wear red but their away kit looks decidedly more like traditional Austria (which was itself, er, very similar to Germany). I first went to Austria in 1991 with my German class from school, spending two weeks with a family in Vorarlberg. When I was a kid I had a pen-pal from Vienna, and was always so impressed at Austrian handwriting. European handwriting is generally much nicer looking than messy English handwriting; French might be the best, but I like German too. Here I go again, talking about handwriting, completely unrelated to the football shirts. Let’s hope these Puma kits don’t rip easily like the Swiss ones in that game against France – four of the shirts had massive holes torn into them, prompting hilarious jokes about Swiss Cheese. Austria had been quietly fancied before these Euros, but it looks like they will be dropping out very soon.
Right, so Austria vs Hungary conjured up images of the old Habsburg Empire, and it was all, oh yeah. Back in the 1920s Austria had the ‘Wunderteam’ (which roughly means “wonder team”), but in the 1950s, Hungary truly were the wonder team. How they managed to not win the World Cup in 1954 is a mystery matched by Holland not winning it in 1974 or 1978. The team of Puskas, the Mighty Magyars, famously destroyed England at Wembley in 1953, dubbed the Match of the Century. They will always have a legendary history. In modern times Hungary have been decidedly more shit. Come on, they have. Which is why it’s so exciting that they are back in the big time now, and they’ve done alright so far, beating Austria, and managing a draw with, er, Iceland. The kit, classic colour combo, and an Adidas template which is two years old (tsk, living in the past). I had some great Hungarian friends when I was younger, back in London. Another friend of mine (who is English and an actor) goes to Budapest several times a year, as it’s a common place for TV and film production.
Now this really is a surprise. Iceland? The land of actual ice? They qualified ahead of the Netherlands. Holland! The Dutch! Iceland are I suppose our substitute for not having Scotland there, it’s kind of close enough. They have a fairly recent history of football, and some famed Icelanders have become Premier League stars (Eidur Gudjohnson, Gylfi Sigurdsson). Everyone loves Iceland (except Cristiano Ronaldo). Of course, I’ve liked them since they were called Bejam. Alright you won’t get that one if you’re not British. Basically there is a chain of food stores, predominantly frozen food, and they also sell fridges and freezers, and they are called Iceland; well they used to be called Bejam before changing their name. It was a bit like Snickers used to be Marathon. I actually spent a day delivering fridge-freezers for Iceland with my brother-in-law around Hampshire a couple of decades ago. None of this is relevant of course. The kit here is made by Italian company Errea, I always like their designs though this one is kind of okay. In years to come it will be an Icelandic classic. Will Iceland go through to round two? Probably. I hope so. Their away kit is very similar to the one worn by the Allied POW team from Escape to Victory. I hope their goalkeeper is better than Sylvester Stallone.
This is the age of the one-superstar-dominating-the-team. When I say that I don’t mean the 2010s, I mean the past century or so. For Sweden it is now Zlatan. For Portugal, who have always had a lot of great players, the main man is, well you know who it is. He has a great freekick record at major tournaments – 36 taken, none scored.He added to this in the recent 0-0 against Austria, even missing a penalty to boot. I imagine he is the sort of person to invite his friends over to watch him play video games, declining to let them actually play because it wouldn’t be fair, he’d just win against them. But whenever Messi calls and asks for a quick round of MarioKart he always pretends to be washing his hair (haha, “pretends”). Portugal won’t win it; maybe after he retires.The kit is alright, another Nike Vapor template, with the different colour socks thing Nike are playing with like they bloody invented it. The away kit is a garishly ugly greeny-teal colour I just can’t understand. Ok fine it’s “interesting”. It was probably his idea, you-know-who. No not Voldemort. I went to Portugal in 2011 for the urban sketching symposium and had a lovely time in Lisbon, eating sardines and drawing fire hydrants.
And that is all you get. This was possibly the most rambly post I have ever done so if you have made it this far, thanks for just scrolling to the end, now go back and actually read it properly please. There will be a test later. Anyway, back to the actual footy.