Go back a decade or four or even further, it’s easy to see that football is choc – a – bloc with eye catching kits. Let’s be honest there’s been a few disasters when it comes to football kit designs but this article is all about my own favourite international kits in my own fanboy career as it were. I’m going to approach it in Top of the Pops style in reverse order, think Sunday evenings listening to the charts on Radio 1 and you’ll get the idea.
10. East Germany Away 1988
The blue away shirt of East Germany was a cool shirt, a nice simple design for one of the more interesting footballing nations of Europe. Adidas supplied the East Germans with the kit, white for home, blue for away. The blue one gets my vote, a German team playing in blue after the world was very used to seeing West Germany in white for decades, not massively interesting but interesting nonetheless. The team badge had the red, black and yellow of the East German flag together with the sea faring merchant compass of the flag of East Germany. Of course with the reunification of Germany the compass disappeared, as did East Germany on the football pitch. Unlike its much more successful western neighbour East Germany failed to pick up any trophies of significance. That’s not to say the East Germans didn’t have it highlights, because they most certainly did. One of those highlights was topping Group One in the opening phase of the 1974 World Cup, where in their final group game East Germany beat their more illustrious neighbours and tournament hosts West Germany 1 – 0 in Hamburg. East German clubs saw some success in European competition too. Magdeburg won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1974 when they beat Italy’s AC Milan 2 – 0 in Rotterdam and Carl Zeiss Jena and Lokomotive Leipzig were runners up in the same competition in the years 1981 and 1987 respectively.
9. Honduras 1982
Honduras qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1982. Their shirt for that tournament was a smart one, all white with blue stripes on the sleeves, the blue Adidas logo and the blue Honduran team badge to the right of the Adidas logo. It was quite plain as shirts go but with the traditional polar neck and the touches of colour here and there gave the shirt an attractive look. They had qualified for their first ever world cup by winning the 1981 Central American CONCACAF Championship, finishing top of the group on ten points, two points ahead of El Salvador. In Spain the Hondurans were seen as one of the “minnows”, one of the teams expecting to go out in the opening rounds. Honduras, then managed by José de la Paz Herrera, were indeed one of the teams knocked out of the tournament in the opening group phase, but it’s unfair to suggest they let themselves down. Their opening game at Spain ’82 was against the host nation, the hosts hot favorites to start the tournament on a winning note. The Spanish would end the game disappointed to say the least. The game finished in a 1 – 1 draw at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium, in those days known as the Estadio Luiz Casanova stadium. The Honduran equalizing goal was scored by Héctor Zelaya of Spanish club Deportivo de La Coruña. Their next game brought another 1 – 1 score line, this time against Billy Bingham’s Northern Ireland in Zaragoza. The third game for the Hondurans was against the much fancied Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs scraped a narrow 1 – 0 victory courtesy of a goal from Vladimir Petrović of Red Star Belgrade. With only two points from the opening phase the Hondurans were going home, however drawing two games with 2 teams who were expecting to beat Honduras, José de la Paz Herrera’s team did reasonably well given the circumstances.
8. The Netherlands 1974 – 1978
The Dutch orange shirts with the black details of the stripes down the sleeve and the team badge made this shirt probably the most recognizable during the 1970’s in world football. Orange probably isn’t the first colour when you think a colour that makes an eye catching football shirt. However, the Dutch shirt of the 1970’s was something else, not only did a great team wear it but the orange and black complemented each other really well, it was snazzy shirt. Plenty of world class players wore that shirt, the list is long. Johan Cruyff, the van der Kerkhoff brothers René and Willie, Rudi Krol, Johnny Rep, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan, Robbie Rensenbrink and Wim Jansen to name a few. In the 1970’s the Dutch made it to two world cup finals yet failed to lift the trophy, but don’t let that cloud your opinion. It was the team that invented “total football” and was managed by two of the greats of world football, Rinus Michels and Ernst Happel. Rinus Michels was a native of Amsterdam and played his club football with Ajax Amsterdam, the team he supported as a boy. He would go on to have a colourful managerial career winning major silverware with Ajax and Spanish club Barcelona as well as German club FC Cologne. Michels would return to the Dutch managerial hot seat in the late 1980’s to guide the Dutch national team to its first major trophy, the European Championship cup of 1988. Ernst Happel was born in Vienna in Austria, he won a clutch of silverware in the Austrian game with Rapid Vienna, however it was when he turned his eye to a managerial career that the world sat up and took notice. He won the league title in no less than five European countries as well as a barrel full of European silverware.
7. Belgium 1980
The Belgium shirt of 1980 looked the muts nuts. By all intents and purposes the Belgian kit has always been the Belgian flag, consisting of the three colours of red, black and yellow. The shade of red was a little on the dark side and it was complimented by yellow stripes on the sleeves, the shorts were black with yellow stripes. The Belgian national team came to prominence during the European Championships of 1980, virtually coming from nowhere to reach the final. They were then managed by Guy Thys, a native of Antwerp. Thys first played his club football for his local club Beerschot in Antwerp, before moving on to Club Molenbeek, Standard Liège where he won the Belgian Cup in 1954 and Cercle Brugge. Thys is most famous for brining Belgium in from the international wilderness, which is did at Euro 1980. The Belgians were drawn into Group B alongside England, Spain and host nation Italy. They drew their first game with England 1 – 1 at the Stadio Comunale in Turin; in their second game at Milan’s San Siro they defeated Spain 2 – 1. In their final group game they drew with the hosts Italy 1 – 1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. That meant they topped the Group with four points. In the final they succumbed to West Germany by the score of 2 – 1. No one was expecting the Belgians to do anything in Italy.
"In the final, we were very happy just to be there for the first time. We worked hard for our success, our money and our family. We played as a team, and not as individuals. We had lots of heart - that was important. We were a little bit like Denmark, who won the tournament 12 years later. We certainly did not expect to get to the final. We achieved it by working for success, team spirit and the country's identification. When we got back to Belgium, we realised everyone in the country was happy." Jean-Marie Pfaff, Belgium Goalkeeper.
6. West Germany 1982
The West German shirt of 1982 was the epitome of two tone cool. The white shirt with black details on it, stripes and the Adidas logo and collar made for a classy looking shirt. Not surprisingly the West German team of the early 1980’s was a formidable one. In its ranks it had the best player in the world at the time, Karl Heinz Rummenigge. The West German squad, managed by Jupp Derwall, was full of class players and had a few household names, the players were well known. Apart from Rummenigge there was Manny Kaltz, Hansi Müller, goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, Felix Magath, Uli Stielike and Pierre Littbarski. In Spain West Germany were drawn into Group Two along with Algeria, Chile and neighbours Austria. Their first game in Spain gave the tournaments its biggest upset when the Algerians took all the points with a 2 – 1 victory at the El Molinón stadium in Gijón. The West Germans finally turned up in their next match against Chile in the same stadium a few days later running out 4 – 1 winners over the South Americans, a score line which saw team captain Karl Heinz Rummenigge score a hat trick. Their final match against Austria has gone down in history as the disgrace of Gijón. Their game with next door neighbours Austria was the last game in the group and as results went it meant that if West Germany beat the Austrians by just the one goal or two only, then it would be themselves and Austria going through to the next phase, Algeria would be going home. The game finished 1 – 0 to West Germany, it was game which saw both teams playing the game as if it was friendly with little effort shown, of course the West Germans were playing in a slow gear with hardly any shots on goal to ensure their neighbours Austria would go through to the next round at the expense of Algeria. West Germany’s path to the semifinal came about from Derwall’s team finishing top of Group B in the Second Round after a 0 – 0 draw with England a 2 – 1 win over host nation Spain. In the semifinal France awaited them at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in Seville. This match would go down in history as one of the most entertaining and edge of the seat games in World Cup history. The game had everything, heroes, villains, heated exchanges between the players, box to box action and goals. The match had to go into extra time and as that extra time came to an end the score was 3 – 3, penalties would be needed, thankfully for the West Germans they came out on top. In the final they met Italy who had defeated Brazil in the other semifinal, the final ended 3 – 1 for the Italians with all the goals coming in the second half.
5. Peru 1978
I really liked the Peru shirt from the world cup of 1978, obviously for me it was the red diagonal stripe down the front of the shirt that did it for me. Those kind of bold shirt designs were a bit thin on the floor in those days. I don’t remember it well; I was only a very little kid so memories are a bit vague to say the least. The rest of Peru’s kit consisted of red shorts; the kit was supplied by Adidas so it was quite smart with the red stripes complimenting the white kit really well. Peru did well in the early stages of Argentina ’78, finishing top of Group 4 ahead of Scotland, Iran and eventual finalists The Netherlands. However, reality caught up with the unfancied team when they finished up bottom of Group B in the second phase; still, it was a nice shirt.
4. Norway 1983
The Norwegian shirt of 1983 is another favourite of mine. Norway first played at the World Cup in 1938 after that they would have to wait until USA ‘94 until they made it to another World Cup finals. As far as the European Championships are concerned the Norwegians only appearance at the tournament was back in 2000 which took place in Belgium and The Netherlands. Back in the early 1980’s Norway was just beginning to announce itself on the world stage, that famous 2 – 1 win against England at the Ullevaal stadium in Oslo in 1981. That 1983 shirt was noted for having the arrow design going down the sleeves, a design detail shared with the Danish national football shirt of the 1980’s. 1983 was a busy year for the Norwegian national team playing almost twenty games! Norway’s most well-known players in those days included Ejner Rahbek and Frank Klausen.
3. Northern Ireland 1982
The Northern Ireland shirt of World Cup 1982 is another favourite. It was the just the right shade of green, not too light, not too dark, just right as Goldilocks would say. Green shirts are not the easiest shirts to get right, too pale or a feeble design like that Liverpool shirt of the 1990’s and it doesn’t look so good and that’s being polite. However that Northern Ireland Adidas shirt of Spain ’82 was just right. That Northern Ireland team in Spain that was managed by Billy Bingham certainly made their mark in that particular World Cup tournament. Norman Whiteside became the youngest player to play in a World Cup finals. They topped their Group in the opening phase with the host nation Spain coming second to Bingham’s men. Many of that Northern Ireland team, pretty much unknown before the tournament, became household names due to their exploits in Spain. The young Whiteside went on to achieve great things with Manchester United and Gerry Armstrong was bought by Spanish club Real Mallorca after the World Cup.
2. Wales 1976 – 1979
The red Welsh kit of the late 1970’s with the yellow and green tramlines down the front of the shirt that continued onto the shorts was a pleasing eye catching design, it’s true that the Welsh national weren’t the first team to wear that design but it certainly became Admiral’s most memorable tramline design, that’s if you out aside Coventry City’s awful brown Admiral tramline kit of the 1970’s!! Sadly for the Welsh team back then they failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup after finishing bottom of their three team UEFA qualifying group which also featured Scotland and Czechoslovakia. After losing narrowly to Scotland 1 – 0 at Hampden Park in the November of 1976 they enjoyed a good victory 3 – 0 victory over the much respected Czech team, the goals scored by Leighton James of Derby County who scored himself a brace and Nick Deacy of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. However, the Welsh lost their final group game 1 – 0 to Scotland at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, the Scottish goals scored by Don Masson of Derby County and Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool. It’s true that the Welsh side had no luck qualifying for anything back then but that’s not to say it didn’t have its share of decent players. Players such as Terry Yorath, Micky Thomas, Brian Flynn and John Toshack were all household names and respected names in the game.
1. England 1974 – 1980
When it comes to International shirts my all-time favourite is the England shirt that was worn from 1974 to 1980. It was vee neck collared shirt with red and blue stripes down the sleeves. Even though English clubs in the 1970’s enjoyed European success, the England team of the 1970’s failed to reach any tournament be it the World Cup or European Championship. It’s a bit of a puzzle to work out why this was; it could have been bad management or just bad luck. I tend to think the English FA had to shoulder much of the blame. Brian Clough should have been made England manager, Don Revie whilst successful at Leeds United brought absolutely nothing to the international stage. England didn’t begin to make regular appearances at tournaments until Ron Greenwood was appointed manager. This was the shirt that Gordon Hill made his England debut in; it was also the shirt that Kevin Keegan, Steve Coppell and Stuart Pearson came to international prominence. It was either the Christmas of 1977 or 1978 that as a small kid I got this kit for Christmas. I was made up, I had been mithering my parents for this kit for ages. It fit well, just the right size, but it was made out of aertex, a form of nylon that many football kits were manufactured from back then; the downside was it was quite uncomfortable to put on and take off, it felt as though my nine year old arms and shoulders were being ripped to shreds, I still loved it though.
Richard Fenton. May 2016.