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Jul 12, 2005

10 of the worst...football kits

When compiling any chronicle of the abhorrent kits that have tarnished the development of the football strip through the years it seems impossible not to mention the horror show of the 1980's and early 90's.

But because the internet was still emerging from US military bunkers back then, and we are here to chart the ten years that have coincided with Soccernet's illustrious existence, a cursory mention is all they'll get.

Instead we shall plumb the depths of the last decade to dig up the abominable, embarrassing and boundary-pushing fashion faux pas that stake a claim to a unique place in history.

Below is a final selection, from which you will no doubt differ, that have made their indelible mark on the last decade.

We kick off our collection with this beauty...


1995 - Chelsea

Despite wearing this delightful 'graphite and tangerine' strip for two seasons between 1994 and 1996 Chelsea still managed to attract some of Europe's top stars, including Mark Hughes and Ruud Gullit (pictured).

This was well before billionaire owner Roman Abramovich developed a taste for club ownership and could simply throw ever increasing amounts of cash at his players to overcome such obstacles.

Dutch legend Gullit, who had previously worn the unmistakable red and black of AC Milan, actually had to make his debut clad in such a design - it must have been difficult to play any sexy football in that.

I very much doubt new Chelsea sponsors Samsung would have paid £50million to have their name displayed on such an eye-watering kit.


1996 - Manchester United

In 1996, football shirts were increasingly being tailored towards high street fashions and, as usual, Manchester United were at the head of the pack in merchandising.

The Red Devils produced a grey number that was designed to look great with jeans and other such apparel. Unfortunately for United it also provided perfect camouflage at The Dell - or so manager Alex Ferguson would have you believe.

He suggested that Manchester United's 3-1 defeat against Southampton was not in fact due to the Saints' skill and endeavor - but down to the inability of his players to pick each other out in the new grey strip.

Trailing 3-0 at the break United pulled one back in a changed strip, but Fergie's excuse is still one of the best ever made. The 'invisible' shirt has become the stuff of legend.

They Think It's All Over presenter Nick Hancock quipped: 'According to Ferguson, grey things are invisible. Apparently it's just total luck that planes manage to find aircraft carriers in the middle of the ocean.'


1997 - Juventus

They say that on the continent Europeans are very liberal minded, but one has to draw the line somewhere and a pink football strip is going a step too far.

In 1997, amongst other years, Juventus decided it would be a great idea to ditch their iconic black and white strip and make their stars prance around in this delightfully effeminate offering.

However, history does defend the decision. When the club started in 1899, Juventus played in pink shirts. Only in 1903 did they replace them.

The club asked one of its team members, Englishman John Savage, if he had any contacts in England who could supply new shirts. His contact, a Notts County fan, shipped out the Magpies' black and white shirts to Turin.

Juve have worn the striped shirts ever since and have become known as the Bianconeri (white and black) - a much more masculine nickname than Colore Rosa (pink).


1998 - Mexico, Campos

Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos was famous for four things: He was short, a good goalkeeper, fancied himself as an outfield player and, most famously, designed his own kits (an example of which we will see later).

The strips he designed were so flamboyant that at World Cup France 1998 the opposition complained that he chose multi-colored outfits to blend into the crowd and he was forced to wear Mexico's regulation outfield strip.

Fortunately the kit was still memorable enough for him to wear. Whether that is a compliment or an insult is up for debate.

What isn't up for debate is that the Aztec design that adorned the front of the Mexican national shirt looked much better in the famous temples of Tenochtitlan rather than the Parc de Princes.

Still, that wasn't the diminutive keeper's worst effort.


1999 - Campos

At the 1999 Copa America, against Peru, Campos revealed his piece de resistance. An eye-searing kit even by the goalkeeper's own bilious standards.

The day-glo yellow and purple ensemble with huge polka dots didn't stop him being a decent keeper but it did mean his opponents couldn't shoot straight after being blinded by a luminous domino between the posts.

So famous did his creations become that in 2001 the world's best selling football computer game, EA Sports' FIFA Football, produced a patch specifically to allow players to add Campos' most popular kits into the game.

His inspiration for his designs came from surfing in Acapulco and horseback riding - which doesn't come as a surprise as the pint-sized keeper wouldn't look out of place at a race meeting in a jockey's silks.


2000 - Sheffield Wednesday

Unlike the walking billboards in South America In the UK shirt sponsorship is exclusive and clubs and companies have struck some clever deals. Skint records sponsored Brighton and Hove Albion when they faced financial ruin, Newcastle Brown Ale sponsored Newcastle United for many years and so on and so on.

But when clubs are feeling the pinch they have take whatever lolly is on offer and in 2000 Sheffield Wednesday, who had graced the top-flight before getting licked the previous season, had to stick the distinctively embarrasing pink and yellow Chupa-Chups logo on their shirts to keep the bank manager sweet.

In their first choice blue and white striped kit they looked like suckers, the logo dominated the away strip but on their green third kit it looked particularly distasteful.

Not that I have anything against the most popular lollipops in Europe (now sugar free you know) but it certainly provided enough ammunition for opposing fans to fire at 'Chupa Chups United'.

Yet despite being a contender for the most embarrassing sponsor ever, striker Lloyd Owusu made the most of it. His pre-match serial vomiting has been attributed to a surfeit of lollipops.


2001 - Italy

If you are an athletic, bronzed Italian it is possibly not such a bad idea to show off your physique in a tight fitting lycra kit and that is exactly what the national team's shirt sponsor Kappa decided to do.

They supplied the Azzurri with a skin tight Supplex fabric technology that certainly got people talking and provided the company with more than enough column inches, but Kappa overlooked one important thing.

While lycra might look good adorning an Adonis it does not look good on the average football fan, who has not been at the peak of physical fitness for his entire working life and may have had one pie too many over the years.

And when the likes of Wales and Tottenham adopt similar strips and the amount of ill-fitting jerseys increases in the high street it reminds Joe Public that some things should remain unseen.


2002 - Cameroon

Not to be out done by Kappa and the Italians, Puma and Cameroon combined to push the boundaries of taste further and provided the Indomitable Lions with sleeveless figure-hugging green vests.

They proved good enough for Cameroon to defend the African Nations Cup but when it came to the World Cup FIFA deemed them illegal and ordered them to add sleeves.

Puma reluctantly added virtually invisible black sleeves and then, possibly in a fit of pique, decided to further develop the vest and further test FIFA's patience.

First they added 'lion claw tears' on each side of the vest, along with oblique muscles, then capped it all by producing a controversial one-piece strip, branded a 'UniQT'.

Cameroon were warned not to wear the singlet in the African Nations knock-out phases but went ahead anyway. As a result, FIFA's fashion police deducted six points from the Lions' World Cup qualifying campaign and that was the end of that.


2003 - Teutschenthal

When FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter suggested that womens' football could promote 'a more female aesthetic' if the players wore tighter and skimpier uniforms he was heavily criticized and branded a sexist.

So in 2003 Blatter must have been perplexed when FC Teutschenthal, a women's team in the German town of Halle, decided to don football kits recommending that their fans visit the local brothel, a business reliant on the 'female aesthetic'.

The slogan 'X-Carree: Always Worth a Visit', was emblazoned across the player's chests after the brothel, owned by a local estate agent, agreed to pay for the Teutschenthal women's new grey and red kits.

'The women have no problem with it,' Andreas Dittmann, coach to the 23-strong team of amateurs, said.

There is also no problem with it in Australia where Heidelberg United were sponsored by a knocking shop but when UK side Chester-le-Street Ladies attempted to plaster 'No bollX' on their tops they were given the red light.


2004 - Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao may play in the Spanish league but they are a fiercely Basque club, who only employ Basque players - no foreigners, no other players from Spain - and see the club as a symbol for a free and independent Basque country.

During the club's centenary celebrations, president Jose Maria Arrate explained: 'Athletic Bilbao is more than a football club, it is a feeling. And as such its ways of operating often escape rational analysis.'

And the football shirt that famous local artist Dario Urzay designed to mark the club's 100th birthday certainly escaped rational analysis.

Inspired by pictures at the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum Urzay interpreted Athletic's usual red and white stripes into some kind of blood splatter. It is a perfect example of why art should never make it onto a football shirt.

Fortunately the club only emerged clad in their artistic offering during the club's mercifully short UEFA Cup campaign and then consigned the shirt to a museum (the Dali Museum) where it certainly belongs.


2005 - Werder Bremen

The youth of today are responsible for many things and up there with the worst of them is the addition of a hideous orange hue, officially mandarin, to Werder Bremen's traditional green and white strip.

The club's old sponsor Young Spirit provided clothing for the 'younger' generation and wanted to add the vibrant colour to the club's strip to appeal to its target audience. But then something really terrible happened.

Following the temporary addition of the orange the Bundesliga club went on to win the double and subsequently adopted the motto: 'Never change the winning colours'.

Consequently shirt manufacturers Kappa produced a brand new Papageizwei (parrot two) strip for the 2005-6 season as the successor to the double-winning green shirts with orange arms.

The orange is here to stay and it just shows how a simple joke can turn into a disaster. It reminds one of the old saying 'If the wind changes it will stay like that'. Werder have been stuck with a monstrosity.

  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.