The World Cup sees a confluence of the greatest footballing talent on the planet. However, with great football comes great fashion sense. Not. In the initial years (till about 1990, in fact), football kits were a relatively straightforward away with single colours, embellished perhaps with the odd stripe here and there. However, as the sport got more television-friendly (and selling official kits became big business), jerseys and shorts began to change from tournament to tournament, and even had elaborate launches. While this made team kits more elaborate, they did not make them necessarily better – the results of fashion’s mingling with football ranged from the routine to brilliant to bizarre. And while fans lapped up replica jerseys, viewers sometimes were left fiddling with the TV remote controls to protect their eyes.
So as the World Cup gets underway and team kits are unveiled, it is worth casting a glance back at seven team uniforms that had caught the eye but for the wrong reasons:
Mexico (1998): Aztec faces on Green
Mexico generally play in green. And it used to be a rather plain green until 1998, when the designer decided to thoroughly illustrate it with what seemed to be Aztec faces and symbols. It was all a total mishmash and we are sure dazed the opponents.
South Africa (1998): Attack of the lines
One does expect the unexpected from African teams, the bright greens of Cameroon were catchy, we frankly did not know which colour best reflected the South Africans. Yes, the jerseys were predominantly white but on them were sets of utterly mismatched lines in yellow and green – one sleeve had stripes, the other was plain. And there was also underarm netting! Whatever.
Scotland (1986): Those shorts make kilts look sensible
The Scots came to the 1986 World Cup full of hope and promise. But by the time they departed (in the first round again, alas – they have never gone beyond that), on the heels of defeats by Germany and Denmark, the most lasting memory of the Scottish team was of the shorts that were not just white and tight, but also had a horizontal dark blue line running right across the middle. It was decidedly eccentric.
Spain (1994): Those zigs that zagged on the side
Spain have generally been straight forward in matters of footy dressing – a red jersey with a touch of yellow sometimes and dark shorts. But at the 2002 World Cup, they decided to spice matters up. Yes, the jersey remained predominantly red but crossing vertically from its right shoulder were what could only be termed as a very odd set of zigzag patterns in black and yellow. The shorts remained dark but on their left side were the same prints only in yellow and red.
Cameroon (2014): Indomitable lions, indecipherable jerseys
As if the combination of skin tight green jerseys, red shorts and red/yellow socks was not striking enough, the Cameroon side in the 2014 World Cup also had a weird design on their jerseys which was visible only if you peered really closely at them. The indomitable lions, as they are known, however, did not really set the tournament on fire with their performance, but at least their kit was unforgettable.
Nigeria (1994): That a faded crossword or a curtain?
Their green jersey seemed pretty routine and straightforward. But the team also had a white variant which was frankly confusing. The jersey was predominantly white, but had slightly grey square block patterns on it which were very difficult to make sense of. It looked a lot like a faded crossword puzzle or a curtain that had spent too much time in the sun. The Nigerians, however, were one of the teams of the tournament so not too many minded.
Brazil (1958): Brazil not in yellow?
Mention Brazil, and the first colour that will come to the minds of most football fans will be the traditional yellow jersey that is synonymous with them. However, what not too many know is that Brazil used to play in white until their shock defeat in the 1950 World Cup final made the federation change the jersey to yellow in 1953. However, when the team reached the final of the 1958 World Cup, they ended up facing the hosts Sweden, who also wore yellow. The Brazilians literally sent team members scurrying into the market at Stockholm to get a darker shade, and ended up wearing blue! The spectators were surprised, and it remains the oddest colour worn by the team in its five World Cup triumphs!