The World Cup is a festival of football, but it’s also a festival of colour, and each nation’s shirts are an individual way of representing their country. In recognition of this, They Think It’s All Over… has teamed up with the brilliant SoccerPro.com to bring you a review of one of the many kits on show in South Africa this summer – Brazil’s traditional blue away shirt. To find out the history behind the kit and whether it’s worth spending your money on, head over to the Reviews section.
When Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy aloft in 1966, he delighted a nation. England were World Champions on home soil, football had truly come home. But he also ensured that the simple red Umbro shirt that he and his teammates wore during the famous victory over Germany, that kit that saw Geoff Hurst score his unique hat-trick, would go down in history as perhaps the most legendary away shirt in football history.
World Cups make moments like these. But that red England top is not the only semi-legendary World Cup winning away shirt. The 1958 World Cup Final between Sweden and Brazil is one of the most legendary of all time: Brazil’s first ever World Cup win, the highest scoring Final ever and the match that saw Pele become the youngest ever Final goal scorer (with the delightful chip and volley) and World Cup Winner.
And yet the Brazilians were not wearing their customary yellow in this match, the sunshine colour that has come to be synonymous the world over with Brazil’s samba style of play. Because Sweden obviously also play in yellow and were drawn as the home team for the match, Brazil were forced to play the match in an alternate strip – although they had travelled to the game without one.
As such, they were forced to buy a set of blue shirts locally, to which they attached the Brazil emblems that they had cut from their yellow jerseys – not, it has to be said, the ideal preparation for a World Cup Final! However, the outcome of the game meant that the blue away shirt was adopted permanently by Brazil and has been fondly remembered by the country ever since, even if it has been outshone by its yellow brother in the history books.
Whether or not Brazil have another tournament to remember in South Africa and whether or not they create another legendary World Cup moment wearing their blue shirts, Nike have stuck with the tradition established in 1958 and provided Brazil with a classic blue away shirt (and, for the real fan, a full range of Brazil World Cup Apparel) – and I have to say, they’ve done so in style.
As with any shirt that has the weight of history behind it, the design of this shirt must have posed a conundrum to Nike’s designers: how to remain faithful to the plain blue with yellow trim of previous designs while also freshening it up a little, giving fans something a little new and exciting to wear, and to differentiate it from its forbears. Their conclusion: spots.
Surprisingly, it works. They were sensible enough to go with subtle spots, and even though the rows are narrower around the chest than on the lower stomach region – which threatens to make the fabric appear stretched and thus infer a beer-belly on the unwary wearer – thus reducing the overall consistency of the shirt and threatening to make it a bit too nineties-jazzy, they’ve pulled it off.
It makes an otherwise very plain shirt, with just a yellow collar and a single, slim yellow stripe down the sleeves, stand out a bit. The expanse of gorgeous royal blue would seem altogether too much like an Italian jersey (thankfully without Puma’s preposterous detailing) without them, and the slightly eccentric, outgoing spots really actually do convey a sense of the extravagance we associate with Brazilian football.
The little touches on the shirt are well done too. The collar is almost a simple round neck, but just has a little straighter section in front so it isn’t too tight-necked, while the stripe along the sleeves features reversed blue spots and the left one is finished with five subtle stars, representing of course, Brazil’s five World Cup victories.
The only small qualm I would suggest when it comes to the styling is the decision to embroider the Nike swoosh and the five stars arced over the badge in white. I would have thought yellow would be more in-keeping with the overall design, but I suppose their decision was justified by the yellow spots which background them creating a possible clash and the white cross on the badge working to tie the colour in.
It’s not all about style for Nike these days though – they have become the first football kit manufacturer to jump aboard the environmental bandwagon with this shirt a part of their whole range of 2010 international kits that are manufactured from recycled plastic. This helps to save both the raw materials and the energy consumption involved in kit manufacture; it’s not very exciting, but Nike reckon it’s a big deal:
To make the 2010 national team kits, Nike’s fabric suppliers sourced discarded plastic bottles from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites and then melted them down to produce new yarn that was ultimately converted to fabric for the jerseys. This process saves raw materials and reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent compared to manufacturing virgin polyester. By using recycled polyester for its new range of national jerseys, Nike prevented nearly 13 million plastic bottles, totalling nearly 254,000 kg of polyester waste, from going into landfill sites. This amount would be enough to cover more than 29 football pitches. If the recycled bottles used to make the jerseys were laid end-to-end they would cover more than 3,000 kilometres, which is more than the entire coastline of South Africa. – Nike Press Release.
Of course, the idea of rattling round in a shirt made from old coke bottles isn’t a thrilling one, but I am happy to report that the cut-price and environmentally friendly raw materials don’t seem to have affected the quality of the end product at all. In fact, the shirt feels not only incredibly light but also lovely and soft, with a sort of weave texture that sits really nicely against the skin.
I suspect this texture also plays a part in the ‘dri-fit’ technology that Nike assures us the shirt is imbued with, which is supposed to draw sweat away from the skin to keep players dry and comfortable, something my test runs so far haven’t been intense enough to verify (being an Englishman, even touching the shirt feels treacherous during World Cup time!).
The underarm panels are of a very loose mesh design too which lends the shirt great ventilation and overall it really feels like a quality piece of kit. The stitching is tidy and tough, the fabric feels extremely durable and the “Brasil” and Nike swoosh emblems are embroidered rather than stuck on which is always a welcome touch, although Nike have also insisted on some excess details on the bottom of the shirt – an authentication panel and the words “dri-fit” which always seems an unnecessary flourish to me.
Nike haven’t made such a fuss about their tailored fit as Umbro tend to of late, but the shirt fits nicely and is extremely comfortable. As mentioned earlier, the collar is neither too loose nor too tight and my medium fits well, it’s not baggy at all so there is no excess material flapping about but neither is it a muscle top like some of Adidas’ current range of World Cup Jerseys. The sleeves too strike a happy medium, not too long but not restrictively short either.
Finally, the sleeve stripe is of some sort of rubbery make up, which is incredibly flexible and doesn’t affect the way the shirt sits at all. I’ve found that sleeves with stripes that are embroidered onto the sleeve – such as all Adidas kits – can suffer in terms of comfort, with the sleeve splitting almost into panels that don’t sit smoothly on the shoulder. Call me finicky if you please, but this shirt is more comfortable for this decision.
In short then, this is a shirt that if I were a Brazil fan I would be proud to wear. The design mixes classic with contemporary in an elegant way and is extremely comfortable and, just as importantly for the players on the pitch, it comes with all the bells and whistles of modern shirt design. There’s no way that Brazil could pull a Manchester United and blame the kit for any defeats they suffer in South Africa (though they won’t need to, with everyone so keen to blame the World Cup Ball).
Whether this shirt will go down in history alongside its ancestor as one of the all time classic away strips, I can’t say. Ultimately, it won’t matter what colour shirt the Brazilians are wearing, it comes down to how well they play on the day, but for the legions of Brazilian fans all over the world, this new version of the iconic blue Brazil shirt provides a great alternative to those whose complexions don’t suit the traditional sunshine yellow.
And if the Brazilians do seal a sixth World Cup win in Jo’Burg wearing this shirt, well… it will look almost as good in the history books as Bobby Moore’s red one. For this patriotic reviewer, the Three Lions are the ultimate seal of quality, but as far as rival shirts go, you can’t look far past this Brazilian effort.
My sincerest thanks to the great team at SoccerPro.com for providing the review copy of this jersey.