Tag Archives: genoa

Nike disappoints purist fans of Arsenal and Barça, but the players seem happy

William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott model
the new Arsenal home shirt in an online Nike ad.

It’s that time of year again. The season is over, players are on the beach, transfer sagas are drawn out, and the sports newspapers are filled with pages of talk, speculation, rumour and very little football. It’s the one moment in the calendar where people like me (and if you’re reading this probably you also) can devote a little time to something other than football. But any true fan knows there is always something to keep his interest alive during the close season. In my case, it’s the excitement and anticipation which can only be caused by the unveiling of the big clubs’ new kits. There is always that hope that every shirt will revert to a classic design, but sadly in reality only rarely do kits adhere closely to those that grace the hallowed turfs of my football fantasies.

Arsenal recently unveiled their new 2008-09 home strip, sparking a fresh controversy amongst some of the North London club’s most purist supporters. In an unexpected break with tradition, manufacturers Nike have ditched Arsenal’s famous white sleeves — which the Gunners have worn since former manager Herbert Chapman introduced the design in the 1930s — instead opting for a somewhat nondescript red shirt with a white sleeve stripe. Ardent Gunner fans say the new look removes all of Arsenal’s visual individuality, making them look like half the other teams in the world. Arsenal will wear the shirt for home games until 2010.

Thierry Henry celebrates a goal during Arsenal’s last ever game at Highbury against Wigan Athletic. The Gunners wore a “redcurrant” home strip for the entire 2005-06 season.

The only previous drastic modification to Arsenal’s home strip came in the 2005-06 season, when a shirt based on a 1913 design was worn to commemorate the Gunners’ last season at Highbury. The club officially described the kit’s colour as “redcurrant”, with reference to the darker strip Arsenal wore in its early years. I actually liked this shirt — even if it had nothing to do with any Arsenal team I’d seen before or since.

For the 2006-07 season, the first at their new stadium, Arsenal reverted to a classic traditional strip, as worn here by Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp.

One player who is not concerned about these alterations is Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who has admitted turning down offers from Real Madrid and Barcelona to stay at the Emirates Stadium. “I get excited about a new kit and really like trying on new shirts,” says the newly-crowned European champion. “It makes you start looking forward to the new season.” It may be worth mentioning that Nike is one of Fabregas’ personal sponsors. Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott is also unconcerned: “It’s a great design,” says the 19 year-old. “It feels good on, it’s really comfortable, and I’m looking forward to wearing it next season.”

Nike posters feature Bojan Krkic and Carles Puyol in the latest
Barça home and away styles for 2008-09.

I wonder what the Catalan Fabregas would make of Barcelona’s new strip. The La Liga giants are also kitted out by Nike, and this year’s home shirts have also upset their fiercely traditionalist contingent. After almost a century of stripes, for the 2008-09 season Barça’s famous blaugrana will be worn as halves. This is not the club’s first recent alteration to their classic look: Barcelona memorably reverted to red-and-blue halves with navy sleeves and shorts for their centenary season in 1999 — a shirt that proved extremely popular with fans around the world. Sadly, this season’s new shirts have none of the centenary kit’s unique details, instead they look like a quickly knocked off alternative to last season’s strip, and make the mighty Barça look a lot like Genoa or Cagliari.

Rivaldo and Luis Figo during the 1999 centenary season, the last time Barcelona wore halves; Ronaldinho sports Barça’s Champions League-winning strip: note the narrower stripes and red shorts.

Barcelona have worn their usual wide stripes in the last two seasons — a welcome return following the narrow stripes and red shorts combination of 2005-06. For anyone with a sense of the club’s kit tradition this strip was quite a departure, although it didn’t affect the side: Barcelona won the Champions League that year, beating Arsenal in the final. In 2007 Barcelona — the last major team in Europe never to wear a sponsor — secured a deal with the charity organization Unicef, whose logo now appears on the front of their shirts. At least Barcelona will look the part away from the Nou Camp: recent dalliances with orange and turquoise have given way to a new second strip based on the classic yellow shirts of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Diego Maradona leads out Barcelona in yellow at Old Trafford, March 1984; Barça coach Terry “El Tel” Venables (far right) presents new signing Steve Archibald (in classic blaugrana strip) to the Nou Camp, August 1984.

Advertisements

Donadoni exits and Lippi returns, as Italy look back to the future

A fan at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport attempts to lift Roberto Donadoni’s spirits, as Italy return defeated from Euro 2008.

ROME — Four days after Italy’s exit from Euro 2008, the country’s football federation, the FIGC, yesterday announced the termination of Roberto Donadoni’s contract as the national team’s head coach. He will be replaced by Marcello Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup victory in Germany in 2006. Donadoni’s contract contained a clause stating it would only be renewed should Italy reach the Euro 2008 semi-finals — the Azzurri fell at the quarter-final stage, losing on penalties to Spain, leaving federation president Giancarlo Abete with no alternative. “I’m sorry this situation should be determined by a penalty,” said Donadoni as he left the FIGC headquarters in Rome. “But one match can’t erase the positive progress my Italy has made in these two years.” Abete had even approached Donadoni on the eve of the tournament to offer a healthy compensation package should Italy fail, which the former Livorno and Genoa coach refused to accept: “It’s not a question of money,” he said.

Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas made saves from Daniele De Rossi (top) and Antonio Di Natale (above), as Italy crashed out of the Euro 2008 quarter-final after a penalty shoot-out.

I’ve always felt a tad sorry for Donadoni — after all, this is the man who missed a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Argentina at Italia ’90. Years later, after appearing in the World Cup final at USA ’94, and following the conclusion of an illustrious playing career with Milan (with a brief parenthesis at New York Metrostars), he took lowly Livorno to the upper echelons of Serie A, only to be fired by the team’s petulant president, Aldo Spinelli, for “lack of coaching experience.” Donadoni certainly did lack big club experience when he took over the national side in August 2006. With the euphoria surrounding Italy’s World Cup win still in the air, it was always going to be a challenge for Donadoni to assert his own identity on the newly-crowned world champions, and he suffered criticism throughout his reign as coach for sticking by too many of Italy’s aging World Cup winners. Lippi’s shadow loomed over Donadoni, right until the end.

The decision to recall Lippi is certainly a strange one, though perhaps typically conservative of the FIGC, as Italy looks to the past in the search for future glory. The term “minestra riscaldata” or “warmed-up soup” is used in Italian football to unfavourably describe the choice to bring back a former coach or player. It was first coined in the mid-1990s, when both Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello each suffered sorry second spells as coaches at Milan. Now fans and journalists alike must be fearing the same fate for Lippi. His decision to return to a team which he left in the most triumphant manner possible baffles me. The chances of Italy winning the next World Cup in South Africa are naturally slim, and failure to repeat the success of 2006 will, inevitably, forever tarnish Lippi’s carefully cultivated image as cigar-chomping world champion. But the 60 year-old claims he has turned down multiple offers from top clubs and national sides in the last two years, and is movitated by his so-called “debt to the federation” (a possible allusion to the effects of calciopoli on his original decision to quit).

Marcello Lippi puffs contently after leading Italy to World Cup glory in Berlin, 2006.

Lippi arrived at his first press conference as coach, fresh from the beach of his hometown of Viareggio, looking tanned and ready to “pick up where he left off.” He immediately played down talks of him trying to convince Francesco Totti and Alessandro Nesta out of international retirement (“We have to respect people’s decisions”) but said he would consider “all Italian players from 18 to 40. Even Cassano.”

One player who will not be thrilled to learn of Lippi’s return is Roma defender Christian Panucci. The pair feuded together at Inter in 1999, and Panucci was deliberately left out of all Lippi’s subsequent Italy squads. Panucci returned to the international fold under Donadoni, and at 35, became the second oldest goalscorer* in a European Championship, tapping in the equalizer (below) in Italy’s 1-1 draw with Romania at Euro 2008.

*Panucci would have been the oldest, had Austria’s Ivica Vastic, 38, not scored against Poland the previous day!

For Italy defender Christian Panucci, Azzurri joy was short-lived.