Tag Archives: thierry henry

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.

Domenech proposes, and keeps his job

Raymond Domenech looks to the heavens — even he didn’t expect to still be France coach following the team’s poor showing at Euro 2008.

PARIS — Raymond Domenech might just be the luckiest man in football. Seventeen days after his France side were dumped out of Euro 2008 following three wretched performances, the Féderation Français de Football (FFF) today announced it would be holding onto the coach’s services for another two years, much to the disbelief of French fans and media. Despite France’s disastrous results in Austria and Switzerland, a meeting with the 56 year-old coach led to 18 of the FFF’s 21-member federal council voting in favour of Domenech’s tenure, with one abstention and two absentees. France’s uninspired displays at Euro 2008 earned them just one point in the game with Romania, which was followed by successive defeats against Holland and Italy. Les Bleus appeared consistently lethargic and uninspired, with many players seemingly lacking motivation, including Thierry Henry, who scored his side’s only goal of the tournament in the loss to Holland.

Not even Thierry Henry could prevent France’s exit — the Barcelona forward appeared tired and out of form at Euro 2008.

Moments after France’s 2-0 defeat to Italy, Domenech appeared on live French soccer show 100% Foot, where he was invited to explain his side’s apathetic exit from the tournament. The unapologetic Domenech avoided the question, instead taking the opportunity to propose to M6 channel hostess, Estelle Denis, who also happens to be his girlfriend and mother of his two children. “The only thing I can think of in this moment is for me to marry Estelle,” he said during the interview en direct. “It is in moments such as this that one needs close relations. And now I need them.” When he did finally address the issue of Euro 2008, he blamed France’s abject failure on bad luck, harsh refereeing and unfavourable weather.

Estelle Denis presents 100% Foot on France’s M6 channel.

A defender with Lyon, Strasbourg, Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux who won eight caps for France, since taking over the national team in 2004 Domenech’s relationship with the French public, and press, has been strained. A keen amateur dramatist and astrologer, his team selection and tactics have often raised eyebrows. He is said to be distrustful of those born under the sign of Scorpio, resulting in his decision to leave Robert Pires out of the World Cup squad in 2006. Ludovic Giuly was also omitted after rumours led Domenech to suspect the Barcelona midfielder of having an affair with Denis. In his autobiography, Giuly claims he and Estelle only ever exchanged one text message, and that “Estelle Denis doesn’t attract me — we never had a relationship, or wanted to have one.” Domenech was somewhat reprieved after France finished runners-up in Germany, but in August 2007, he refused to accept Claude Makalele’s retirement from international football, forcing the Chelsea midfielder to participate in qualifying games for Euro 2008 and the tournament itself. The exclusion without explanation of other talented players — particularly Philippe Mexes and Matthieu Flamini — from this year’s squad left fans frustrated and mystified.

Domenech in the colours of PSG, 1981-82.

Given his troubled history, not to mention France’s shameful recent form, Domenech was expected to be replaced following this latest débacle. Despite obtaining the support of current captain Patrick Viera, several members of France’s 1998 World Cup-winning side — including Bixente Lizarazu, Christophe Dugarry and even Zinedine Zidane — had spoken out against Domenech’s methods, calling for former captain Didier Deschamps to be offered the job. Even FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes — one of Domenech’s supporters — had harsh words for his coach. Speaking immediately after the council’s decision, he revealed how Domenech had admitted making “a whole series of mistakes” during his time in charge, citing “public relations that were at times disastrous because they were too personalised” and “excessive aggression and a lack of transparency” as combining to “rub salt in wounds”. A sense of relief grew amongst French journalists as Escalettes seemed to seal Domenech’s fate: “Euro 2008 was a resounding failure, not very glorious from a sporting view point and, perhaps more seriously, in terms of how it tarnished the image of the French national team. The first person responsible is the manager. He isolated himself, and today he explained to us how. The players share responsibility too, as do the president off the FFF and the members of the federal council who didn’t want to detect the failure because of the success of 2006.”

Domenech applauds Zidane after the French captain’s
infamous red card in the 2006 World Cup final.

Then came the unexpected news. “If we were going to look for someone else, there would be a period of uncertainty,” pondered Escalettes, before adding, bizarrely, “The bravest solution is not to go with what the public or the media want.” Escalettes did not remind anyone of the fact that he had also granted Domenech a two-year extension to his contract on the eve of Euro 2008. He did attempt to fan flames by announcing that Domenech’s position will be reassessed after the first three qualifying games for the 2010 World Cup. Escalettes has been henceforth warned to “communicate only about the team, not his own mood and feelings.”

As for Estelle Denis, the 31 year-old has yet to make public her decision regarding a future with Domenech.

Raymond and Estelle at a match at Parc des Princes, Paris, last year.