Football is a game full of legendary players and coaches. They make their very own team a legendary one and fans will lend their life-long support to a specific club or national side. The teams and their supporters can be easily recognised by the by their jerseys and the respective team colours.
I would like to present you the stories behind famous national team jerseys in my new FEATURE SERIES called “History in a Jersey”. The first feature on www.chrispd.de will introduce you to the history of the famous canary outfit of the Brazilian national team…
The legendary “Little Canary”
The Brazilian national team is probably the most supported football team in the world. The “Seleção” has won the FIFA World Cup five-times and has been always famous for their superstars like Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, Romário, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar and many more. All these players have worn the legendary trademark “Canarinho” (Little Canary) kit of the national team with pride. You will find fans around the globe wearing the Brazil jersey – be it in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the Hyde Park in London or the streets of Kolkata. The yellow shirt with green collar and cuffs is today the best-known outfit in world sport! But did you know that the original Brazilian jersey colours were white with blue collars?
Yes, the Brazilian national team used to play their international matches in a white jersey with blue collars! But the scenario changed after the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil – the tournament India withdrew after being told they could not play barefoot.
Brazil lost the final 1-2 against neighbours Uruguay in front of 199,854 home fans at the Maracanã stadium. Alcides Ghiggia scored the golden goal for Uruguay and silenced the crowd in the 79th minute. The defeat was considered as a national humiliation and goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa Nascimento was vilified for the rest of his life for what was deemed a culpable performance.
The Brazilian nation felt that the kit of humiliation worn by Flavio Costa’s unfortunate side was not patriotic enough and they would need a new kit reflecting every colour on the national flag. A competition was launched in 1953 by newspaper “Correio da Manhã” with permission from the Brazilian Sports Confederation. The competition guidelines asked for designs incorporating the four colours of the Brazilian flag: Yellow, green, blue and white!
The contest was a very successful one with a total of 301 entries. In December 1953, the prize was awarded to 19-year-old newspaper illustrator Aldyr Garcia Schlee from a small Brazilian town called Pelotas. Pelotas was nearby the Uruguayan border and Aldyr was a supporter of the Uruguayan national team.
Young Aldyr’s entry was a yellow shirt with green collar and cuffs, blue shorts with a white vertical stripe and white socks. The entry won the contest and it turned into the birth of the legendary Brazil kit: The “Canarinho”!
Aldyr was awarded a prize money of R$20,000 (just over € 8,000), an internship with the “Correio da Manhã” newspaper, a lifetime seat in the Maracanã stadium and the chance to stay with the Brazilian quad ahead of the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland.
The Brazilian national team donned the new kit for the first time on March 14, 1954, when they took on Chile in a 1954 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Brazil won the match 1-0 and Aldyr presented the new kit to a group of five players ahead of the match. The players were Pinheiro, Rubens, Ademir, Zizinho and Nilton Santos.
“I didn’t know what to do in front of those perplexed, sacred monsters of my admiration. I doubt that they even had anything to say to me either, when they posed, aghast, for a picture with the yellow shirt, the blue shorts and the white socks that I had handed them,” Aldyr wrote in a guest column for footballshirtculture.com a few years ago.
“Nevertheless, I will never forget Zizinho’s roguish smirk and what he whispered to me, I’m not sure as a statement or a warning. Zizinho, holding my arm lightly and speaking quietly, so no one would hear him, smiled and said: ‘This is all shit!’,” Aldyr added.
Aldyr was given lodgings with the national team on a few occasions, but he hated it. The players were “scoundrels, drunks and philanderers” according to an interview he gave “The Observer” newspaper.
The Brazilians were knocked-out by Hungary in the 1954 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal, but they managed to win the championship four years later. Brazil faced Sweden in the final and they were the away team by draw. Sweden also used to play in yellow jerseys and the Brazilians were left without a kit for the final, as they travelled to the FIFA World Cup with no spare kit!
The team management remembered that Brazil used blue as the away kit colour and purchased a set of blue shirts and sewed on emblems cut from their yellow shirts. The blue kit became the permanent second choice accidentally through this incident at the 1958 World Cup final.
The “Seleção” had to wait till the 1962 FIFA World Cup, when they lifted the Jules Rimet Cup for the first time in the “Canarinho” outfit. That was the beginning of the success story of the yellow Brazilian kit.
One could assume that Aldyr must be a national hero in Brazil, but the man from Pelotas had a tough life and he feels that designing the jersey has turned into a burden for him. Aldyr was imprisoned three times and expelled from his teaching job. He continued to suffer at the hands of the military at the same time as his shirt was becoming the emblem of national pride.
The Brazilian national team is kitted by NIKE nowadays. The American sports company spent approximately US$ 400 million to buy out the Brazilians from their deal with Umbro in 1996. The NIKE deal was one of the biggest sports sponsorships in history.
The magic of Aldyr ‘s “Canarinho” is still out there and many football fans feel goose bumps, when they see the “Seleção” taking on the pitch in their yellow jersey’s. The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will be another highlight for the “Canarinho” and millions of football fans around the globe will keep their fingers crossed for their “Seleção”, while wearing the yellow pride of Brazil…
Stay tuned for the next “History in a Jersey” feature!
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THE NEXT FEATURE WILL BE…
“History in a Jersey: GERMANY”
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