A jersey is more than just a symbol of a team. When donning a jersey, one puts other agendas aside and plays for the badge. It gives you the extra “oomph”.
When I was in school, my friends and I formed an amateur football side and played friendlies with other amateur teams in Ipoh.
We named our team Laka-Laka FC (after Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth’s catch phrase in the movie Chandramukhi). We weren’t the best of teams but we played because we loved the game.
We had our own jersey – dark blue with yellow stripes. Donning it gave us a sense of pride, unity and enthusiasm!
Because of that memory, I'm dedicating this week’s column for this year’s World Cup jerseys.
Adidas, Nike, Puma, Lotto, Uhlsport, Joma, Marathon and Burrda have already come out with their respective official kits and most of the teams have worn them during friendlies.
Ten national teams will be sponsored by American sportswear brand Nike, nine national teams will don German brand Adidas jerseys and eight teams will wear jerseys from another German brand, Puma.
Iran is sponsored by German sportswear brand Ulhsport, Ecuador will don their home brand Marathon, Belgium is sponsored by Swiss sportswear company Burrda, while Joma will produce the kit for Honduras and Costa Rica will be wearing Lotto jerseys.
Let’s start off with Adidas.
According to the company, the national kits it produces have been created with adizero technology, resulting in lighter shirts and an improved fit, enabling players to be faster and more comfortable on the pitch.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup kits are over 40% lighter than the 2012 kits.
An interesting point to note is that the shirts were designed after interviews with the next generation of each nation.
Some of the notable teams sponsored by Adidas are Argentina, Spain and Germany.
Nike has come out with kits that help regulate player body temperature over the course of a match. By using a combination of Nike Dri-FIT technology, mesh panels and laser-cut ventilation holes, designers are able to localise cooling where players need it most.
Nike Dri-FIT technology also pulls moisture away from the skin to the outside of the garment where it evaporates quickly.
In line with Nike’s commitment to superior performance with lower environmental impact, the shirts, shorts and, for the first time, socks, all feature fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. (Shorts are made from 100% recycled polyester, shirts from 96% polyester and 78% for socks).
Some of the national teams donning Nike jerseys are France, England, home nation Brazil, Portugal and Greece.
As for Puma, their national team shirts feature new football apparel innovation called PWR ACTV which utilises athletic taping and compression.
The ACTV tape is strategically placed within the garment to provide micro-massages to the skin, working with the human body to help maximise performance and provide players with faster, more effective energy supply to the muscles.
This combined with the underarm mesh inserts for increased breathability and freedom of movement, are expected to help Puma’s teams’ like Italy, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Uruguay have a competitive advantage at this year’s World Cup.
Wow! So much technology for just a shirt! And all this while, I was more concerned about the design of the jerseys.
Having said that while technology may help enhance a team’s performance, I truly believe a good design will do just as good a job.
For example, when Brazil don their yellow and gree jersey, they immediately feel at home and make sure they conjure up Samba-licious performances!
My personal favourites of this year’s World Cup jerseys is Spain’s away shirt (the neon green look so good on black!), Russia’s home jersey, France’s away jersey and Ghana’s home jersey (the tribal pattern on the collar is amazing).
Russia’s kit is inspired by its national history of space exploration and the achievements of Russian cosmonauts in the 1960s.
The design documents Russia’s national achievements, and suggests that when Russian people come together they can do anything.
The new Spain 2014 World Cup away kit shows the vibrant nightlife of the country. Shiny green highlights on the black jersey give it a sense of electricity and Vicente Del Bosque will be hoping to see his players conjure up electrifying performances throughout the tournament as a result of the shirts.
People will surely want to feast their eyes on these jerseys and some fans have already bought their preferred shirts way before the tournament. One sore point though is the exorbitant prices charged by the manufacturers.
Former England and current Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton for one has called the pricing of the new England shirts “appalling”. Alternative “stadium” shirts are priced at £60 (RM325.80), while versions for children aged between eight and 15 cost £42 (RM228.10).
In addition there are £90 (RM488.75) shirts with enhanced “cooling technology”.
“£90 for the new England shirt is taking the mickey out of the fans. When will it stop? Appalling. In my opinion. Football again allows commercialism to eat away at its soul. Something has got to give,” said Barton said on Twitter.
Despite the high prices though, fans are still guaranteed to fork out for the shirts of their favourite sides. And for the entire World Cup period, you’re certain to see many people in national team shirts.> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.