As a boy I always wanted an England shirt, I don’t remember precisely when I started wanting one but it was probably during the Espana ’82 campaign, the year that Paul Mariner and Trevor Brooking were in the squad.
It was white with a broad blue and red stripe across the shoulders, it had the traditional 3 lions badge and the Admiral logo. An awesome kit that still looks as good today, so much so that whenever I see a sunburned ‘Enger-land’ hooligan wearing that replica shirt a small part of me longs for playing football (badly) up the rec in the early eighties.
My friend Dominic Hitchin had the England strip that year and I swore he didn’t take it off all summer, that was back when the sun seemed to shine everyday during the school holidays.
Dominic was the best footballer of our group of friends by a long way and ended up playing the senior game at the age of 15. The last I heard he was playing non league to a good standard in Cornwall, like Andrew Ridgeley from Wham.
The kits have changed over the years as European and World cups have come and gone. I never managed to actually go out and part with any cash for a shirt, which is a shame because the different designs cement a place in our history, although usually for all the wrong reasons, either the knockout stages or mindless violence, the latter of which finally seems to be be a thing of the past.
So Umbro and then Nike, or Nikeee as it’s called now.
It can’t have taken the Football Association long to drop the English sportswear manufacturer in favour of the American multinational as shirt sponsors. The corporate greed of both parties would have ‘Dovetailed’ nicely to form a ‘Synergy’ or ‘ Mutual partnership’ to promote the English team on a ‘Global level’.
The Football Association would almost certainly have defended the decision on the Today Program by avoiding questions of exploitation and insisting that is was a decision taken on business grounds. This simply means that the layman wouldn’t understand and should just concentrate on coughing up the folding stuff.
For ninety quid you’d at least expect the garment to be made in the UK, you know, support for the national team ‘Dovetailing’ nicely with support for British jobs and the grass roots game. ‘Made in England’ would look good on the label, something to remain proud of after our national team implodes in front of the Germans.
But no, it’ll be assembled in a sweat shop by the worlds poorest and most exploited workers under unimaginably bad conditions in the same manner as anything else Nikeee or corporate sports. This really sums up the Nikeee England shirts in general, a thin veneer of over hyped quality with an open disdain for national responsibility and no historical relevance whatever.
Nikeee and the Football Association don’t give a shit about any of this, why would they? The profits have already been divided up and they know that consideration of exploitative practices is not only uncool but is likely to be dismissed with derision and the all to popular 21st century shrug of irreverence.
But maybe we should be thanking Nikeee for at least being fair in their exploitation, giving their customers the same dose of grabbing cynicism meted out to their foreign workers on a daily basis.
Also this episode means that I won’t have to finally go out and buy an England shirt like I’ve been planning to for years, I’m not wearing Nikeee for my country, it’s always been an awful brand, brash, somehow soulless and just a bit tacky.
Honestly? I’d probably prefer to wear the German or Italian football shirt.