Sometimes notoriety plays a big part in why we remember a kit with great fondness.
When the Republic of Ireland qualified for their second World Cup finals in 1994, they were welcomed to America with the kind of fevered support usually reserved for tournament hosts.
Established on the world stage at Euro 1988 and Italia ’90, the Boys in Green were again decked out in smart adidas strips as they began their USA ’94 campaign with a shock victory over Italy at New York’s Giants Stadium.
Ray Houghton’s lob over Gianluca Pagliuca’s head gave Ireland their tournament highlight, but it was to be the last time Jack Charlton’s men wore their first choice green jerseys at USA ’94.
Instead, the Irish turned to their white away shirt with three fading green stripes for their next three matches, including what was to many a schoolboy’s eyes and ears, the most memorable moment of that summer’s tournament.
For their second match of the group stage, FIFA’s maniacal disregard for player safety saw their game against Mexico kick-off at 12.30pm in temperatures approaching 110°F in the Florida heat.
That lunacy continued when Ireland, trailing Mexico 2-0, attempted to make a double substitution.
Jason McAteer had replaced Steve Staunton without hitch, but tempers boiled over as Big Jack tried to replace Motherwell’s Tommy Coyne with John Aldridge only to be denied by overly-officious touchline bureaucracy.
Coyne had already left the field, but when Aldridge was prevented from taking his place by a 4th official repeatedly jabbing his finger at paperwork, Ireland were left with just 10 men to combat the heat and try to muster a fightback.
Warning: The following video contains language not suitable for delicate ears!
The completely understandable, foul-mouthed protests from Charlton and Aldridge that followed, were picked up by a pitchside microphone and both men were fined by FIFA for their part in the bust-up; with the Ireland boss forced to sit-out their third group game in the stands.
Moments later, Aldo cooled down just enough to head home McAteer’s cross to limit the damage to a 2-1 defeat, a goal that proved decisive as the Irish escaped the only group in World Cup history where all 4 teams finished on identical points and goal difference.
Ireland then wore their white away shirts with green shorts for their goalless draw with Norway back in New York, and for the 2-0 last-sixteen defeat to Holland where they bowed out of the tournament in Orlando.
Although those three fading stripes could be viewed as a very subtle way of adidas having their own way, interestingly, the firm did not add their customary 3-stripes into the formula of this shirt, or for iconic World Cup ’94 designs for Nigeria, Germany, Spain and the United States.
Aside from the memories of sweltering, swearing footballers, this shirt was special for the alignment of the green, white and gold of the Irish flag into a design that didn’t simply mirror Ireland’s home shirt as previous kits had done.
In fact, this adidas jersey very nearly had a bigger role in the tournament, as the Republic had planned to wear it against Italy, before being forced to hastily change to green after leaving the dressing room only to find their opponents dressed in white shirts rather than their famous Azzurri blue.
Football shirts can be memorable for many, many reasons and this one spans notoriety as well as grand design and has to be regarded as a classic of the era.
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