When 'Les Bleus' went green and white

In 1978, many people still didn’t have colour television. And on black-and-white TV screens, dark colours were hard to tell apart. So when the blue shirts of France met the red of Hungary in a World Cup match in Mar del Plata, Argentina, someone had to change. That someone was France – but an error by their team supervisor led to both teams arriving with white shirts. The match was delayed for 40 minutes before the arrival of France’s replacement kit, provided by local club Kimberley, who still play in green-and-white stripes. Both teams had already been eliminated but France won an entertaining match – and made a little bit of football history. They weren’t the first team to wear club colours at a World Cup – but they were the first to win in them.

During the 1934 World Cup in Italy, Austria and Germany both played in white shirts. Before the play-off for third place in Naples, Austria lost the toss and had to change. But, like France in 1978, they hadn’t brought anything to change into. So they wore the pale blue shirts of Napoli – though they did keep their black shorts and socks! Austria’s Wunderteam conceded a goal after only 24 seconds and lost 3-2.

A similar situation occurred at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Mexico and Switzerland had both been knocked out before they met in their last group match, which was staged in Porto Alegre. Even if colour TV had been around, Mexico’s burgundy shirts would have clashed with Switzerland’s red. So striped tops came to the rescue for the first time. In the blue and white of Porto Alegre club Cruzeiro, Mexico lost 2-1.

At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, there was a reversal of the 1950 and 1978 positions. This time stripes were replaced by a solid colour. Argentina’s first finals match in 24 years took place in Malmö, and again it was a local club who helped out. IFK Malmö are one of the oldest in Sweden, but their historic yellow shirts didn’t help Argentina, who took an early lead before losing 3-1 to reigning champions West Germany.

France in 1978 weren’t the last team to wear club shirts in a World Cup tournament though. At Italia ’90, Costa Rica did it on purpose. They won their first ever finals match 1-0 against Scotland while wearing their usual red shirts, but for their next two games, they suddenly appeared in black-and-white stripes. These were based on the colours of the country’s oldest club, Libertad, who had recently gone out of business. But they were also the famous colours of Juventus – and Costa Rica’s second match was in Turin. In this change strip, they lost narrowly to Brazil but they wore it again to beat Sweden 2-1 and reach the next round. There they changed back to their red shirts – but maybe wished they hadn’t as Czechoslovakia beat them 4-1.

More recently, Germany wore a red and black away shirt at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The jersey was designed to honour Flamengo – one of host nation’s biggest clubs who also play in black and red. But the gesture was soon forgotten when the Germans beat Brazil 7-1 in a historic semi-final.

Meanwhile, the Kimberley shirt in the museum was also worn by a winner! Left-back François Bracci was one of four reserves brought in by France now that they were out of the competition. Like the other three, he was playing in his only World Cup finals match. He must have enjoyed it too. France won 3-1, and there were spectacular long-range goals from fellow defender Christian Lopez and Hungary’s Sándor Zombori. The second half was goalless, even though France brought on a substitute called Michel Platini! Bracci went on to coach many clubs in North Africa, including Morocco’s Olympique Khouribga – who play in green-and-white stripes!