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What is meant for political jerseys?

When football kits manage to spread messages and ideas or to reaffirm positions and concepts

What is meant for political jerseys? When football kits manage to spread messages and ideas or to reaffirm positions and concepts

Throughout the history of football, the jersey has showed much more than traditional colors, becoming a vehicle of hidden meanings and deep stories. The simple kit has evolved to become both a garment for the catwalks and an essential element in the contemporary streetwear culture, but also an effective medium to raise awareness about certain political and social issues. On the other hand, many teams show their identity and their origins thorugh the football jersey, as a symbol of the bond with a portion of the population or a specific ethnic group.

Beside the national team jerseys linked to the totalitarian regimes (such as those of Italy at the 1934 and 1938 World Championships, with the fascio littorio was on the chest), one of the first jerseys to act as a bridge between the football pitches and politics was that of Corinthians used in the 1982-1983 season. Brazil was under a military dictatorship at the time, and Socrates – captain of the Brazil national team – tapped into the public’s desire for democracy. He established Democracia Corinthiana (Corinthian Democracy), encouraging the masses to demand democracy too. The '82-83 kit presented the logo of the ideological movement created by Socrates on its shoulders, transforming the kit into a sort of political manifesto. 

Teams such as St. Pauli, on the other hand, have used their political stance being displayed as a real trademark, using their own kits to express well-defined positions. The German club has offered its support to political refugees and has often shown its clear opposition to the right party (in 2016 it took to the field with a jersey that said, instead of the sponsor, 'No football for the fascists'). Bahia is one of the most progressive and democratic club in the world, running campaigns on numerous issues, such as racism and LGBTQ rights, cutting prices and raising awareness on environmental issues. Last October they presented an oil-stained shirt to raise funds for the disaster that was occurring in Brazil, following the oil spills that hit the beaches of the northeast coast of the country.

But showing the political beliefs through the club's kit can lead even further, as with Volga Ulyanovsk and Madureira jerseys. Last April, the Russian club created a special jersey to celebrate Lenin's 149th birthday - born in Ulyanovsk in 1870 -, which featured a stylized image of the Soviet leader instead of the sponsor. A great gesture but above all a brilliant marketing operation. The third-tier Brazilian team made antoher similiar initiative in 2013: Madureira created a special home kit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a visit made by Che Guevara in Rio de Janeiro, where Rosario Central was playing a friendly match.

The football shirt is often a vehicle to emphasise the club identity, through some references to their roots. Barcelona, for example, never hide their ties with Catalonia, made even more clear by the jersey presented in November to celebrate its 120th anniversary, which features references to the Catalan flag, representing a strong signal to the institutions. The case of Palestino is similiar: a Chilean team famous for being the only one - outside Palestine - to bear the contested country's name and symbols. The club was founded in 1920 by Palestinian immigrants as a means of unifying people and integrating themselves into the Chilean culture. What began as a family institution has become a full-blown business, which today plays in the Primera Division, the Chilean Serie A.