Spanish politics is creeping into soccer once again. The controversy surrounding Gerard Piqué's place in the Spain squad given his support of the independence referendum in Catalonia may have subsided, but there is another row brewing: this time over the national team’s new soccer jersey.
On Tuesday the interim president of the national soccer federation, Juan Luis Larrea, made this informal statement to Spanish sports daily As: “We have received complaints from the top,” he said. “The government does not like the fuss or the shirt.”
A strip of blue rhombuses printed on the jersey designed by Adidas for the Spanish team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has had an unexpected response. Some see the blue rhombuses against the red shirt as purple and have taken the choice of color as a homage to the flag of the Spanish Second Republic – the country’s official flag from 1931 to 1939, before the right-wing dictator Francisco Franco came power.
The flag has long been a left-wing symbol in Spain and the new jersey could therefore be seen an implicit attack on the monarchy and the Constitution.
Politicians including Pablo Iglesias, leader of the anti-austerity party Podemos, and Alberto Garzón, leader of the United Left (IU), both celebrated the proposal. Garzón said he likes the “tricolor” design more than the “red and yellow” of the Spanish flag because it incorporates “the purple of Castile.”
Government sources have said that the jersey is not a pressing concern. When asked about the row, sports minister Íñigo Méndez de Vigo responded with a smile but enigmatically: “The Spanish team has had more beautiful shirts than this one.”
A spokesperson for the National Sports Council (CSD) noted that José Ramón Lete, Secretary of State for Sports, preferred not to get involved with what he considers a minor controversy.
But Larrea went into more detail. “The government has not officially said anything to us, but I have lines of communication and I know they are worried about this issue, specifically because there are people in parliament who have linked the color of the shirt with the Republican flag.”
“This is crazy,” the soccer federation chief added. “People are very sensitive! Nobody has seen this shirt other than in photos on the internet and I am convinced that these photos have been retouched. We checked the colors a week ago and it is blue-blue. I did not see purple anywhere. We even wet it and it looks dark when wet. The World Cup jersey for the United States [tournament in 1994] had a purple stripe and nobody said anything.
“The marketing department coordinated and approved this project with Adidas a year ago,” Larrea explained. “Now Adidas is worried.”
Such is the concern that the official presentation of the jersey with the team due for this Wednesday has been called off. Both the German sports brand and the federation made the decision to red card what would have been the beginning of the sales campaign.
“There is no easy solution,” said Larrea, who has ruled out a change of plans, “because the sale of the garments begins tomorrow and there are already thousands distributed throughout shopping centers and sports stores in Spain,”
Adidas issued a statement describing the color as an “petroleum blue” and stated that there is “no political connotation.” The German multinational explains that “players’ performance has always been its priority.” It also explains that the design is not new. It is a tribute to the shirt that the team wore at the 1994 World Cup in the US.
The team premiered the new sweatshirts on Tuesday afternoon, at the first training session before they face Costa Rica in Malaga on Saturday.
English version by Debora Almeida.