In a brand new weekly series, Kieran Ahuja takes a look at a weird, wonderful, wonky or just damn nice football kit.
There’s a couple of things to talk about in the picture above. The most noticeable thing is that the Atlético Madrid goalkeeper appears to be the love child of Axl Rose and Kid Rock, in perhaps the most questionable match outfit ever seen. Even more remarkable is that this is in fact Argentine goalkeeper Germán Burgos, who actually beat kidney cancer in the 2003-04 season whilst remaining Atlético’s first-choice goalkeeper. Slightly less remarkable but still firmly noteworthy is that someone, somewhere, in the upper echelons of Atlético’s management, decided that a man who chose to wear both a headband and a cap at the same time was suitable to become the assistant manager of the club later in his career, second to fellow Argentine and Atletico player Diego Simeone.
As tempting as it is, however, we’re not here to discuss Germán Burgos (he saved a Luis Figo penalty with his face). We’re here to discuss the ostensibly mundane kit that Atlético are wearing. It may not seem like a classic kit, I grant you. It looks somewhat like they’re wearing the shirt and socks of their home kit, but something akin to the 2006 Spurs lasagne incident has occurred, and the team has been subsequently forced to wear the shorts from their away kit. In this sense, the Atlético kit has always looked a bit mismatched, a bit passé, a bit gauche.
Usually, therefore, Atletico Madrid wouldn’t enter the periphery of covetable football kits. The shirt alone is unremarkable; especially as an English football fan, it’s only minutely different to the kits of Southampton, Sunderland or Stoke; then with the shorts it seems like two halves of different kits.
The 2003-04 iteration of the kit is only covetable for the wrong reasons; thanks to a sponsorship deal with Colombia Pictures, every few weeks the team would be forced to become walking advertisements for the latest Colombia blockbuster. The season’s pictures provide a comprehensive exploration of early noughties film history. In what was his breakout season for the club, many photos of Atletico’s 2003-04 season feature a bambino Fernando Torres. El Niño smoulders whilst advertising Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch; embarks on a spritely dribble with Peter Pan emblazoned upon his chest; readjusts his curtains whilst imploring the viewer to watch Bad Boys II (it was a busy year for Will Smith); and silences the crowd whilst wearing a shirt with the Hellboy logo. Most entertaining is a photo of him posing with Ronaldinho whilst marketing the Adam Sandler comedy romp Spanglish.
Never Forget in 2003/2004 Atletico Madrid signed a shirt sponsor deal with Columbia Pictures, turning them into a cascade of dadaist poetry pic.twitter.com/S2Ux2dEmXN
— ཊལབསརངཧ (@David_Rudnick) August 17, 2017
Aside from the entertaining kit, however, it was a fairly uneventful season for Atletico. They finished in 7th, reaffirming themselves as La Liga mainstays after being relegated in the 1999 season and remaining in the Segunda División for two seasons – a hard vision to comprehend considering Atletico’s domestic and European successes under Simeone. Their shirt advertising would again come under scrutiny in 2013, when the country of Azerbaijan sponsored the team as part of their push to become more of a global cultural power. Some found the collaboration mildly eccentric, whilst some found it unadvisable, considering the country’s poor human rights record.
However, the club are now sponsored by the Plus500, a financial services company – continuing a proud tradition of inoffensive but mildly ugly football kits.