Eight European senior and Under-21 national teams are performing in brand new home and away kits, thanks to UEFA’s Kit Assistance Scheme – and each kit, with special national traits, has been launched to positive reactions.
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A country’s national football team shirt is a source of immense pride – not only for the players who don the shirt, but also for the fans who identify with the team by wearing the shirt both at home matches and at games abroad.
That sense of pride has shone brightly this autumn. Eight European senior and Under-21 national teams are performing in brand new home and away kits – courtesy of UEFA’s ambitious Kit Assistance Scheme.
Eight of Europe’s smaller national associations – Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and San Marino – chose to take part in the latest cycle of the UEFA scheme.
Now, with the kits delivered courtesy of Italian company Macron, the eight have set out on their adventure in the new UEFA Nations League in impressive brand-new strips.
The Kit Assistance Scheme, which has been in operation since 2007, supports Europe’s smaller associations who do not necessarily have bargaining power when negotiating with kit suppliers – consequently, use is made of UEFA’s bargaining power for the benefit of those associations, based on actual need and voluntary participation.
The programme runs in two-year cycles under the auspices of UEFA’s Top Executive Programme (TEP), and the new kits have been delivered for the 2018-20 cycle. In addition, the scheme will continue at least until 2022, following a recent green light given by the UEFA Executive Committee.
Macron, based in Bologna, were selected to work for the scheme following a tender process launched and completed in January 2017 – the choice was made on the basis of quality, product, range, discount rates, kit customisation, commitment and merchandising opportunities. UEFA has remunerated Macron for the latest kits for 2018-20, and the eight associations have paid no charge whatsoever for the kits for their senior and Under-21 teams.
The eight associations joined with Macron over the spring and summer last year to help design and choose new kits – and the results were greeted positively across the board this autumn.
Kit customisation is a new feature in this current cycle, and a series of presentation events staged by the associations involved showed this innovation in great style.
For example, the most admired mountain in Andorra, Casamanya, is embossed on the team’s shirt - and the kit presentation in August took place in the village of La Massana, from where the mountain can be seen. Belarus’ new jersey features a folkloric Belarussian ornament on the sides – the shirt was unveiled at festivities held at the country’s State Museum of Art. The bottom of Liechtenstein’s shirt is embossed with the design of the renowned Liechtenstein Castle.
Other kit launches brought ideal opportunities to reveal the new kit, while celebrating the country and football itself.
At the Faroe Islands’ national stadium, young children wearing the kit joyfully played football together. Luxembourg unveiled their new kit on National Football Day, and staged a day-long tournament involving young players aged between six and 14 from the country’s clubs. San Marino celebrated with a medieval festival staged to the rhythm of drums and trumpets, and featuring a display of flag throwers and archers.
“The day of the kit launch,” San Marino Football Federation (FSGC) general manager Alberto Pacchioni said, “we organised an event in a traditional place called “cava dei balestrieri”, which is an ancient amphitheatre, where the archers of the past used to compete. We presented the home and away jerseys to an enthusiastic crowd, who were impressed because we mixed the old tradition with a modern event. That was really appreciated!”
Kit-wearing national team players and coaches joined local dignitaries and prominent guests at the various events, and national pride was evident everywhere.
“There are a lot of positive and optimistic people at the presentation,” said FC Krasnodar and Belarus captain Aleksandr Martynovic. “I presume they are just as impressed with the new kit as we are.”
Cyprus captain Dimitris Christofi was equally enthused at a presentation event staged against a beautiful sea background. “The new kit is really unique,” he said. “It feels fantastic to be the first to wear it.”
The president of the Faroe Islands Football Association (FSF), Christian Andreasen, spoke for many of the participating countries in heralding the new kits as the start of a new era. “It is the first time that our football team is wearing a shirt which is custom made for us, and we are proud,” he said. “The shirt includes the nation’s flag colours and symbols – hopefully it will bring the spirit.”
Liechtenstein Football Association (LFV) president Hugo Quaderer is delighted about the blend of quality and national traits in the principality’s new kit.
“What must be emphasised,” he explained, “is the fulfilling of our association’s special wishes, in particular the designing of our national team kit with various aspects that are specific to Liechtenstein, without sacrificing aspirations with regard to quality.”
“As we recently launched the jersey, we are still receiving feedback from the fans,” said Khachik Tadevosyan, head of marketing at the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA). “Up to now, we’ve received no negative comments. The players are satisfied with the quality of the jerseys, and are pleased to wear them.”
For UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, the new kits and the UEFA scheme itself showcase the vital importance of national team football.
“National football teams are a crucial source of national identity,” he said. “They often reflect a country’s footballing philosophy, and are a catalyst for national unity by bringing together fans from across that country.”
“Footballers throughout Europe consider it the ultimate honour to wear their national team shirt, and the fans love to identify with their heroes by also donning the shirt when they attend the team’s matches.”
“UEFA’s relationship with its national associations is a cornerstone of European football. This is why we have been delighted to respond to requests from smaller national associations for help in providing new kits for their national teams as part of UEFA’s Kit Assistance Scheme.”
Macron’s pride at its role is also appreciable as it sees the passion and spirit that the new kits are generating. “The enthusiasm we have found among the federations and those who have shown a sense of pride by wearing our jerseys is a pleasant reward for our job,” said company CEO Gianluca Pavanello. “The result is a range of products that fully express the values, tradition and history that each country wishes to tell by wearing their jerseys.”
The final word on the success of the Kit Assistance Scheme goes to Aleksander Čeferin. “We are not only emphasising UEFA’s strong commitment towards our member associations,” he stated emphatically.
“We are also underlining our firm determination to foster national team football and promote its importance.”