Kappa are the ultimate football shirt hipsters. Allow me to explain.
In the mid to late 90s, Kappa were arguably the dominant name in the football shirt world.
They were one of just two brands who had the privilege of clothing Barcelona’s Dream Team. They continued their fine work at the Nou Camp during the arrival of O Fenômeno, who further cemented his glowing reputation by becoming the youngest player to win FIFA World Player of the Year at the tender age of 20.
Elsewhere on the continent, a classic Juventus side had just tasted Champions League success in Kappa kits. It was a defining moment in a 20+ year relationship, which saw luminaries like Michel Platini and Roberto Baggio turning out in shirts featuring the Omini logo.
But one of Kappa’s best 90s stories didn’t originate from Barcelona or Turin. It was a story that was told in England, though not in the recently formed Premier League. This story was told on the blue side of Manchester, at a time when City were far from fashionable. And yet in two short but significant years Kappa pulled out all the stops to produce shirts which, to this day, hold as much appeal as any Kappa shirt of the 90s, Juve and Barca included.
Kappa produced Manchester City shirts for 2 seasons between 1997-1999, and pleasingly they used the same home shirt for both seasons. Probably the best feature of the home kit was the Kappa taping alongside both arms, which has sadly become something of a lost art. Another notable detail was found on the neckline, with a maroon triangle sitting amongst a sea of sky blue. It was relatively bold of Kappa to introduce both colours alongside each other, but it worked well especially with some additional maroon trim on the sleeves.
Things got even better on the away side. During the 1997/98 season, City wore one of the most underrated designs of the 90s, a gem which in my opinion deserves a lot more attention (and probably would’ve got a lot more attention had it been worn by a side in the top flight). As with the home we had taping along both arms, but things moved up a gear with the addition of a central band of maroon which cut across the front of the shirt, framing the ubiquitous ‘brother’ sponsor to perfection. In combination with a navy section across the top of the shirt and sleeves, it made for a smart kit in a colour scheme that wasn’t overdone.
But of course, when you mention the words Kappa and City together, one shirt in particular jumps outs.
In the 87th minute of 1999 Second Division Play-Off final, City found themselves 2-0 down to Gillingham. Despite looking down and out, they rallied to produce a remarkable comeback, pulling level in the 95th thanks to Paul Dickov. After extra-time, goalkeeper Nicky Weaver produced 3 saves to send City back up a division, capping off one of the greatest turnarounds in football history.
The one thing I remember about the goal was the massive group hug that all of the supporters around us had as the goal went in. Without that goal, I truly believe that Manchester City would not be where they are today.Aaron Flanaghan
The drama of the events on the pitch was matched only by the drama of the shirt City were wearing that famous day. The blue side of Manchester turned out wearing an incredible design which featured luminous green/yellow stripes trimmed with blue on a dark base. Looking back now, it was the sort of colour scheme you’d expect to see from an audacious Nike third kit in the present day, but back in 1999 this was the sort of creativity that Kappa were bringing to the table.
The design was a stark contrast (in every sense of the word) to the navy and maroon away shirt from the previous year, but the audacity of the move by Kappa more than paid off, with the combination of kit and moment living long in the memory.
City have just begun an exciting partnership with Puma which will no doubt reap rewards both on and off the pitch, but before the millions, before the superstars, before the trebles and the increasingly bulging trophy cabinet, there was Kappa.
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