Tai Po FC 2018/2019 Home Shirt

With this year’s short winter break over, all of us here at Club 25 would like to wish our dear readers a very, very happy new year! 2018 was simply brilliant for the site and 2019 is poised to be just as good, with today’s new article to the site being the second chapter of what we hope will be a yearly tradition; our exclusive review of the brand new Wofoo Tai Po home shirt!

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(Since this article went live, we’ve gone on to review the 2019/2020 home shirt)

Much like how Tai Po’s (Wofoo being the sponsor’s name) quest for silverware in Hong Kong’s Premier League and cup competitions continues unabated, so too does the club’s technical partnership with Nike. 2018/2019 marks the third year of contract between the New Territories club and the American brand, with this naturally resulting in a brand new set of kits for the first team to wear. Before we dive into this new top, we’d like to remind you that we have previously covered last year’s Tai Po shirt, and the adidas-made 2014/2015 top. If you want to refresh your memory or get a full introduction to the club, be sure to give those articles a look first;

We’ve also covered shirts from different Hong Kong clubs, which are well worth a look for their noteworthy designs;

Now that you are hopefully up to speed with Tai Po and Hong Kong football (our readerbase is highly diverse and international, so not everyone is familiar with club and country), let us dawdle no longer and learn all about the brand new shirt Nike has produced for the Green Warriors!

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Here we have the new shirt on the right, side by side with last season’s shirt on the left. A couple of things are apparent right away; Nike have really upped the ante in terms of design and colour use by adding a fading harlequin effect of sorts to the 18/19 kit, seemingly splitting it in half through the middle. This lets it stand out when compared to the incredibly traditional shirt donned in 17/18, which saw Tai Po’s usual shade of green broken up by white mesh panels on the sides but was otherwise low on added frills.

Sponsors Telecom Digital/Sun Mobile return for a second season as main sponsors, their logo once again stickered across the torso. Tai Po’s crest is unsurprisingly present on the right chest, whilst the Nike ‘Swoosh’ sits on the left. Interestingly, it has been all but confirmed that the brand will return to its old logo+wordmark next season, but it remains to be seen whether this change will only affect Nike’s big customers, or be worldwide and thus also apply to Tai Po.

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Sun Mobile’s multicoloured logo remains present in all its blazing glory (fair, considering it would be unrecognizable in monocolour), but the real surprise upon closer inspection is the presence of tiny, tiny pinstripes across the horizontal plane of the shirt. These come in traditional Tai Po medium green and what we’d describe as ‘bottle green’, and switch colour upon reaching the middle of the shirt.

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The stripes on the medium green half of the shirt don’t change in width as they continue towards the sides, but the the stripes on the bottle green side do! Incredibly enough, they increase in width until they reach the thickness of the bottle green lines towards the middle of the shirt, effectively swapping their sizes with one another! This is what creates the fading effect that could be observed from afar, with the bottle green giving way for the more traditional medium green. This is uncharacteristically intricate for Nike, who are mostly known for restrained designs (one needs to cast but one glance at the 17/18 kit to see this penchant for simplicity).

What’s more is that this design has seemingly been concocted for Tai Po, and Tai Po alone! It has not popped up in any catalogues in the West, where countless teams wear the same variation of Trophy III or Striker IV templates. This constitutes a break from continuity as the previous two shirts Nike made for Tai Po were teamwear templates; clearly, someone at the club has been able to convince Nike’s Hong Kong office to do the club a solid in this department, so to speak. Then again, the brand owes it to Tai Po to go the extra mile, seeing as the club is Nike’s third-most important contract in Hong Kong (behind the national team and Kitchee). Unlike in the big European leagues, Nike trails adidas and Kelme (of all brands!) in terms of representation in the Hong Kong Premier League this season, which might be another reason as to why Tai Po now enjoys a bespoke shirt.

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Musings about Nike’s position in the Hong Kong market aside, it is pleasing to note that the fade effect is not present on the medium green side of the shirt – clearly a bit of trademark restraint on the part of the design team shining through.

The club’s crest, based on the District Council’s logo, is once again added in the form of a heatpressed patch with the traditional Junk boat as the proud centrepiece. The one change made is that the white outline seems a little lopsided, being slightly thicker on the right side of the crest. A conscientious decision, perhaps, or unintended side effect occuring during production?

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The collar of the new shirt is reminiscent of the 2017/2018 shirt, albeit with one distinction; Nike’s new policy regarding the strength of collars has now taken full effect with both shoulder panels sewn together at the back rather than being one continuous piece of fabric. This is to improve the durability of the collar, as it is one of the main stress zones on a shirt alongside the bottom hem and sidepanels.

This new manufacturing standard was first implemented for Nike’s big customers (Barçelona, Internazionale Milan, Zenith Saint Petersburg, Manchester City, etc.) last season, but for 2018/2019 Tai Po gets to enjoy its advantages as well. Still, the outside of the collar retains more than a whiff of familiarity, as the white strip of fabric that encircles it is retained from the 2017/2018 kit.

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Just as a side note, this type of collar is now all but standard across Nike shirts, regardless of whether they are bespoke or simple teamwear. Pictured above is a comparison between the new Tai Po shirt and the Nike Challenge II teamwear template, in this case in Northampton Town‘s claret and white (this is the official 2018/2019 home shirt for Northampton, with this exact design also used for Portsmouth, Coventry, Preston, and a slew of other teams).

Despite both collars being the exact same make and fabric, Tai Po’s was made in Thailand whilst Northampton Town’s was made in Sri Lanka. Take note that the lower part of the collar, where it meets the front panel of the shirt, is distinctly different on both shirts, with Tai Po’s approach being similar to that of R&F HK.

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If the collar wasn’t enough of a throwback to last year for you, we also find club partners Bonaqua and WoSo on the left sleeve again. The former made its debut last year, whilst the latter has appeared as far back as 2014/2015, and is shared with many other Hong Kong clubs as WoSo are the primary source of kit printing in the country.

Outside of the sponsorship, the sleeve is blank with no further design features; although it might have been interesting to see the pinstripes appear here as well, leaving them out was probably the right decision as it could have turned into a right mess.

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Popping over to the right sleeve, we figured it apt to bring in last season’s shirt again to provide contrast; where gaffer tape was stuck around the hem of the cuff for added detail and durability back then, it is now absent on the 2018/2019 kit.

Much more interesting, however, is the matter of the League patch that has once again been applied free of charge; a most welcome treat by the club, as European clubs always charge extra for these (just to wring that extra little bit of cash out of supporters). No such overt fan exploitation in Hong Kong, as most every HKPL club makes this charitable gesture. Across the world, league patches come in all manner of shapes and sizes depending on who sanctioned them, but Hong Kong and the HKFA continue to outdo themselves and everyone else with these.

We spoke of our appreciation for the inclusion of the relevant season on these patches last time around, and it is thus pleasing to see this practice being continued into 2018/2019. The fabric of which they are made has remained the same, although the new patch looks slightly less crumpled (and that is simply because it is indeed less crumpled; a result of running the lottery of international postage!). Although the inside of the patch, with the dragon mimicking the spherical shape of a football, remains the same, the outside is now slightly different; done in red and black chevrons (seemingly anyway, as they are covered up by the white patch accomodating the dragon), it now looks just that little extra bit nicer. Whether this slight redesign is here to stay or will be replaced every season is a moot point; as it stands it just looks rather pleasing and beats every other kind of league patch (looking at you, English Premier League, EFL, La Liga, Eredivisie, Bundesliga, MLS, and so on).

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As we move down the shirt, we happen upon a rather interesting new feature; not the Nike jock tag, which was present last season, or the mesh back panel, which also returns from 17/18, but rather, a mesh panel hidden beneath seven strips of green fabric. Ostensibly included to add elasticity to the shirt, this is something we have not seen or covered before.

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Tugging on the shirt from both the front and back stretches this mesh, revealing its full golden colour as the seven green strips are not quite as elastic. If you try tugging to the point of almost tearing this odd setup, you can effectively double the base width of this area of the shirt.

Now, this is quite the conundrum we have on our hands here; it’s a good thing to experiment, but doesn’t this seem more prone to tearing than a regular shirt would be? Definitely something to be tested out in the field, but from a purely objective perspective, it’s nice to see diversification of make in football shirts and this definitely fits the bill. You just have to wonder why yellow was chosen as colour here; is this shared between all shirts with this setup, or chosen per team? If the latter, then why yellow for a team that religiously sticks to green and white? Not that we are complaining; green and yellow are an amazing colour combination!

Another interesting thing to remember is that this mesh is absent on Nike teamwear in the West; another advantage Tai Po’s shirts have, then!

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Flipping the shirt over to reveal the back, we can note two ‘firsts’ in terms of our coverage of Tai Po shirts; for one, Lee Kee Group is absent as a sponsor, and for two, there is player-specific printing on the otherwise plain back!

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In bold, raggedy letters we find the name Dudu printed on the back; this font is seemingly endemic to Tai Po as clubs in the HKPL are free to choose any set that is to their liking, with this edgy design catching the fancy of the board.

Of course, it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to have a guess as to what the nationality of this Dudu is; many Brazilian players adopt a ‘footballing name’ at an early age, with Dudu being a reasonably popular choice. One Dudu (Paraíba) has been playing in Poland for years now, with another being a famed Palmeiras player back in the 60’s and 70’s. A third Dudu, from Goiâna, is a current Palmeiras player with 200 matches under his belt, while Dudu (Caerense) enjoyed good form playing in Russia and Greece before retiring at Botafogo last year. Another Dudu, 21 years of age, is a current squad player at Internacional in Porto Alegre. Additional Dudus play at Kawasaki Frontale, Avispa Fukuoka, Fluminense, and NK Dugopolje, and there are a fair few more who have retired from football.

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We are only interested in one Dudu though, and that would be the chap you see pictured above, sending out a pass across an R&F (Hong Kong) player and their familiar shirt during Tai Po’s recent match versus the Chinese satellite team in the semi-final of the Senior Challenge Shield. Tai Po pleasingly won the match 3 to 1, booking themselves a place in the final against Kitchee (which ended in a disappointing 3-2 loss). Dudu remained on the field for the entire match.

Of course, Dudu isn’t exactly the name listed in his passport; rather, it reads Luis Eduardo Chebel Klein Nunes, which gives you a hint as to where the name Dudu came from. After all, most every Dudu is called Eduardo in full, as it is the nickname these boys are often given during their youth. It clearly stuck for a number of them as they matured into professional footballers, and so too it did for Tai Po’s Dudu. Born in 1990 in Ribeirão Preto, located roughly a third of the way between São Paulo and Brasilia, this Swiss army knife of a player (adept at both the centre back and defensive midfielder positions) signed his first professional contract with Santos at age 17.

Although he never broke into the first team, Dudu impressed enough to earn a loan spell with Marcílio Dias, a lower league team that was actually founded as a rowing club (hence its full name of Clube Náutico Marcílio Dias) and named after a sailor from the Paraguayan War fought between 1864 and 1870. After a successful season, Dudu left Santos to join Marcílio Dias, signing a contract with them ahead of the 2012 campaign. He would stay in the coastal town for just that one year, signing with Resende in the Campeonato Carioca upon release. Enjoying more success there, he was then snapped up by Red Bull Brasil to play in the Serie D.

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Earning just two appearances for Red Bull, Dudu then moved on to the Northwestern Panthers of Penapolense, playing in the town of Penápolis. This was the closest professional club to his home town of Ribeirão Preto he would play for, in a move that may have been inspired by a desire to be closer to his family. Be that as it may, Dudu was whisked away to adventure as this one year relatively close to home was followed up by a free transfer to Tai Po for the 2016/2017 season. This was right in time to enjoy the Sapling Cup win with his new club, which added a second winner’s medal to his tropy cabinet (after the Copa Rio medal he won with Resende), and coincided with one of the best seasons in his career.

He played more minutes in a single campaign than ever before, and continued his strong form into 2017/2018 by helping the club finish second in the HKPL and reach multiple cup finals.

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We are, once again, grateful to friend of the site Adrian, who was not only key in securing this shirt for us, but was also so incredibly kind as to have Dudu sign it for us! Indeed, the Brazilian’s autogaph graces the back of the shirt, permanent marker sealing his scribble on his squad number which comes in a font that is, amazingly, even more outstanding than that used for the names of players.

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A very, very stylistic interpretation of the roman numeral 5, combining a weathered appearance with a thick white outline, the finest element of this font is perhaps the inclusion of the miniature crest at the bottom. Clearly unique to the club, it adds a further rugged touch to the overall package, although at the cost of being the polar opposite of the shirt’s design itself, what with the disciplined straight lines going across the front. It’s a particularly dark shade of green that graces the number and complements the tone used for the shirt itself.

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It’s not often we put scenes of men moved to tears on this site, what could be amiss here? Are the players rying tears of joy for having a bit of rain wash away the sweltering heat? Delighted by the excellent turnout of their fans at Yanzigang Stadium in Guangzhou, China?

Well, we’re not sure about the rain, but the fans definitely factor into this; on Saturday the 4th of May 2019 a boisterous green and white crowd pushed their team on to victory and an unprecedented league title as Tai Po came from behind to beat Hong Kong R&F 1 to 2 to secure a four point lead with just one game week to go, ensuring the league Trophy would be making its way down to the New Territories!

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It was a day fans and players alike will never forget, with Tai Po coming out on top in a league filled with big names like Kitchee and well-funded sides like R&F. 17 Years on from the club’s foundation, Tai Po had become champions of Hong Kong.

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A wise man once aid ‘Scenes!’ and this had never been more applicable than to the proceedings at Yanzigang that day – washing away the bitter taste of securing the league title not only at an away venue, but at one outside of Hong Kong to boot! Turns out sponsor Bonaqua’s products are excellent for hosing your manager with.

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A good design is one thing, but for a shirt to linger in memory long after its original season(s) of use, heroics on the pitch are needed – something that the Tai Po squad provided in droves in 2018/2019. Upon returning home and battering Dreams on the final day of the season to add to the festivities, the squad was presented with a rather dangerous Trophy (look at that pin in the wooden base!) and a cheque worth roughly 54,000 Euro/48,000 GBP. As far as we know, no footballers were hurt in the celebrations (talk about occupational hazards when trophies, known for being hugged and tossed around, feature nasty metal pins).

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The players and staff were treated to a trip on an open bus through town, and in turn paid their respects to the fans with this delightful group picture, reflecting their gratitude for the support given throughout the course of 2018/2019 season (wherein the title at a few points in time looked well out of reach).

Tai Po was, of course, no stranger to winning league titles, with trophies in the third, second, and first division to their name (gathered during their meteoric rise from the old Third District Division to the HKPL), but this title, the highest possible domestic honour for a Hong Kong team, must have felt like a greater achievement than any of the victorious campaigns in the lower leagues or the three cups (one each of the HKFA Cup, Senior Shield, and Sapling Cup) sitting in the club’s trophy cabinet.

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The players cemented themselves as club heroes – even if dyeing your hair green should be frowned upon from an aesthetic perspective – and ensure that the 2018/2019 home shirt, in its two tones of green, will long be fondly remembered by everyone associated with the club. At least until a second league title is won in 2019/2020 (fingers crossed)!

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With that thought, we wrap up this closer look at the 2018/2019 Tai Po shirt – the third in a series of articles on the club. Much like how Tai Po develops as a club and writes history year in, year out, so too does Club 25 as a site and as an initiative enrich itself. Being able to compare shirts side by side like this adds clear value to articles, and we hope to continue to do this as more shirts get added to this virtual gallery of sorts. We are already looking forward to the 2019/2020 shirt (with a golden championship patch on the sleeve, yes!) coming out of the New Territories, and we hope you are too!

If your interest in supporting Tai Po has been (re)kindled, we are happy to refer you to the club’s Facebook page, where you won’t just find all the information you need on the team and their results, but also the club’s online shop where you can get your very own copy of this delightful shirt! If you’d also like to keep in touch with Club 25, be sure to bookmark our site and Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. Finally, be sure to consult the rest of the site, such as the home page and the Shirt Archive!

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Bottom’s up! Watch the pin, Harry!

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