There are good habits and bad habits, and while uploading a football shirt every week might be good for the entertainment of our readers, it sure ends up being bad for our free time balance. Now, there is one thing we do here at Club 25 that we consider to be an equivocally good thing though, and that’s continuing our tradition of reviewing each and every new home shirt that comes out for a select few clubs – keep that up a couple of years and you’ll soon be sitting on a really nice historical overview. It is with great pleasure, then, that we return once more to the New Territories of Hong Kong, for Wofoo Tai Po’s 2019/2020 home shirt.
Tai Po are back on the site, and they are reigning champions of Hong Kong to boot; a marvelous campaign in 2018/2019 brought them the title following a neck-and-neck race to the finish against R&F HK that culminated in the squad clinching the silverware at the death of the season at Yanzigang Stadium. The absolute highpoint in Tai Po’s history for now, with the club only turning 18 this calendar year.
The 2019/2020 shirt marks the fourth Tai Po top to make it onto the site, which of course means that we are going to plug the previous articles right now. These afford closer looks at the now almost ancient lime green and navy adidas shirt from 2014/2015 and the Nike home shirts worn in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. We recommend having a look at all of them to familiarize yourself with the club and to follow along with the evolution of the home shirt as in the past years, Nike has gone from adhering to their usual workmanlike design ethic to getting really creative for Tai Po. In chronological order;
The 2017/2018 shirt was a very plain, standard template, which was followed up by the 2018/2019 shirt with its unique take on a harlequin design – creating a novel fading effect by playing around with the size of the thin hoops on one half of the torso. Now, Nike’s 2019/2020 effort really ups the ante by bringing back the fade (sort of) and introducing stripes!
For a team that always plays in green, Tai Po can be quite happy to note that there is nothing but green on the new shirt – white already featured sparingly, but is now confined to just the crest and Nike’s Swoosh. Two tones of green – a dark, rich forest green for the solid stripes and sleeves and a lighter, more playful medium green for the ‘fading’ stripes’ – struggle for supremacy across the front of the shirt, although the lighter shade is fighting a losing battle in that regard.
A tinge of sadness can be felt upon inspecting the chest, as Sun Mobile, good friends of the club, have vacated their position as principle sponsors with the club deciding not to fill the void they have left behind, at least for league matches. Still, out of all the seasons to not carry a main sponsor, the club’s board really picked the right one as the stripes provide more than enough visual interest to keep the shirt from feeling empty. It’s a funny thing, that sponsors, as maligned as they sometimes are, can make a shirt feel incomplete in their absence. It must be the ingrained expectation of seeing them that makes one take notice when they’re gone.
Sometimes a design really tries to make itself hard to describe, and in this case, we’re going to have to coin the term ‘interlocking’ stripes to really give the whole thing a name. The forest green stripes on the shirt are solid, from which horizontal bands extend on either side across the lighter green stripes; these bands are positioned in such a way so as to be able to seamlessly fit with the bands on the opposites sides. Hence interlocking.
How to interpret this? Can you even interpret the design of a football shirt? It’s a rather aggressive approach to use of colour, at the very least, as the light green is heavily encroached upon like this. If you compare the forest green stripes with the light green, you’ll notice the latter to be much wider, yet they are all but swallowed up by the bands. Really, it’s only a small pinstripe down the middle of each light green stripe that is not in some way broken up by the forest green.
Oh, but did you know that these stripes have another trick up their sleeves?
In the above photograph, we’ve folded the shirt a couple of times to show the progression of the horizontal bands as they go lower down the shirt. Near the top, the bands jutting from the right of a dark green stripe are really thick whereas their counterparts from the left of a stripe are really thin. Then, near the the chest they even out more or less, both having the same girth, before the roles are fully reversed near the bottom; the bands coming from the right are now razor thin whilst the bands coming from the left are decidedly thick.
Really cool stuff, right? Not exactly what you’d expect from no-frills Nike, who already surprised us last year with the 2018/2019 shirt and now really go no holds barred in playing around with Tai Po’s shirts. It’s refreshing to see how much thought went into this, which is compounded by the fact that, to our knowledge, Tai Po is one of just two professional clubs to wear this design (the other side is Guangzhou R&F of the Chinese Super League, who don these odd stripes in white and blue at home). Very pleasing stuff.
The crest still sits proudly on the left chest – no surprises there even if the patch used is slightly different from previous years – but what fans will be most happy to see is the lone star now stickered above their team’s emblem; representing Tai Po’s maiden win of the Hong Kong Premier League in 2018/2019. What a season it was, with a lasting legacy now too as the club will forever be entitled to carry the star on their shirts.
Tai Po is only the third team to win the Hong Kong Premier League following Kitchee (three times) and Eastern, and one of only five teams currently in the Premier Legue to have been champions of Hong Kong (Rangers and Happy Valley won the highest division before the top flight was reorganised in 2014).
To the victor, the spoils – which in this case is the privilege to carry the golden league emblem on the right sleeve this season. We’ve included the silver emblem of the runners-up on the left for comparison, and to drive home the point that gold looks a lot better on a Tai Po shirt.
However, a point of criticism; Hong Kong used to have amazing league patches. Brilliant ones. You can see them in the 2018/2019 home shirt review. Uniquely shaped with small, thoughtful changes every year to differentiate them, and of good quality with a nice sturdy patch. We loved them, considered them an example that deserved following by the rest of the world.
And now the Hong Kong Premier League has done away with the old patches, in favour of a circular sticker. Wow. Anticlimax, much? They look really good, mind (probably because Tai Po’s is in gold rather than, say, a standard pedestrian white), but it’s just such a massive downgrade from the previous league patches that you can’t help but feel bitterly disappointed. Was this a cost-cutting measure? Did the English Premier League and La Liga call HKPL’s head office, complaining that they were being made to look silly in comparison? Or were the league authorities hoping to emulate those foreign leagues in terms of looks?
Whatever the reason behind the change is, we’re stuck with it now, so might as well accept it (with a grumble). The same old logo, a perfectly fine eastern-styled dragon curling into the shape of a ball, remains in use and continues to reflect very badly on the zombie lion head used in Singapore, and is pleasingly repeated as monocoloured miniatures in the background with these smaller specimens being slightly glossy. Tai Po’s champions patch has red and white rings set just along the outside, leaving the outer edge golden still, where the runners-up patch uses red and black separated by a thin white line instead. The patches continue to list the season of use which is rather helpful in these modern times wherein shirts are rotated out every single year.
The collar is pretty standard Nike fare – a bit of a modern cut similar to what we saw on the Chelsea shirt of 2018/2019, and with an extra strip of fabric running down the back of the neck to reinforce the shirt’s durability. This has been done up in medium green to add a bit of visual distinction to the otherwise forest green collar. Note how far up the stripes reach on either side, meanwhile.
A small fault on our copy of the shirt is how the bottom of the collar has been done, for it is lopsided with the stripes; you can see them taper off slightly, which is not exactly how they should terminate. Small and not immediately noticeable, but slightly frustrating all the same.
This is an official Nike product though; the big ‘ol button on the lower left of the shirt tells us as much, after all! ‘Engineerd for championship athletes’, it is claimed, ‘but never mind the collar!’. It doesn’t show well as there is nothing to compare it to, but this really is a healthily-sized jock tag-esque patch. It will be interesting to see whether these will get bigger across the board and across brands, or whether it’s just Nike who are trying to rewrite the conventions. This is also the first time we’ve seen their authenticity mark as a circular patch on this site.
While we prepare to flip the shirt over, a look at the side; Tai Po’s previous home shirt had the benefit of stretchy mesh joining together the front and back of the kit, but this feature is absent on the 2019/2020 shirt. Instead, Nike has taken care to line up the bands front to back as best they could, with only the armpit swerving from the brief.
The main takeaway of this angle of the shirt, however, is the difference in material between front (on the left) and back (on the right), with the latter being made of a more well-ventilated material; while the colours remain on point, the mesh holes in the fabric give it its own distinct look compared to the front.
Oh, Nike’s not kidding around with their Dri-Fit mesh, we see. Just as well when you look up how hot and humid it can get in Hong Kong – not always the ideal conditions for professional football. Keep in mind that it is only the reverse of the shirt that is made with these ventilation holes; the front and sleeves have not been extended that same privilege, so while players may expect improved sweat-wicking on their backs, they shouldnt hold outmuch hope for their fronts.
In the eclectic world of sleeve sponsors, a new season usually heralds at least one new addition to the fold and this year it’s the right sleeve that delivers the goods; a purple sticker outlined in white is applied, featuring the logo of WingWah. This is a physiotherapy clinic that has linked up with the club to send one of their professionals by the training grounds for extra medical support, so it is no surprise Tai Po pays them tribute like this.
No surprises on the left sleeve, meanwhile; World Soccer remains a fixture as it does for so many other teams across Hong Kong, while Bonaqua’s most likely been doing well selling their bottled mineralized water, as the brand continues to be brandished by Tai Po. All three sponsors are stickers, like the league patch, and break up the otherwise plain forest green sleeves (which have no cuff detailing to speak off).
We have the shirt on its tummy now and, thank goodness, thank goodness, no concessions have been made to the stripes; they continue in much the same form as they do on the front, without being interrupted by blank panels for names or numbers. Nike could have easily said ‘sod it’ and left the back blank (what would have looked better; plain forest green or plain medium green?), so it’s honestly a relief to note they went the extra mile and upheld the integrity of the overall design. During matches, the players wear white letters and numbers to still achieve a satisfying degree of contrast between their namesets and the shirt.
Note the mesh on the central strip of fabric down the back of the neck.
Our old friends at Sun Mobile/Telecom Digital greet us on the upper back for a change, rather than from the front of the shirt. It is good to see them continue as sponsors to the team, although their new placement is a bit bewildering – did Tai Po perhaps require a greater fee for continued chest sponsorship in light of winning the league, a price their partners were not willing to meet?
On previous shirts the sponsor appeared outwith the white box seen here, but then this change was very much necessary as the text used might have been illegible when mixed with Nike’s intricate stripes. Rendering the outline in yellow is a nice nod to Sun’s corporate colours.
An engimatic new sponsor appears on the lower back, by the name of Hongda. A company that previously enjoyed a stint with a team in the Hong Kong First Division, Hongda has now parked its golden/white sponsoring on Tai Po’s real estate.
With a logo involving the globe and what appears to be an arrow we were ready to bet on this being a logistics company, but we couldn’t be further from the truth; Hongda, a mainland Chinese firm, are in the jewelry and power tool trade (what a combination, one can wonder whether the audiences for these two types of items overlap beyond the oddly blinged out handyman).. Hongda also appeared on the club’s AFC shirts as main sponsor, but seem content to stay on the lower back in league fixtures.
A full view of the back, which will hopefully drive home how important it was for the back to continue the stripes; imagine if this side had been plain, how we would have missed out! Nike really nailed this one, they really did.
As always we are incredibly grateful to friend of the site Adrian for helping us secure this year’s Tai Po shirt for review – as he has loyally and superbly done in years prior. This time around, he was kind enough to send along a few samples from a local supermarket promotion involving collectible trading cards, which reportedly was a massive success with people eager to collect the full set (we know how that urge feels).
Featured on our cards are, left to right, Christian Annan (on loan at Hoi King from Kitchee, now with Biu Chun Rangers), João Emir Porto Pereira, and Lee Ka Ho. Both Tai Po players left the club following the end of last season and signed with Eastern, which is now helmed by Lee Chi Kin – the same manager who masterminded Tai Po’s title win.
It’s nice to see these cards being produced and collected, which is evidence that local football in Hong Kong is alive and kicking despite the uphill battle it often faces against the big European leagues being shown via satellite and (the resulting) lack of public interest in the local scene.
A massive thank you to Adrian once more, without whom today’s review would not have been possible!
Not a bad shirt at all then, and not a bad look when complemented with the standard green shorts and socks combo, as showcased here by Michel Lugo versus Southern District. Note the flash of medium green on the otherwise darker green socks.
Despite being reigning champions, Tai Po have found it tough in the Premier League this time around, what with the club having had to cut their budget and seeing an exodus of players and staff (notably to Eastern with Lee Chi Kin and R&F HK where HKPL player of the year Igor Sartori now plies his trade).
Having currently played 9 games in a league that runs for 18 rounds, Tai Po sits in 6th place with 9 points, 16 goals scored, and 16 goals conceded. This is far behind league leaders R&F HK who sit on 25, but still somewhat comfortably ahead of Biu Chun Rangers and Yuen Long who both prop up the table with five points each.
The cup competitions have been equally drab so far, with the men in green finishing last in their Sapling Cup group and the semi-final being their final stop in the Challenge Shield (losing 3-0 to Lee Man). There is still one chance for silverware though, with the final of the Community Cup, Hong Kong’s very own super cup contested between league and Challenge Shield winners, looming. This match, to be played at Mong Kok Stadium, has been postponed from its original date, but is still expected to be played this season.
What to take away from this, then? Well, on the field, the story of 2019/2020 has been one of rebuilding for Tai Po, having to cover the loss of much of their championship-winning team and consolidating themselves in a safe position in the standings. In terms of the home shirt, though, Nike has really outdone themselves to deliver a very intricate, almost layered top that necessitates the viewer to have a couple of looks before being able to fully discern what it has to offer.
The interlocking stripes are undeniably novel and fit well with the chosen colours, even offering further intrigue by having their sizes change up and down the shirt. The plain sleeves might be considered rather dull by contrast, but they help ground the shirt with a little bit of restraint, which would have been fully lost and seen the overall package go completely over the top if the stripes had been continued past the shoulders.
A shirt for the club and the fans to be proud of, surely – one that would surely be in demand as well. If you fancy getting your own copy, write to the site on their Official Facebook page. We’ll keep a close look on Tai Po in the mean time, and look forward to a few more wins in the league this season as the club continues its journey towards glory.
That’s just about all you need from us for now, but as always, we would like to remind you that Club 25 is a weekly publication – expect a brand new article from us next week, so keep checking back for when we have a new shirt going live. Additionally, keep up to date with us on our Twitter page and flick through the site’s Shirt Archive to see what shirts we’ve covered in the past.