It hasnt been too long since we covered a top from the Hyundai A-League, but the little teaser we put into that article – on an old Queensland Roar home shirt – warrants returning to. For one, because the early years of Australia’s top soccer league were a lovely era in terms of kits, and for two, because there’s a point to be made about unique shirts and shared templates. So, with that in mind, let us take you back to Sydney FC’s 2008/2009 season;
Sky blue, it has been a while – or not if you think our recent Huddersfield shirt qualifies – since you’ve featured on this site. We’ve had our fair share of A-League teams previously, but today Sydney’s first (and in our eyes, best) club are making their debut on this humble shirt collecting site. If you fancy seeing the previous kits from Down Under that we’ve covered, look no further than these handy links;
- Central Coast Mariners 2012/2013 Home Shirt
- Newcastle Jets FC 2005-2007 Home Shirt
- Perth Glory 2013/2014 Home Shirt
- Queensland Roar 2008/2009 Home Shirt
- 2019/2020 Hyundai A-League Home Kit Rankings
Out of that list, the Queensland Roar shirt could almost be considered required reading. Seriously, have a look, because today we are going to retrace some of our steps.
Because why not retrace your steps when Queensland Roar (now, of course, known as the Brisbane Roar) and Sydney FC wore identical shirts during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 seasons?
Now we say identical, and this is largely true, but a minor difference exists; see the little boomerang shape that is orange on Sydney’s shirt and white on Roar’s? That is made of regular polyester on the former but mesh on the latter. It’s not a gamechanger, but it’s there – and perhaps a direct result of the template being updated between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.
As we mentioned in the Roar article, the 2007/2008-spec shirts had the Reebok logo on the chest where the 2008/2009-spec shirts, like this Sydney top, have the company’s writing in full (we theorized that this change was due to no one recognizing Reebok’s slightly obscure logo). As such, you can quite reliably use this element to tell which year a shirt was produced.
Not that Sydney and Roar were the only teams to be twinned by this design – in fact, the A-League featured a set of quadruplets as the Central Coast Mariners and new boys Wellington Phoenix also got to wear this template. That’s ever so slightly embarassing, because the league only featured eight teams – meaning that half the clubs wore what was essentially the same kit. Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets were twinned with one another, leaving only Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United to wear shirts bespoke to them at home.
If we consider this Sydney shirt in a vacuum however, away from it being worn by the rest of the league, one may find that this is actually a really nice top – genuinely so. The club’s trademark combination of sky blue and navy has always been incredibly attractive and these kits still featured a small amount of orange to tie in with the crest – a colour that was sadly dropped from the kits in 2009/2010 and never returned (even being scrubbed from Sydney’s new logo introduced a few years back).
Besides the orange and the classic crest, the A-League’s iconic eight-pronged logo took pride of place on the right chest – with each of its outcroppings representing one of the eight founding teams of the competition (rest in peace New Zealand Knights). Bing Lee, a chain of superstores mainly selling consumer electronics, was a new arrival to Sydney’s kits in 2007/2008 and still featured in 2008/2009, with their dark blue and white logo gelling remarkably well with the blues already naturally found on the club’s shirts. An almost perfect match, really, although slightly more intrusive than private hospital operator Healthe who served as shirt sponsors for the first two years of Sydney FC’s existence.
Now that we’re on the topic of that first-ever Sydney FC shirt anyway, we just so happen to own a copy, which we have placed to the right of our 2008/2009 shirt in the above photograph.
One can clearly see a big upgrade took place from one shirt to the next; starting with 2007/2008, Sydney’s crest and wordmark were embroidered rather than stickered on – which probably saved a lot of fans quite a bit of nailbiting watching the shirts go into the washing machine. Stickering on football shirts is notoriously bad with wear and tear and will often come loose and disintegrate at the slightest provocation by washing appliances (whether you bought them at Bing Lee or not), so to have Reebok finally provide embroidery must have been a Godsend indeed.
As for the crest itself, well, we absolutely love it; we adore the styling of the early A-League years across crests and shirts, most of which have sadly been replaced. Such is the case for the sky blue, navy, and orange symbol that Sydney started out with. A playful design that combines a slightly wonky triangular shield with flashes of orange and light blue alongside it, the club must have judged it to be either too unpopular or too hard to digitally reproduce, for it was summarily replaced in 2017 – the new crest not being a patch on this original.
Do note that the stickered crest is much more accurate than the embroidered one; Sydney’s crest featured a fading effect behind the graphical representation of the Opera House and inside the football, which the embroidery completely fails to capture. Bit of a trade-off then – your crest won’t wash off but it’s not 1:1 accurate. This complexity – which is very typical of the early A-League years – is probably one of the main reasons why the new, more simple crest was introduced a few seasons ago.
Peering into the collar, we find the shirt’s shoulders to be made of a nice breathable mesh, while the inside reveals sizing information, aguarantee of this being an ‘official licensed product’ from Reebok and the A-League, and a plug for the competition’s excellent ’90 Minutes, 90 Emotions’ campagin – a strapline that has no right being as good as it is.
This was quite a big media offensive by the FFA to increase football’s popularity across Australia, featuring a number of ads that highly dramatized matches, right down to spectators floating away and spontaneously turning into water. The madness is archived here for posterity’s sake, and we urge you to take a look – you’ll be able to spot all of the kits worn by A-League team at the time, including this Sydney shirt (sans Bing Lee sponsorship). We recall seeing it set to the tune of Aussie band The Presets’ smash hit ‘My People’ as well, but this version doesn’t seem to be available online.
Attending a match must be real dangerous business down in Australia if that advert is to be believed. Some things are just like European football though, like the appearance of this wee jock tag in the bottom left corner of the front of the kit. The Hyundai A-League (you have to include the car company’s name, they are paying good money for the privilege after all) has always heavily pushed its own branding, which appears both on the chest and here, set atop Reebok’s logotype.
The navy blue tusks that lend this template much of its look run quite far down, almost reaching the bottom hem of the shirt. They also provide extra breathability, being made of mesh to improve the shirt’s ventilation.
The sleeves are full-on navy but do intriguingly terminate in thin white cuffs; a colour that is otherwise largely absent from this shirt, as its only other appearance is on the boomerang-shaped cutouts on the shoulders. White hadn’t featured on Sydney’s inaugural kits and wouldn’t appear again in fabric form until 2013/2014 when adidas was in need of extra shirt sales and figured they’d use it as an accent colour on the home kit. This makes the shirts worn between 2007 and 2009 a bit of an anomaly in the club’s history, as beyond the 13/14 shirts by adidas only two further home kits have featured white at the time of writing.
Reebok’s proprietary Play Dry technology is used on the shirt (whether it actually does something is not entirely clear) and gets an outing on the right sleeve, while the countless Korean Won invested by Hyundai in the A-League ensure that the car manufacturer gets a prominent spot on the left sleeve. These details were shared across all shirts of all clubs in the league, just like how all of them wore the league’s logo on the right chest (a practice that continues to this very day).
The reverse of the shirt is rather plain, livened up only by a rather massive sticker touting the existence of MBF, a health insurance provider. Nowadays MBF exists a lot less, as it was bought out and usurped by a competitor called BUPA. We appreciate that MBF’s logo was mostly blue and wouldn’t be very visible when printed onto the sky blue base of Sydney’s shirts, but surely a more elegant solution could have been found beyond Reebok just sticking it on a big white rectangle and collecting a paycheque?
The upper back looks a wee bit better, brightened by the white and orange boomerang shapes that we previously saw draped over the front; the mesh we saw inside the collar earlier is squeezed inbetween the navy panels, and topped off with a thin strip of navy.
Usually the upper back of a shirt is where kit suppliers get a little creative and place a club’s name, motto, or year of founding in embroidery or as sublimation – but Reebok clearly was having none of that. In fact, none of their Australian customers ever got such bespoke details on their shirts in the early years – they could get their crests embroidered and their sponsors stickered, sure, and if they asked nicely Reebok would even supply the colours the clubs desired, but no further detailing was allowed. A bit odd when you consider that retail prices on football shirts in Australia tend to be crazy – mirroring the situation in the old US of A – surely adding just a little extra touch wouldn’t have cut into Reebok’s bottom line? Or, well, adidas’ bottom line seeing as the Germans owned Reebok at the time of the deal with the A-League. How come every time we bemoan the rampant, wanton greed involved with football shirts, adidas always seems to be right around the corner wringing its hands?
Seen above is club captain Tony Popovic, having a friendly chat with a referee during a match in the 2007/2008 season – as we explained, you can tell what season this picture was taken from right away, by noting the Reebok logo on the chest.
Bing Lee was already present in the shirt’s first season of use, as was JVC who gave acte de présence as shorts sponsors. These shorts were rather nifty, featuring sky blue panels and orange piping on their sides, and matched well with the shirts (although they seem like holdovers from the league’s first two seasons). When players opted to tuck in their shirts, the navy tusks along their sides seemingly connected to the shorts for an added bit of synergy between various parts of the kit.
Seen above is a gaggle of Sydney’s players having a laugh during the 2008/2009 season, as evidenced by Reebok’s name appearing in full on the chest. Shirts and shorts remained unchanged besides the supplier swapping out its logo, and were accompanied by sky blue socks with orange and navy trim – completing the iconic look that Sydney FC possessed during its ‘orange years’ in the early era of the A-League.
It’s a bit tough for us to say whether we liked these shirts or the club’s inaugural look from 2005 through 2007 more, but we remain disappointed by the squandered potential here; orange was a part of the colourset in the club’s first four seasons of play, but never had more than a cameo appearance as tertiary colour. We’re certain something spectacular could have been pulled off if it had been given a bit more room and time in the spotlight, but this clearly wasn’t meant to be as Sydney and Reebok axed orange from the shirts starting in 2009. The change of crest in 2017 pretty much cemented the colour’s status as being dead and buried, but hopefully one day we’ll see the club commission a neat throwback shirt to resurrect it.
Until then, we still have fond memories of those pioneering days in the A-League to enjoy – even if Sydney didn’t have much luck wearing the shirt featured today, finishing third and losing in the semi-final of the Finals in 2007/2008 and finishing fifth and thus missing out on the Finals in 2008/2009. Cruelly enough, once ‘our’ shirt was swapped out for what would be the club’s final Reebok design, Sydney FC immediately finished first in the regular season and won the finals, consigning the 2007-2009 shirt to be forever forgettable by being sandwiched inbetween two much more succesful designs.
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.