Shirt shrift: Three disputes over football jerseys

Off colour: Racks of England football shirt, with the controversial St George's cross, are displayed in a central London store in March (Daniel LEAL)
Off colour: Racks of England football shirt, with the controversial St George's cross, are displayed in a central London store in March (Daniel LEAL)

For the second week in succession, the African Confederation Cup semi-final between Renaissance Berkane and Algerian side USM Alger was cancelled in a dispute over a map on the Moroccan team's shirts.

AFP Sport looks at three other disputes to arise from controversial choices over playing kit:

- 'Nazi' comparisons -

The German football association (DFB) changed the typeface used on its shirts after one of the kit numbers drew comparisons to a Nazi symbol.

The problem was the digit four on the national team shirts. The number 44 was at the centre of the controversy, it was said to look like the insignia of the Nazis' SS corps.

"None of the parties involved saw any proximity to Nazi symbolism in the creation process," the DFB said when the matter came to a head earlier in April.

Nonetheless, the sporting body added it did not want to "provide a platform for discussion".

Kit provider Adidas then removed shirt personalisation options for the strip from its website, the German daily Bild reported.

- England's flag flak -

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waded into a row in March over a new England football shirt designed by Nike that changed the colours of the St George's Cross, saying "we shouldn't mess" with national flags.

The US sportswear giant altered the appearance of the Cross -- the flag of England -- using purple and blue horizontal stripes in what it called a "playful update" to the shirt ahead of Euro 2024.

Nike and the Football Association said the colours on the back of the collar -- different from the traditional red cross on a white background -- were inspired by the training kit worn by England's 1966 World Cup winners.

But the decision led to a furious backlash.

"My general view is that when it comes to our national flags, we shouldn't mess with them. Because they are a source of pride, identity, who we are, and they're perfect as they are," said Sunak.

Nike said it "was never its intention to offend" but did not indicate any plans to change the design.

- Over the rainbow -

In 2023, several players in France refused to take part in an initiative organised by the country's two top divisions aimed at support for the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The plan was for playing jerseys to carry rainbow-coloured numbers.

The National Union of Professional Footballers said it was not up to the players to convey "collective messages".

Toulouse left out the players who did not want to wear the shirts.

The club's Moroccan defender Zakaria Aboukhlal tweeted: "Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses respect for my own personal beliefs. Hence, I don't believe I am the most suitable person to participate in this campaign."