Shirt Fronted #9 – Ireland 2000/01

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In celebration of one of the Spurs’ better players of the 2000’s, Robbie Keane, and his current side LA Galaxy’s title  win in the MLS versus  New England Revolution, we travel to the Republic of Ireland for this week’s Shirt  Fronted, with me, StoppinHo, the Football Shirt Activist. (surely archivist?)

I got this shirt from my Brother who travelled the UK and Ireland in 2000. It was purchased in Dublin, and for me this is a very unusual shirt which also packs a very bizarre story.

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The first unusual aspect of this shirt is the material used. The material is felt in touch and, when folded, tends to cling together. Not as “freefall” as the usual cotton or polyester or other common materials used in making regular shirts. My only thoughts as to why Umbro went this way was to experiment with keeping players warm or perhaps it was an attempt to make the shirts more figure hugging, feeling suffocated like the kappa shirts at the time. There seems to be a ton of elastic in the fibres as the shirt can be stretched but not out of shape. If you look on the photos, you will see a lot of vertical lines on the shirt, this is the elastically part of the shirt, and as you can see, it covers most parts of the shirt.

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The collar is a much sturdier effort as well, and it replicates that of a rugby shirt, tough, and cannot be easily torn by a simple shirt pull or a horse collar. The badge is embroided into the shirt and is the old emblem of the Rep of Ireland of the time. The colour is a very deep green, in keeping with the tradition of their home shirts. The Umbro logo is also embroided and has the name and diamond symbols as well.

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A strange touch is the sponsor OPEL. It seems that most of the shirts that you could buy had the sponsor logo on it, but I cannot remember if they wore shirts with the sponsors while playing. I have checked and this was most definitely not the training shirt.

I mentioned there was a story to this shirt….. During the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, of which the Republic of Ireland was a participant, I decided to wear the shirt out to the local shopping centre, Southland. I was verbally abused for wearing this shirt by an Irishman, and the reason for this was the name on the back of the shirt. It is the Keane shirt and bears the number 9. If you remember at the time, Roy Keane decided  to leave the squad during the world cup in defiance of the then manager, Mick McCarthy. It was seen as treason by this particular “fan”, but little did he realize that it was supposed to be the Robbie Keane shirt, and this is depicted by the #9 on the shirt, obviously more of a forward’s shirt, or that of an attacking midfielder. Roy was attacking but not in the sense of the #9 role, just ask Alf Inge Haarland!

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So there you have it, the shirt and the story to go with it. For the record I called the guy a fool and told him Roy wore #7, to which he mouthed off. No doubt a Hooligan.

Other players to wear this shirt at the time apart from Robbie and Roy were Ian Harte, Steve Staunton,  Richard Dunne and Nial Quinn.

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