49. Puma TeamFINAL 21 (2020-22)

Graphic showing examples of the Puma TeamFINAL 21 shirt template

Chris Oakley | 10 March 2024

Goalkeepers take the blame for a great many things. The late Peter Bonetti was widely vilified for his performance against West Germany in England’s 3-2 defeat in the 1970 World Cup quarter-finals. David Seaman was criticised after being lobbed from considerable distance by Real Zaragoza’s Nayim in the 1995 European Cup-Winners’ Cup final. If you’re Scottish and happen to find yourself wearing a shirt with ‘1’ on the back, you can take it as read that someone, somewhere*, will mock you for being an inept footballer at some point. It’s not often, however, that the humble goalkeeper can be found guilty of making a football kit unlikeable.

That’s essentially what happened to any kit based on the Puma TeamFINAL 21 template. A comparatively recent design at time of writing, it still retains a reputation for being undesirable among many football fans. It’s true to say that some templates simply have that effect; fans see it appearing in the kit launches of dozens of teams across a short space of time, and suddenly it’s Saturation City. Too much, too soon.

From left: Amiens (2020-21 home), Barnsley (2020-21 away), Darlington (2020-21 away), Ingolstadt (2020-21 third).

Fans need time to develop a love for their favourite kit designs, and a sudden deluge of imagery showing one team after another wearing basically the same thing is never going to go down well. All of that is common knowledge. More rare is a template design being judged poorly specifically because it was worn by too many goalkeepers.

Puma TeamFINAL 21 was just such a phenomenon. Debuting in 2020, the template was instantly eye-catching due to its repeating pattern of hexagons, each one given a treatment of line shading and gradient colouring that made the body of each shirt look intriguingly three-dimensional.

But ‘eye-catching’ is often another way of saying ‘way out’ or ‘bizarre’ in the world of football kit design. As a result, most Puma-affiliated teams steered clear of it for their outfield players, opting instead to let their goalkeepers wear it - usually in the commonly chosen colour of Glimmer Green. Some people say goalkeepers are ‘different,’ so it was hardly revelatory behaviour.

From left: Inverness Caledonian Thistle (2020-21 home, 2020-21 away / 2021-22 third), Israel (2020-21 home), Osnabrück (2020-21 away).

Yet despite the fact that people predominantly saw only goalkeepers wearing the template back in 2020, it still managed to quickly create a sense of omnipresence bad enough to make some people sick of the sight of it. A shame, not just for the creatives that produced the design, but also for the teams that actually did want their outfield players to wear it.

It’s perhaps a little peculiar that few teams were in that category, and of those that did, TeamFINAL 21 was preferred as an away or third kit. Worn by brave souls like Barnsley, Wigan Athletic, and Peterborough United, most versions gravitated to the main colours of red, white, blue and black. Inverness Caledonian Thistle, however, went all in with a red and blue home shirt in an atypical striped version, complemented by an away kit in shocking pink.

All instances of the shirt featured a tapered strip running most of the way from neckline to cuff, and that same strip also appeared on the accompanying shorts (although many teams opted for Puma’s alternatives). The sleeve strip was a customisable element that could be rendered in a secondary colour, or left to blend in seamlessly with the primary colour.

From left: Peterborough United (2020-21 away), Sivasspor (2020-22 away and 2021-22 third), Stockport County (2020-21 home).

Strangely for a template design, there wasn’t much else that could be pre-determined, although the neckline was available in two options; a simple round cut-away or a gently curving wrapover. Aside from that, it was simply a case of choosing a colour that worked best for the team in question.

Although some might offer this as an early example of what has now become the easy use of a fancy pattern to sell a shirt, this one at least has some merit. The hexagon, for some, has a connection with those footballs with a buckminsterfullerene patch structure (think Adidas Telstar in Mexico ‘70), so the geometry here seems perfectly apt. However, that alone wouldn’t be sufficient enough to be worthy of note. Thanks to the clever use of colouring and shading, the repeating pattern (seen only on the trunk of the shirt) is transformed into something genuinely captivating.

From left: Tranmere Rovers (2020-21 away), Wigan Athletic (2020-21 away), Zwickau (2021-22 home).

To a football fan in 1970, the Puma TeamFINAL 21 is very much a design of the future. I realise that’s a dumb kind of thing to say, but if you asked a kid half a century ago to draw what football shirts will look like in 2020, this would not only match the limits of their imagination, but exceed it. How ironic, then, that so many people took it for granted - even openly disliked it - in the era in which it was created. We were lucky to get it.

(Many thanks go to Adam’s Shirt Quest for his help in researching this template.)

To see the full set of Puma TeamFINAL 21 kits, visit the Puma TeamFINAL 21 template gallery page.


* Probably England.


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