66. Adidas Atletico (1998-2001)

Graphic showing examples of the Adidas Atletico shirt template

Chris Oakley | 31 October 2022

Question: What do the following teams have in common? Ferencvaros, Stromsgodset, Panionios, PAOK and Shakhtar Donetsk. Need a few more names to help you out? Try Stomil Olsztyn, Hradec Kralove, Halmstad and Mura Murska Sobota.

Still haven't got it? Well the answer is that none of these teams will be featuring in this instalment of the 100 Greatest Football Shirt Templates series. Oh believe me, I tried to include them, but despite my initial research suggesting they'd worn the Adidas Atletico template, I couldn't find any photo- or video-based proof.

No matter. Luckily I found 36 versions that were worn by 28 different teams, and illustrating them is what's taken me so long to put this article together. Sorry about that.

Top row, from left: Austria Lustenau (1999-2000 home), Benfica (1999-2000 home and away), Brann (1999 home).
Bottom row, from left: Crystal Palace (1998-99 home), Debreceni (1999-2000 home), Deportivo Saprissa (1999 home),
EA Guingamp (1998-2000 home).

So whether you choose to include the teams that slipped through the photographic net or not, just why was this Adidas template so popular? Well quite simply, it was that old thing about balancing the primary and secondary colours for each team in the right proportions. The secondary colour was always restricted to a pair of side panels on the shirt, along with the familiar three stripes of Adidas running from cuff to lower shoulder. Keeping the secondary colour away from the body of the shirt meant the main colour couldn't be diluted by anything other than a sponsor logo. A simple idea, but one that works brilliantly.

Strange though it might be to say it, Adidas had a bit of a thing about decorating the sides of the shirt and the under-arm areas back in the late-1990's. Anyone that watched the 1998 FIFA World Cup will remember an Adidas template featuring thick parallel lines being worn by several teams, but by comparison, Atletico was barely there. Thankfully it gained exposure by cropping up on the backs of clubs and national teams the world over once France '98 was over, and hung around for a good couple of years at that.

One undeniable strength to this template design was the massive amount of customisation that it offered. Almost every feature could be tweaked and changed at the whim of the team wearing it. To begin, there was a repeating three-stripe Adidas shadow pattern running through most versions of the shirt, but some did away with the pattern altogether, while Crystal Palace and Valerenga incorporated a pattern based on their club badge instead.

Top row, from left: Faroe Islands (1998-2000 home), Fulham (1998-99 away), Indonesia (1998 home and away).
Bottom row, from left: Le Havre (1998-2000 home), Luxembourg (1998-99 home), Malaysia (1998 home), Montpellier (1999-2000 home).

The collars? Don't talk to me about the collars. When I was illustrating these kits, it felt like every one had a different collar style. The most popular was an Adidas v-neck with a thin line of trim on the inner edge, but just about every style was possible. Benfica went for a classic v-neck with flappy collar, Schalke went for a vintage version of same with button-up fastening, while SK Brann of Norway had a winged collar that looked like it had been plucked straight from a 1940's women's fashion magazine. Each to their own.

It was even possible to apply different colours to the side panels and Adidas stripes above them. The Faroe Islands had the former in blue and the latter in red on their white home shirt, while Montpellier used white and orange on their blue home shirt. Others didn't even bother using a contrasting colour for the side panels at all.

Look beyond the shirt and you'll find any number of different shorts and socks styles to vary the overall look of the kit even further, and undoubtedly that's what extended the appeal of the template. In some ways, it needed it, as many iterations seemed to be either red or white, although the purple of Deportivo Saprissa and the green of Austria Lustenau were two examples of what was possible for those with more imagination.

Top row, from left: Montpellier (1999-2000 away and third), Nancy Lorraine (1999-2000 home and away).
Bottom row, from left: Ozeta Dukla Trenčín (1999-2000 home), Poland (1999 home), Schalke 04 (1998-2000 home),
Slovan Liberec (circa 1999 home).

It's always fun to look at who wore these templates and to ponder how well the respective teams did while wearing it. Here, Benfica are an interesting case in point.

In no way a repetition of his previous behaviour, manager Graeme Souness drafted in a welter of top British players when he became coach of the Portuguese club in 1997. The likes of Michael Thomas, Dean Saunders and Brian Deane were just three that wore the Adidas Atletico template during a somewhat unsuccessful spell, curtailed, as it was by Souness leaving in 1999.

The aforementioned Crystal Palace achieved nothing except the dubious honour of going into administration during the 1998-99 season, and that despite having Terry Venables as coach for half the season and Steve Coppell for the other half. As for Spain (sporting a unique collar style), their 1998 World Cup campaign ended in failure when they finished third in their opening round group behind Nigeria and Paraguay. Luckily better fortunes were on the horizon for the Spanish, but they'd be wearing other kit templates in the process.

Top row, from left: Spain 1998-99 (home and away), Spartak Moscow (1998-99 home and away).
Bottom row, from left: Standard Liege (1998-99 home), St Gallen (2000-01 home), Unterhaching (1998-99 home) Vålerenga (1998-99 home).

But though success and the wearing of this design may not be linked, it remained much-liked all the same. True, some teams only wore it for one or two games at the end of a domestic campaign or in a cup final, but it was still a smart option to pull out of the wardrobe, whatever the occasion.

And yet again, we see Adidas effortlessly putting common sense and style together to great effect. It's what they always did best, and that was reflected in the number of teams queueing up to wear arguably the last great Adidas template of the 20th century. Understated brilliance.

(With thanks to Denis Hurley for confirming the official name of this template.)

From left: Vålerenga (1998-99 away), Widzew Łódź 1998-2000 (home), Wisła Płock (1999-2000 home), Zenit (2000 away).


Predictably enough, we heard from a number of familiar correspondents who each provided info about other teams that wore Adidas Atletico.

First of all, it's thanks to Daniel Hansen who pointed out on Twitter that Wigan Athletic wore a fetching home and away version of the template between 1998 and 2000. Quite a glaring omission on my part, but I was happy illustrate both kits for the Atletico gallery page.

Next, Adam's Shirt Quest and Football Shirt World on Twitter pointed out several teams that appear to have worn the template, however of those, I was only able to illustrate Zambia's home kit. Alas, the photography providing evidence for the likes of Malaysia (away), Luxembourg (away), Laos (home) and Namibia (home) (to name but four) meant I couldn't illustrate every element of their kits. Frustrating, but I'm grateful for the correspondence, chaps...

I was also pleased to hear from NationalFootballShirts.com on Twitter who sent me a picture of the Jordan home shirt that appeared to follow the template. Again, I hope to illustrate the full kit at some point in the future if some better photography comes to light.

Thanks, then, to everyone that got in touch, and don't forget, if you know of any template kits we haven't featured here, do drop us a line. I look forward to hearing from you.

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