73. Puma 'Cloud' (2000-03)
You know what makes a really good football shirt template? Simply, it has to be able to accomodate many different colour combinations with clarity, balance and style. Our entry at number 73 in The 100 Greatest Football Shirt Templates countdown certainly ticks that box, yet no-one's ever made all that much of a fuss about it.
It's actually a very clever template in that it blends all three of the colours it uses to make the best of each one. The primary colour acts as a canvas, on top of which the secondary colour is typically used for a curved band across each shoulder and in a curved panel down the sides. The tertiary colour tends to be the accent that highlights a pinched v-neckline, the cuffs (in most versions) and the aforementioned side panels.
From left: Cameroon (2000-01 home), Czech Republic (2000-02 home, 2001 away), Egypt (2001 home).
The use of curves for the latter two colours is particularly nice. They provide a fluid movement that's altogether more interesting to look at because the lines aren't straight. The end result is an injection of grace and style that is well proportioned and never dominates the main colour of the shirt.
As ever, one can imagine the word 'Sobriety' writ large on the office walls of the Puma designers around this time, a reminder to tone down potentially extravagant designs. This template certain reeks of that kind of approach, and that's possibly why few people seem to rave about it.
From left: Egypt (2002 home, 2001-02 away), Faroe Islands (2001-02 home, 2002 away).
Thankfully those shoulder flashes and the bi-coloured side panels were enough detail to make any player look good, and the template rightly got its chance to shine in many high profile international matches. You'd have seen Egypt and Morocco wearing it during the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, and that tournament was eventually won by Cameroon who sported the design in their traditional green, red and yellow.
Elsewhere, the design appeared in Euro 2000 thanks to the Czech Republic's involvement in a group that, sadly for them, also featured France and the Netherlands. Though they failed to reach the knockout stage, we did at least get to see the Puma 'Cloud' design worn by the likes of Karel Poborský, Tomáš Řepka and Jan Koller.
From left: Helsingborgs (2000-01 home), Lokomotiv Moscow (2001-02 home and away), Morocco (2000-03 home).
Back in merry old England, Sheffield Wednesday weren't able to adapt their blue and white striped home shirt to the template, but they did use it for their away and third kits in white and yellow. A scattering of other teams around Europe followed suit, including Tenerife (Spain), Helsingborgs (Sweden) and Utrecht (Netherlands). Also, a special mention for Ukraine who wore home and away versions. Just because.
As we often see, there was room for one or two minor tweeks on the part of a few teams. The most notable example of tweekage was done by the Egyptian national team who appear to have worn a green shirt with black flashes as their first-choice version in 2001, but in 2002 those flashes became white and had red/black piped edging. Even their red away shirt had edged shoulder flashes - a feature that no other team wore.
From left: Morocco (2000-01 away, 2001 third), Sheffield Wednesday 2000-01 (home and away).
In many ways, the best way to personalise a Puma 'Cloud' kit was to change the style of the socks, but even then, few teams actually bothered. It was therefore merely a case of choosing where you wanted the Puma logo to appear on your shirt; most went for the default central placing, while the Tenerifes of this world placed it on the right breast instead. Puma logos on the sleeves were essentially non-negotiable.
From left: Tenerife (2001-02 home and away), Ukraine (2000-02 home).
Fundamentally, though, this was a shirt template that didn't need many customisation opportunities. The design was a fairly simple one, but it was easy on the eye and allowed the team's colours to rightfully take centre stage. Sometimes that's all you need to create a great kit design. It's true that this one wouldn't feature on many people's 'Greatest Kits' playlist, but it's a template that's certainly worth remembering for posterity.
From left: Ukraine (2001 away), Utrecht (2001-02 home and away).
Once again, our trusty band of reporters on the front line provided some vital information about a huge number of kits that were based on this template.
First up, it's thanks to Adam's Shirt Quest on Twitter for telling us about a blue third kit for the Czech Republic that was worn in 2003 against Austria, well after they'd actually switched to a new Puma kit design the year before. He also went on to point out that Albania wore the Puma 'Cloud' as a home kit in 2001, and from there I was able to get the corresponding away kit, too. Thanks Adam...
Up next, it's Jack Henderson who was quick off the mark to tell us about the home and away ensembles worn by two German clubs - Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt. Gotta love that bright green Wolfsburg home kit... Thanks for the details, Jack...
Finally, Daniel Hansen kept me in a teutonic frame of mind by bringing to light a little known third kit worn by 1FC Köln. I think that one might be the only four-colour kit based on this template, what with the shirt being yellow, green and red, coupled with black shorts. Oh, and he also reminded me that Lazio wore the template for both their home and away kits in 2000-01, while trying to retain their Serie A title from the season before. Thanks Daniel...