In football, one of the most important distinguishing signs that a team can have is the colour. In fact, usually is all about two colours that start great rivalries between squads from a country. If you talk about blue and red in Romania, Dinamo fans go mad. If you dress in black and white in Istanbul, you might get beaten by Galatasaray or Fenerbahce’s fans. And if you drink a Coke in Buenos Aires, some of Boca Juniors’ supporters might think that you like River Plate and that’s no near a safe thing.
But what happens when colours can’t separate two or even three great rivals from one country? We don’t talk about just any country, but the one that invented football, as we know it in our days: England. Manchester United, FC Liverpool and Arsenal London are the most successful teams in the history of the Albion, but they all share the same colours: white and red. It’s true, they don’t come from the same town, as it happens in the examples above, but great rivalries in soccer don’t necessary have their roots in one single town. See the one between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the one between Lyon and Saint Etienne, the one between Milan and Juventus, or the one between Bayern Munich and Dortmund.
In the case about which I am writing, those three are real rivals, even though a clash like Liverpool – Everton, United – City or Arsenal – Tottenham, may attract as many fans. Nobody can deny that Manchester United – FC Liverpool is the absolute derby of English football, so I must tell you the story of every one of these teams. How did they end up having the same colours? It looks a bit ridiculous for many football fans from around the World, but in UK this doesn’t represent a problem.
So, because Manchester United is the top team of the last two decades and older comparing to Liverpool and Arsenal, I will start my story from here. Founded in 1878, under the name of Newton Heath, “The Red Devils” were at the beginning red-white shirts, but blue pants. Still, the first palpable sign of this was a picture from 1892. After a few changes that included even green and gold shirts (!), in 1902, when the team got the name under which it is distinguished in our days, the official colours were settled at red and white. It is true that the socks were black even now, but few can deny that Manchester United is best known thanks to its red and white colours.
FC Liverpool, the English team with most Champions’ Cups/Leagues won, five, is generally known to play at home in fully red equipment. But white is certainly the second colour of the team, especially in away matches. Initially the club played in the colours of… Everton, the local rivals, but from 1901 they adopted red as this also is the official colour of the city. Until 1964, Liverpool in red and white, but Bill Shankly decided to make an historical change: the kit turn all into red and only red, because this colour, inspired him anger, courage and force. Although Liverpool tried different combinations of colours for the away kits, most of the fans from all around the World know that in fact the “Liver Birds” can be distinguished by white, among the iconic red.
In the end, we mustn’t neglect Arsenal, the most red and white from the three squads. It all started in 1886, when The Dial Square, as the team was named then, receive life. Because it was a poor club, two of the founding members, former players at Nottingham Forest, managed to obtain a set of equipment from there which were of course, red and white. Starting then, Arsenal always played in red and white, in different shapes. The most remarkable change took place in 1933, when the legendary Herbert Chapman attached to the kit white sleeves. The origin of his idea is uncertain, but two popular stories regarding this, are circulating for decades. The first says that Chapman saw a supporter dressed with a red sweater with no sleeves, over a white shirt. The other ‘legend’ tells that his idea came from the clothes of one of the friends with whom he used to play golf: the cartoonist Tom Webster.
And to show once again why these two colours are the supreme ones in English football let’s just say, even though I reminded before, that also in red and white is playing another emblematic English club, like Nottingham Forest. The ‘Foresters’ won only a league in their history, but they managed to become a legend after achieving two European Club Cups’.