Cold War Classic no. 5 – Bulgaria v West Germany, 1984

  • Given the heavy snowfall of the past few days, it seems like the perfect time for this latest addition to the series – see here for the others, click here for the Pyro On The Pitch blog follow Joey on Twitter here.

Last time on CWC, we featured a game that was more cold weather than Cold War.

This time we focus on both, as we return to showcasing a match between two countries from either side of the Iron Curtain (to be honest, that’s about the extent of the politics in this one), but as we shall see it was also very cold.

Unfortunately, weather statistics for Bulgaria in 1984 are not readily available online, otherwise I would have definitely consulted them for this article. But the chilliness was self-evident by the attire worn by players on both sides as Bulgaria hosted West Germany for a friendly on February 15 of that year, proving that, regardless of ideology, all humanity is still subject to Mother Gaia’s harsh will.

Before we get to that, it is worth noting that of the three occasions the two sides would meet on Bulgarian soil in the 1980s (’80, ’84 and ’89), the hosts would wear their traditional away strip of red shirts, green shorts and red socks every time, leaving the West Germans free to use their first choice white and black.

In 1975, their last meeting before the 80s, Bulgaria had worn their usual white home shirts, green shorts and red socks, with West Germany in their away green and white, and this was again the case when the fixture would come up in 1995 (albeit with Bulgaria now in white socks).

So, the three 80s games stand out, particularly as Bulgaria otherwise usually wore their normal first strip at home, while the West Germans themselves had a habit of often wearing their away kit when playing Turkey at home in the period. But in this case, it seems that since Germany’s home white and away green would both clash with elements of the Bulgarian strip, the solution was for just for Bulgaria to change themselves. Incidentally, the two other games in the 80s played between the two in Germany had also seen Bulgaria in their red-green-red, giving West Germany a 5-0 sweep in terms of home and away kits worn for the decade.

The 1980 game, a World Cup qualifier in December, set the stage for what was to come in 1984 as snow could be seen in the areas surrounding the pitch. But, either it wasn’t really too cold that day, or else footballers were still harder in 1980 than their counterparts four years later, as the players wore what they normally would for any match.


As we saw in CWC 4 though, a precedent for players wearing extra gear to keep warm in cold weather had already long been set. And while this was originally restricted to tracksuit bottoms for goalkeepers (whose position inherently means they won’t be able to keep as warm during a game as the outfield players who run more, so fair enough), by the 80s this had graduated to leggings being worn liberally by outfielders on particularly cold occasions.

The decision to wear leggings was of course up to the discretion of the individual player, based either on how he was clearly not very hard, or how cold it got. But eventually, players became so soft (I’m joking, all footballers and their practices from the 80’s and before are of course infallibly heroic) or the weather was so unbearable that entire squads were at it. In these instances, much like baselayers today, leggings effectively became part of kit. After all, you couldn’t have different players running around in different coloured leggings, it would be confusing for all involved.

Who knows when the first time a starting 11 all wore leggings, but when Bulgaria would take to the field on that day in 1984, in the fantastically named Yuri Gagarin Stadium in Varna, they would NEARLY place themselves in the history books as an example of a fully leg-covered team, as a couple of players did go without.


For most, classic black was uniformly used to compliment the otherwise red and green strip with white trim. The shirt itself is a vintage Adidas template, but one that seemed slightly outdated by this stage as a similar design had been used by the likes of Czechoslovakia as early as 1980.

West Germany, still in a phase of using Adidas shirts with Erima shorts, showed more gumption as none of their players wore leggings. However, a couple of things did stand out. For one, there were two variations of this particular shirt (also worn since 1980) and both were on show. Most players wore the regular version, featuring a black collar over the white v-neck of the shirt.


The jersey of captain Karl Heinz Rummenigge was more of a round-neck, with the black part of the collar coming across the top. It was actually identical to the collar of Adidas goalkeeper shirts at the time, including West Germany’s. This was was particularly appropriate given the other main thing – in the apparent absence of anything else, or indeed preparation for the conditions, Rummenigge can clearly be seen wearing a pair of cumbersome, presumably borrowed goalkeeper gloves, thus achieving an altogether surreal look which baffles the brain’s preconceived perception that such gloves are only worn with goalkeeper kits in this dimension [MOJ note – we’ve had to guess as to the design of the gloves – we’ve gone with a style which West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher was using at the time, Reusch but also featuring the adidas trefoil].


When West Germany would next play two weeks later against Belgium, Bernd Schuster would also wear this style of shirt with Rummenigge back in the regular version. Meanwhile, on the same night, Spain would take to a snow-covered pitch away to Luxembourg as an entirely legs covered team. Members of the Bulgarian squad were no doubt sitting at their TVs fuming that, thanks to some of their more warm-blooded colleagues, they had squandered the opportunity to achieve this first. The Spanish also used black for their leggings, perfectly complementing their black socks, pleasingly interrupted by the Spanish flag colours


The era became a golden age for leggings both on and off the pitch. With more use in football, the issue of what colour leggings to wear would arise as not everyone could wear black (although black does go with everything) and what of leggings clashes if two particularly frigid sides face off? These questions would be answered in 1985, as the USSR took Norway in a game that could possibly be considered the apex of 80s leggings-wearing in football, but that is a story for another Cold War Classic on another cold day (don’t worry, we’ll be giving the cold weather theme a rest next time).

Much like hooliganism in England, leggings use in football would decrease by the 90s although it never truly disappeared and would see a resurgence in fashion in the modern age. But what of outfield players wearing goalkeeper gloves? This practice is probably seen by some as even more abhorrent than wearing leggings (with some traditionalists no doubt still lamenting the need for goalkeeper gloves at all). It has now been stamped out due to the widespread availability of regular gloves for footballers.

Yes, we have gotten away from Bulgaria quite a bit here and I’m sorry (they will also return to the CWC), but to kind of take this back around to where we started, there is one more documented case which shows that goalkeeper gloves on outfielders may in fact have been somewhat of a West German phenomenon.

On March 4, 1987, in a game that was itself noteworthy for Bayern Munich changing to different shirts for the second half, defender Hans Pflügler would represent his side in a European Cup quarter-final clash against Anderlecht combing both looks we have talked about: leggings AND goalkeeper gloves. Team-mate Andreas Brehme wore similar.

Rummenigge was also playing for Bayern that day and so may well have given them the idea.

As with Bulgaria in 1984, we don’t have the temperature for Munich in March 1987. Although some may have sneered, Pflügler was a very warm boy that day, which in fact enabled him put his name on the score sheet and help his side to a 5-0 victory as they progressed to the final – which also provided a noteworthy kit incident.

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