Just as we penned an article in Legia Warsaw’s stadium before they took on Cork City last month, we do the same for Rosenborg tonight, writing this in Lerkendal Stadion before the Europa League third qualifying round second leg. Don’t worry if you don’t like this mini-series – a 2-0 deficit from the first leg is likely to be too much for City to overturn.
Rosenborg are often held up as an example for Irish clubs to follow in terms of European progress – establish dominance at domestic level and then slowly build on that to gain a foothold on the continental scene. Of course, it’s only really possible for one club per country to manage that, but Rosenborg have certainly made their mark over the years.
The 1996-97 campaign stands out for the Norwegian side, marking their first appearance in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and it is that journey we shall look at in terms of their kits.
Domestically, Norwegian teams are permitted to have multiple sponsors (though alcohol advertising is banned, as Liverpool found when they played a Norway XI in 1997). For the 1996 Tippeligaen season, Rosenborg had G-Sport (not the ‘r’ there, smut-merchants) on the front of the shirts, Vekk I Morgen on the neck,
someone who don’t know insurance firm Storebrand (thanks to Eivind Aarre for this info) on the shoulders and Shell on the socks.
However, Uefa did and still do only permit one sponsor (a charity can also be promoted), and so for the Champions League, which began with a 3-2 win away to IFK Gothenburg, they only had a smaller G-Sport logo, minus the ‘Sport’ wordmark.
Obviously, plainer socks were used while the shorts changed too.
Their second game was at home to AC Milan, a 4-1 defeat. With both sides having white socks, Rosenborg changed – this was a period when home teams sometimes switched as Uefa dealt with things inconsistently.
The black socks were also used in the 1-0 home loss against Porto, who would top the group with five wins before falling to Manchester United in the quarter-finals.
Both sides wore their first-choice shirts in Trondheim, but in Oporto the hosts wore their change shirts as they won 3-0, but Rosenborg were still only three points behind Milan in the battle for second place.
The gap would be closed in the second-last game, Milan drawing 1-1 with Porto while Rosenborg had a 1-0 win at home to Gothenburg. On a bitterly cold night, the Rosenborg players wore black undershirts and leggings and white gloves.
It set up a winner-take-all clash in the San Siro in the final round of games, albeit with Milan still holding a one-point cushion, so a draw would be enough for them. With the socks-clash to sort, one would have expected them to wear black socks and white shorts – as they would do against Udinese later in the season – but instead they opted for their fourth kit.
As well as the classic striped home and white away, Lotto had supplied the rossoneri with two extra shirts, in the same style, all-black with red trim and all-red with black.
The latter had been worn against Juventus in November and was called upon again, though with different Lotto and Opel logos due to Uefa regulations.
Harald Brattbakk put Rosenborg ahead but when Christophe Duggary equalised for Milan before half-time, it looked as if they had settled. However, Vegard Heggem popped up with the 70th-minute winner and, incredibly, Rosenborg were through while the champions of 1989, 1990 and 1994 were out.
By that stage, Rosenborg had won the league for the fifth year in a row, finishing 14 points ahead of Lillestrøm. With the 1997 season beginning in April, their next competitive outings would be the quarter-final against Champions League holders Juventus.
Considering they were going into the games cold, a 1-1 home draw, with Christian Vieri equalising Trond Egil Soltvedt’s opener, was a more than creditable result. Juve wore their blue and yellow away kit in Trondheim, with the return in Turin – a 2-0 win for the hosts – seeing the only outing for Rosenborg’s red away shirts in that European campaign.