Cold War Classics, no. 11 – USSR v Norway, 1985

Last year, via Cold War Classic no. 5, we looked at the world of the 1980s ‘cold-weather classic’ (we promise to never use that phrase again now), when player leggings were both stylish and necessary. Mentioned was a particularly chilly encounter between the USSR and Norway in 1985 and, as promised, we now return to take a closer examination of this match-up.

Background

In 1984, Norway and the Soviet Union were paired together along with Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland in World Cup 86 qualifying Group 6 (see here for a look at Ireland’s many kit variations during the campaign). By modern standards, it seems a harsh, cut-throat draw for all, displaying the type of competition that existed before the introduction of many of Europe’s weaker teams – in part thanks to the break-up of the likes of the USSR. Also of major significance was that Ireland were the only side who didn’t wear red home shirts, meaning that many change kits would be needed.

With two teams going through, the top-seeded former European champion Soviets were group favourites. Denmark and Ireland both possessed emerging, talented squads, but neither had made it to a finals before, while Switzerland did have several tournament appearances to their name, but not since the 1960s. Still years away from their own golden era, this left Norway as the bottom side, having been drawn from a seeding Pot E (the lowest) that only also contained Finland, Malta and Luxembourg.

The USSR, wearing the adidas that they were known for throughout their later period, began the group away to Ireland in a sublime all-white away kit, with red v-neck collar, short-sleeve cuffs, pinstripes, and stripe trim.

Like many Soviet shirts of the era (dating back to around 1979), the badge was positioned on the ‘irregular’ right-hand side, where a trefoil would usually have been, though the adidas logo was still present on the shorts.

The same jersey, but WITH a trefoil, had been used back at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, with the crest and manufacturer logo still on their traditional wrong sides. This could suggest that, while, the usual obscuring was indeed a politically motivated move (the crest purposefully placed on the ‘left’?), the positioning of the crest was simply an artistic choice rather than a covering up. But, more realistically, it may well have been that the World Cup version was designed as such to disguise the fact that the crest was being used to hide the ‘western’ symbol of the trefoil on cheaper-sourced, non-tournament kits.

The Soviets’ next game was away to Norway in November 1984, with the reintroduction of a long-sleeved shirt, last seen in a March 1983 friendly against France, but now with an updated font for the ‘CCCP’ mark on the front, delightfully striped like the adidas number style on the back. A red round-neck collar replaced the V, and the pinstripes were gone, but this white kit was as equally fetching as the one used in Dublin.

The same strip was used again as the USSR’s played its third consecutive away game in the group, when Switzerland hosted in April, 1985. However, the reverse fixture in June saw the debut of a new home kit, featuring a red long-sleeve shirtd with white turn-over collar and trim (a template also used by East Germany, as seen in CWC8).

Next, a short-sleeved away version with a straight colour reversal was used in Denmark on June 5, with the striped ‘CCCP’ from the previous away kit thankfully reintroduced. The trefoil on the shorts remained the only sign of adidas branding throughout the kit changes, if you chose to ignore the instantly recognisable sleeve, short and sock striping, of course.

The template used against Switzerland and Denmark clearly proved inadequate for the Soviets needs, another new shirt made its first appearance in the home clash against the Danes and was retained for the penultimate group game with the Irish. Another design we have already looked at in depth due to its use by East Germany and Finland, the USSR version gives us a nice look at horizontal shadow stripes (a design named ‘Aberdeen’) when applied to red-tones.

Having already spent far too much time on the Soviets, thankfully Norway’s kit progression was more stable. Starting the decade in adidas, the Scandinavians quickly followed the lead of their Danish neighbours by switching to Hummel, a West German company in origin, later based out of Denmark.

In 1984, Denmark and Norway were both wearing the same template featuring subtle vertical shadow stripes and trademark Hummel chevrons down the sleeves and sides, but with white raglan sleeves in the case of the Danes rather than red. Curved piping divided this area, somewhat surprisingly in blue for Denmark and white for Norway, rather than vice-versa to better match the two countries’ flags. But speaking of which, the beautiful simplicity of a Norway flag on a white disc as crest is one of our all-time favourites, and white shorts and navy socks completed a classic look.

This was the strip used in the Norwegians’ opener against the Swiss in September, 1984, and in the rest of their home group matches. The away reversal of the shirt, accompanied by white shorts and socks, was worn in Denmark and Ireland, with the last two games away to the red-shirted Soviets and Switzerland to come, guaranteeing a pleasing four-four home and away kit split over the eight fixtures.

Going in to the match in Moscow, Norway had been the weakest team in the group as expected, while the USSR were on track for qualification. With the dynamic Danes set to take top spot, however, a result was still needed for the home side to ensure a place in Mexico the following summer as Switzerland were hot on their heels in third. It was the USSR’s last game, with the Swiss still to host the Norwegians in November while the Irish took on the Danes, but a Soviet win would render those games effectively meaningless.

The Match

On October 30, 1985, 45,000 entered the Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow as temperatures plummeted behind the Iron Curtain. Of all teams, the traveling Norwegians will have been troubled little by this, but the freezing cold and layer of snow present on the pitch as the two captains shook hands were not ideal for either side.

It seems the snow was cleared from within the boundary lines by the time the game actually started, but the biting air meant that extra garments would be needed by some on and off the pitch. As a result, the majority of players for both teams took to the field wearing leggings under their shorts, matched in colour to that of their own team mates.

As a significantly large piece of gear, and used in such numbers, it’s fair to say that the leggings were effectively a part of the kit that had to be coordinated, much like baselayers years later. The USSR, now wearing the same strip three times in a row, chose a sort of greyish-white pair in somewhat of an attempt to match the white of their shorts, but unfortunately without the continuation of the three red stripes.

On the Norweigian side, white would have also seemed logical due to their all-white away kit, but the Soviet’s selection meant this would have caused a leg-clash. A fitting navy was used instead, which may in fact have been a more sensible choice all along as white/white/white/white might have had the players blending in with the snow entirely.

The other noteworthy thing about the Norwegians was the debut of a new shirt, but Denmark would again be mirrored as a long-sleeve version of a template and colourway already worn by them in Oslo itself earlier in the month was employed. A solid red v-neck and cuffs, at least, differentiated the jersey to that of the Danes, which contained white trim in these areas.

Also used by Tottenham Hotspur in their first season with Hummel, the overall design evolution removed side-chevrons but made up for it with a horizontal row across the centre, the tops of which beautifully sprouted off into diagonal pinstripes with correspondingly thin chevrons on the socks.

At the end of the day, the home side took the points with a 1-0 win and secured a place at their sixth World Cup (like England, the USSR failed to qualify for the World Cups of 1974 or 1978 – the only such instances during their FIFA membership). Unsurprisingly, only 4,500 turned up to watch the formality that was Switzerland vs Norway in November, with another snowy pitch meaning the same kit/legging configuration was used again by some of the Norwegian players.

Following the conclusion of the group, it seems that this particular away shirt was unfortunately never used by Norway again. Nor was the template adapted to a home shirt, a fact also shared by its Danish equivalent, which possibly suggests that it had been intended for use on white shirts only (a theory backed up by Spurs’ usage when few other teams, or none, were given it).

For the Soviets, the same template used in those final qualifying games was retained for the World Cup (in short sleeves of course), with some significant differences.

For one, as with four years previous when the global market last happened to be watching, the adidas trefoil mysteriously made an appearance once again. In addition, the crest and maker logo were back on their traditional sides, satisfying many who could never adapt to such heretical alignments, while the hoop weave was absent – in order to deal with the heat of Mexico, adidas produced the first iteration of Climalite 2000 shirts.

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