I woke up this morning to find that today, 15 April, in baseball is Jackie Robinson day. Each year the top teams in the MLB celebrate the life of the legendary player who broke the racial boundaries to become one of the best players the game has ever seen. All the teams playing today will wear his number 42 and most teams will wear a retro, or 'throwback', uniform.
Wearing a throwback uniform is a common sight in American sports. They usually do it for a certain event such as Jackie Robinson day but sometimes they wear one on an anniversary of a triumphant team from yesteryear or sometimes just for a game against a fierce rival. American football teams do this even with a season that can last only 16 games. This got me thinking. About the top sport in not only this country but probably the world. Football, or soccer if you like, doesn't seem to have this set up. And I think it's a big opportunity missed.
The love of football shirts goes back a long way for die hard fans. They are cherished and adored in no way a piece of clothing can be. They remind us of great goals, great players and great games that we saw our teams play in. Even the ugliest of kits can be the best ones because of events that are connected to it. Holland for example have had some lovely kits but to most fans their favourite will be less attractive 1988 kit, because that is the kit they won their only tournament in.
There are now websites where you can buy retro football shirts from all the teams around the world. Great companies like COPA and TOFFS have given fans the chance to wear their favourite shirts from different eras. Football clubs have even caught on and sell retro shirts in their club shop and on their website. So there is a love for the retro jersey in football.
Although football moves on, there has been plenty of homages to the kits of time gone by. Most recently we have seen Umbro design simplistic kits starting with England's 2010 World Cup outfits based on the 1950s home kit and the famous '66 red shirt. They also created the very nice 2010/11 Manchester City kit that looked like something Mike Summerbee would have worn.
Staying at the top end of the Premier League Chelsea and Manchester United had kits recently that were similar to previous kits. Manchester United, for some reason, chose from a less successful period to base their 2010/11 kit. Chelsea's title winning kit of 2005 had pretty much the same shorts as the famous FA Cup winning side of 1970 and in 2008 their kit looked a lot like the one of 1998. But it isn't really that 'retro'.
Arsenal and Rangers are two teams that come to mind when it comes to having good attempts at a retro kit. The Gunners celebrated their last season at Highbury by wearing a burgundy number that was so popular even Thierry Henry wanted to keep it. Whereas Rangers have spent this season from the bottom division in Scotland wearing a kit that replicates the one worn by the 1972 Cup Winner's Cup side.
One thing football clubs have done is stay true to their colours, with many sides keeping the same away kit. For example West Ham often wear sky blue with two claret hoops and Crystal Palace sometimes have the white shirt with the blue and red diagonal stripes. But you wouldn't call it a proper retro or throwback kit.
So there are teams that pay homage to those great kits with new ones that look like. But wouldn't it be great if you saw your side walk out of the tunnel wearing a retro kit? I don't mean a kit that looks old-school, I mean a proper full on retro kit.
There is only one team I can think of has done it and done it exactly how it should be done. In February 2008 it was the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. Manchester United played a derby game against Manchester City wearing a full 50s kit that looked exactly like the ones the players, the Busby Babes, wore. There was no sponsors or badges. Just a plain kit with retro numbers. It was perfect for the look and for the occasion too. By wearing a retro kit it pays respect to players who played for the club. It educates young fans, and some players too, more about the club they play for and the importance it has for the fans.
Liverpool, with their American owners, could be heading the same way. They changed their badge this season to a more traditional one of the 70s and 80s. Today is also the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Could we see in the future Liverpool do something similar to what Manchester United did? Could they wear a kit that would respect the fans who lost their lives that day? As long as they keep the '96' and the two justice flames on the kit.
Now when would other teams wear a throwback kit? The best time that pops into my mind is Boxing Day. Although nearly every one thinks we should have a winter break, it would be horrible for there not to be football played on Boxing Day. Many people spend this time with their families as they recover from the previous day (or in my case have Christmas Part II). Wouldn't it be made better if you can reminisce about the 'good old days' watching teams playing in retro kits? Take last Boxing Day. Wouldn't it have been great to see QPR in their old Rodney Marsh style kits v the Laurie Cunningham West Brom green and yellow away kit?
It would be a huge spectacle for all fans. The older generation would love it and the kids watching now could see their heroes of today in these famous old kits. Talking of kids it is a surprise that the big kit manufacturers haven't thought of this idea themselves. If Boxing Day was to become the 'throwback kit day' the amount of profit they would get from kids asking Father Christmas for the retro kid would be massive. I'm sure a few big kids would have it on their wish list too! (I apologise now to any parents in the future if I have cost them more money on football shirts).
As much as football, like life, moves on and keeps on going, creating its own legacies and legends, it would be pretty special if we had a unique way to celebrate the past like our American cousins do.