Strip Club–Half and Half Edition (Long Version)
In the summer of 1997, Dutchman Louis van Gaal took over at FC Barcelona from Bobby Robson, with the team coming off a relatively successful season—second in the league, Copa del Rey winners and Cup Winners’ Cup winners. In the off season Ronaldo had moved to Inter after one amazing campaign with the Blaugrana, but not to worry as the lineup was chock full of stars, including Vítor Baía, Ferrer, Fernández, Guardiola, Couto, Óscar García, Luís Figo, Hristo Stoichkov, Sonny Anderson, Giovanni, Rivaldo, Sergi Barjuán, Guillermo Amor, Pizzi, Nadal, Luis Enrique, Reiziger, and Iván de la Peña.
After falling to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup at the beginning of the season, this assembly of talent went on to win the Spanish Double. The team got off to a fast start and led the league nearly the entire season, eventually securing the title by nine points over Athletic Bilbao, who had a made a late surge up the table. Watching the league goals from that season, Luis Enrique was a machine, it was a reminder of how good Rivaldo was, and there were some fantastic goals against Real Madrid. One other thing I noticed. . . either FCB wore their home kit almost every match or they could only score in the home strip.
In the Spanish Cup, FCB joined the competition in the Round of 16 and hammered Valencia, Merida and Real Zaragoza on their way to the Final, where they met Real Mallorca in Valencia. An early goal from Mallorca had Barca on the ropes but Rivaldo, the tournament’s leading scorer, equalized midway through the second half. Despite Mallorca having two men sent off before extra time started, FCB could not find a winner, having to win on penalties, with each team sending eight kickers to the spot.
In Europe the Blaugrana beat Borussia Dortmund to win the UEFA Super Cup but failed to progress in the Champions League. Latvian champions Skonto were their opponents in the second qualifying round, and after a tough match at the Nou Camp, a 3-2 win, FCB travelled away and won 1-0 to move on to a group that included Newcastle United, PSV and Dynamo Kyiv. Barca finished dead last in their group and were hammered 7-0 over two games with Kyiv. I vaguely remember watching Tino Asprilla’s performance against the Spanish team at St. James Park in which he scored a hat trick (and even found the ESPN highlights with JP and Tommy Smyth). Watching the highlights again, I was stunned by how Keith Gillespie tortured Sergi on the Newcastle left.
This was one of the first jerseys I ever bought. I can’t even remember if I ordered it from a catalog or found it at a store. This was the last Kappa strip (who took over for the 1992/93 season) before the switch to Nike, and the Kappa color scheme tended to be more royal blue and bright red rather than the historic blue and claret. One item I came upon in my research was that during the formation of the club, half the shirt was blue and the other claret, the sleeves were opposite colours and the shorts were white. One of the many theories explaining the origin of the kit colours — blue and scarlet — is that Gamper used the same colours as the Basel team, where he had played before coming to Catalonia. (Courtesey of FC Barcelona). That season the club also had a European strip, which was an altered version of the home strip.
The ring collar was a major design change after over 15 years of a standard collar, and the shirt also featured typical Kappa design features for FCB shirts, which included sublimated Barca and Kappa logos throughout the shirt and the Kappa logo down the sleeves. The shirt is light but the collar is a little itchy so I always have to wear some sort of undershirt. Blue shorts with the Kappa logo down the sides and blue and red hooped socks complete the strip.
Of all of my FCB shirts, this is my least favorite although I like them all. Nice piece of history though.