New ‘republican’ football shirt has Spanish conservatives crying foul

Purple colouring reminds many of leftist pre-war flag

Few areas of Spanish life have been immune to the country’s ongoing territorial crisis and now even the national football team has been tainted.

On Monday, the Spanish Royal Football Federation unveiled the shirt its players will wear at next year’s World Cup in Russia. For the most part, it appeared to be a conservative design, with the Spanish team’s traditional red punctuated by yellow shoulder stripes echoing the national flag.

However, running vertically down one side of the shirt is a jagged line combining yellow and, more controversially, purple.

"In Spain, purple isn't just any old colour," noted El Confidencial newspaper, commenting on the hue's republican connotations.


Many see the new Adidas design as being directly inspired by the Spanish republican flag, which has three stripes: red, yellow and purple.

“What kind of a rubbish shirt is this?” asked right-wing commentator Hermann Tertsch on Twitter, as he compared it to a Soviet–era design.

Franco’s coup

Spain's leftist second republic lasted from 1931 until 1936, when a right-wing military coup led by Francisco Franco sparked three years of civil war, followed by four decades of dictatorship. The legacy of the republic continues to divide Spaniards.

Right-wing columnist Alfonso Ussía was also outraged, asking if “anyone in the Royal – yes Royal – Spanish Football Federation knows about the flag of the short-lived republic, which was so ugly and such a jinx on our history”.

Many social media users have called for a boycott against Adidas.

But not everyone has been critical. Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Podemos party, tweeted: "It's been a long time since the national team had such a nice shirt." The endorsement of Mr Iglesias, who himself has been spotted wearing a more flagrantly republican design while playing football, has only added to the new shirt's leftist aura.

Adding to the furore, some critics have identified in the shirt the presence of the red-and-yellow-striped flag of Catalonia, whose nationalist government recently declared independence, before the Spanish authorities took control of the region.


The ousted president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has been in Belgium for the last week, with four former ministers, claiming the Spanish justice system would not treat them fairly if they returned. Eight of his former cabinet colleagues have been imprisoned pending trial for charges that include sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

On Tuesday, Mr Puigdemont told Catalunya Radio that the Spanish government had staged “an illegal coup” by triggering article 155 of the constitution, which has allowed it to implement direct rule in the Catalan region.

“Europe cannot have an entire government either in exile or in prison,” said Mr Puigdemont, who is fighting Spanish attempts to repatriate him.

The Spanish government has called a Catalan election for December 21st, when Madrid’s direct rule would in theory end. However, a spokesman for the governing Popular Party (PP), Rafael Hernando, warned on Tuesday that it could be introduced again if pro-independence parties win that election and resume their independence drive.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain