FLAG FAIL: UEFA Has Denmark Playing Under Greenlandic Flag

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Using the new UEFA Nations League logo with kit colours in place of small flags like usual has led to the result that the Danish football team is represented by a symbol conspicuously similar to the flag of Greenland. 

For the first Nations League football tournament of 2018-2019, with 55 European countries competing for a newly designed trophy, UEFA made the choice not to use national flags to represent national teams in TV graphics when broadcasting matches.

Instead, bicolour versions of the new Nations League logo are used: black and white for Germany, orange and white for the Netherlands, green and white for Ireland, and so on. These are not the national colours of the countries in question, but rather the colours of the kit worn by their national football teams.

The new UEFA Nations League logo is designed by a Portuguese company, Y&R Branding, of Lisbon. Y&R Branding, on its website, describes the logo as “a system of modules based on geometrical figures that illustrate promotion (upward triangle), draw (circle) and relegation (downward triangle)”.

Unintentionally, this all leads to the fact that the Danish team, playing in the colors of the national flag of Denmark, is now represented by a symbol closely resembling the flag of Greenland: divided horizontally by white and red, a disk in the middle with colours counterchanged.

It is unfortunate that no-one at Y&R Branding or UEFA noticed that the module would look remarkably like the Greenlandic flag when utilizing the colours red and white. For anyone familiar with the design of Greenland’s iconic Erfalasorput, UEFA Nations League tv graphics look like someone tried to colour the Greenlandic flag and failed in 55 different ways.


UEFA Euro 2016: Germany in Black and White

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Germany’s “National Eleven” don’t play in the national colours of black, red and gold. Instead the successful and popular team play in black and white. It has been so for more than a hundred years. The tradition and the colours date back to the time of the Kingdom of Prussia and its ruling family, the House of Hohenzollern. 

The German national football team is one of the world’s best: Four times winner of the FIFA World Cup, three times winner of the UEFA European Championship. Today they play Italy for a place in the UEFA Euro 2016 semifinals.

More than a 100 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the colours of the German national football team were established as white and black. (This tradition was only broken by the German Democratic Republic; from 1952 to 1990 the East German team played in white and blue.)

Black and white were the colours of Prussia and its royal family. In 1871 Prussia led the formation of the German Empire, and the King of Prussia became the federal head of state with the title of German Emperor.

The Royal House of Prussia, also known as the Hohenzollerns, trace their roots back almost a thousand years to the 11th Century. From the 15th Century onwards they ruled in Berlin and Brandenburg, later expanding both east and west. In 1701 the Kingdom of Prussia was established when Frederick I was crowned in Königsberg, the modern day Russian city of Kaliningrad.

The coat of arms of the Hohenzollern dynasty was quartered white and black. The coat of arms of Prussia was white with a black eagle. Both inspired the black and white flags of the provinces of East and West Prussia as well as the flag of the Kingdom of Prussia. From 1892 to 1918 the Prussian state flag was a horizontal tricolour of black-white-black; in the broader middle stripe a black eagle with the royal cypher of King Frederick I on its breast held the Royal Prussian crown, sceptre and orb in its claws.

Prussia was the dominant constituent country in the German Empire of 1871. The black-white-red tricolour adopted by the Empire as its national flag combined the black and white of Prussia with the red and white of the Hanseatic cities.

The royal colours of Germany’s football team were continued after the fall of the monarchy in 1918 at end of World War I. The Prussian state, with its black-white flag, also survived and was still the largest state in Germany under the republican Weimar Constitution. In 1947, though, Prussia was dissolved by the Allied Control Council following 12 years of Nazi dictatorship and a devastating war.

After World War II Germans regained some of their damaged national pride as the national football team of the young Federal Republic of Germany won the FIFA World Cup of 1954. “The Miracle of Bern” ended with a 3-2 win over Hungary in the final.

This day and age too many references to the historic state of Prussia and to the family of Germany’s last emperor may not be helpful. But it is still a great honour to wear the black and white colours of the Hohenzollern kings of Prussia on the football field. Nothing less than the best is expected of Germany’s team by millions of football fans.

UEFA Euro 2016: The Royal Roots of Italy’s Blue

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The colour of the Italian football team is blue. The origin of that can be found in the thousand-year-old history of the Savoy Family, the former Royal House of Italy, and in a medieval battle between Christian princes and the Ottoman Turks.

Four times the Italian national football team has won the FIFA World Cup. This evening Italy plays Spain for a place in the UEFA European Championship quarter-finals. The Spanish national team will be playing in the colours of their flag as is usual for most sporting nations. Contrary to this practice, the football kit of the Italian national team is not in the colours of the Italian flag, the red-white-green tricolour.

Instead the players’ jerseys are blue. The Italian nickname for the team is “gli Azzurri”, the Sky Blues. The specific variant of the colour used is called Savoy Blue indicating its ancient origins.

Blue was the so-called livery colour of the House of Savoy, one of the oldest royal families of Europe. It originated in the Western Alpine Region more than a thousand years ago. The early heads of the dynasty were vassals of the Holy Roman Emperor and ruled on both sides of the Alps: Savoy (Savoie) today is in France; Piedmont (Piemonte) in Northern Italy steadily grew into the Kingdom of Sardinia and united all of Italy during il Risorgimento in the 19th Century.

The House of Savoy (or Savoia in Italian) ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1946. After World War II Italy became a republic. But the national football team continued to play in blue, the colour of the Italian royal family.

The Savoy Blue, according to historians, dates back to 1366 when Count Amadeo VI of Savoy, il Conte Verde, fought the Muslim Turks under a sky blue flag with the image of the Virgin Mary surrounded by gold stars. Amadeo was a cousin of John V, Emperor of Constantinople, who was under attack by the Ottoman Empire. Ever since the sky blue colour has been connected to the Savoy dynasty.

Before the constitutional referendum of 1946 both the Savoy Blue and the arms of the House of Savoy, red with a white cross, were in the middle of the Italian tricolour. The Italian Republic removed the royal arms from the flag.

The Italian football team still wears the Savoy Blue and thus carries the torch for Italian history and the dreams of a football fanatic nation. As always, expectations are high. The goal is the gold, of course.

UEFA Euro 2016: Northern Ireland’s out-of-use flag still in use

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Northern Ireland is a country without a flag. Almost two decades after the Good Friday Agreement the Northern Ireland Assembly still hasn’t agreed on a flag for this part of the United Kingdom. So, when Northern Ireland’s national football team plays in the UEFA European Championship later today an old and officially defunct flag will represent them.

The flag used by international sporting organisations such as FIFA and UEFA to represent Northern Ireland is the so-called Ulster Banner. It is a white flag with a red cross and has the Red Hand of Ulster on a white six-pointed star together with the British Imperial Crown in the middle. Officially, however, this is not longer the flag of Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Banner was designed for the Government of Northern Ireland which came into being after the partition of Ireland in 1921. The island’s six northern counties remained a part of the United Kingdom. The southern part of the island were to be the independant Republic of Ireland. It adopted the green-white-orange tricolour as its flag in 1922.

The Government of Northern Ireland didn’t last through the Troubles i.e. the violent conflict between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Unionists in the second half of the 20th Century. In 1972 Northern Ireland’s parliament and government were suspended and with it its flag. The Ulster Banner has been out-of-use ever since.

Direct rule of Northern Ireland from London ended after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but the new Northern Irish legislature hasn’t yet adopted a flag for Northern Ireland. Catholics and Republicans never accepted the Ulster Banner with its British crown and “English” colours – the flag is similar to England’s Saint George’s Cross – and they likely never will.

Therefore, until Northern Ireland decides on a commonly accepted, inclusive new flag design, the international community and Northern Ireland’s national sports teams are faced with a problem.

Flags are an integral and inescapable part of football culture. National teams, their fans, championship organizers and the media use flags all the time, everywhere and in all possible shapes and sizes. A sporting nation needs to have a flag! This is why, during this evening’s match between Northern Ireland and Wales, millions of fans and viewers from all over the world will see the Ulster Banner waving in Paris.

Officially, and maybe also out of respect for Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Republicans, it shouldn’t. But it does. Hopefully the Ulster Banner together with the green jerseys of the Northern Irish team will be seen as a unifying compromise. Green is the colour of Ireland, of Irish nationalism and of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.