Away, 2001-07; Tiger
OK, the first thing you might have noticed with this one is the manufacturer. You would be forgiven for writing this one off as something a beer company gave out as a bar promotion, but no, the Singapore beer brand ‘Tiger’ actually supplied this kit. And what’s more, it wasn’t just a once off gimmick; it is actually probably the longest running kit any country has used in modern times. Singapore wore this (and the same template in red as a home kit) between 2001 and 2007. In a time where the bigger nations are revealing a new kit every year, with special kits for different tournaments and anniversary games, Singapore bucked the trend impressively.
The question you might now be asking is “why?”. Well to the best of my knowledge, Tiger were looking for a way to get around FIFA shirt advertising rules. So they joined up with Diadora to produce this shirt. From there on in, every time Singapore played, Tiger got their logo beamed into thousands of homes and into many newspapers. That is the kind of clever thinking I like.
As for the shirt itself, well it is a real throwback in terms of quality. The inner label says '100% polyester microfibre', but it feels more like heavy linen than a sports performance shirt. From researching it, it seems that the version I have is actually a “player issue” shirt, as it does not feature an additional large ‘Tiger’ logo on the chest as some of the others do. By normal standards, as a ‘player issue’ shirt it seems quite heavy considering the heat they players would be expected to play in. That said, there is a full mesh underarm which has a lovely 5 star design based on the Singapore flag, which is also used as the crest here (Though the nifty F.A. logo does feature on the lower right label on the shit). For something so simple, I really do like the stars under the arm as a design feature. The quality of the shirt is fantastic, it must be said, and is almost closer to a rugby shirt in terms of the reinforcement on the seams for example. All in all, this is one of my all-time favourite shirts in terms of design, and the story behind it just makes it better.
In footballing terms, Singapore are reining AFF Suzuki Cup holders (funnily enough, this was previously the Tiger Cup as it was sponsored by the aforementioned beer company). This is a regional tournament played out between countries from South East Asia by that region’s governing body, the ASEAN. This is Singapore’s fourth title, and makes them the tournament’s most successful team. Apart from that, success has been thin on the ground. This is in part down to a mixed attitude towards the national team in the past. While the official national team played in international competition, a representative team played in the Malaysian league and cup. This selection, which included some foreign-born players, was quite successful and at times overshadowed the official team. That was until 1996, when the F.A.S. removed teams after a row over money (isn’t it always?) and the professional S-League was set up.
Unfortunately (in my opinion at least), the national team is now kitted out in generic Nike gear but this shirt will always remain as testament to a quirk of international football shirt history.