As Bosnia qualified for the World Cup for the very first time, the possibilities seemed endless for the long suffering fans, who awaited the moment since the beginning of the quest, in 1993. New Fan concepts and designs for the national team jersey seemed to appear out of nowhere on a daily basis. No longer was the little known brand Legea (Italy) good enough for the Dragons, no, they would need the creme de la creme to attend the royal ball in Brazil.
And just as cinderella was dressed in the finest of fabrics, so too, would the Bosnian cinderella team. As we wait the World Cup in 2014, Elvedin Begic, the president of the football federation has promised a “top worldwide brand,” would be outfitting the team, something Bosnian fans have been dying to hear. Adidas, Puma, Nike, even Kappa, anything remotely recognizable. However, the history of the Bosnian national team, often ugly and unappealing, should not be dismissed, nor should the heritage of practically playing in borrowed rags, for it’s exactly this sort of past that has made Bosnia a special team.
EARLY BEGINNINGS 1993-1995
As Yugoslavia crumbled, Bosnia-Herzegovina was still reeling from the fear, bloodshed, and destruction of a war that took thousands of lives and affected virtually everyone in the country. Part of overcoming instability and reaching some sort of sane normalcy was rebuilding a sports culture that was so important and that was inherently part of the people. Football, by far the most popular of the major sports had to find a way to survive.
Even though the Bosnian football federation did not gain FIFA recognition until 1996, and UEFA recognition until 1998, several matches were played at the early onset. In 1993, humanitarian matches were played against Genk, Kaiserslautern, Algeria, Iran, Fortuna Dusseldorf, and others.
The meager funds that the early football federation did have, came from donations and a small state stipend. This often meant that the players were outfitted by no-name brands, or simply store basic “team apparel.” In the first two matches, Bosnia played in all light-blue jerseys with black collars. This design was one the young nation would stick with.
Against Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1994 the team played in jerseys that had an actual design, blue with white hoops, designed by German brand Reusch. This jersey seemed to be designed with this one match in mind with stars on the sleeves to signify the ‘humanitarian’ all-star nature of the team. This was not a design that would become traditional for the Bosnian team.
1996-1998 PATTRICK (Belgium)
Bosnia played it’s very first FIFA recognized match against Albania in Tirana in 1996. Pattrick was chosen as the nation’s first jersey manufacturer, and would remain so until 1998. Several historic matches were played in this brand, including the debut match against Albania, the friendly victory over Italy 2-1, the 3-0 victory over Denmark, and the friendly match against Brazil in Manaus. In addition, the famous design of white tops with blue shorts and white socks, and the away design of blue tops, white shorts, and blue socks also emerged. This would become the signature Bosnian design concept. The Pattrick jerseys also featured fleur-de-lys on the collar, a historic symbol of Bosnia, and part of the flag of the Republic of Bosnia, which was replaced with the modern flag. This mean the fleur-de-lys were also retired, forever, both from the logo and from the jerseys, since many in the country believed it only symbolized Bosniaks, as opposed to all three ethnic groups.
1999-2000 ADIDAS (Germany)
For a year between the contract with Reusch, Bosnia actually played in a premier brand, the top football name in the game, Adidas. The company continued the tradition started with Patrick by utilizing traditional white tops, blue shorts, and white socks for the home kit, and blue tops, white shorts, and blue socks for the away kit. In addition, the players were outfitted with Adidas warm up jackets. The company was undoubtedly disappointed, and understandably unwilling to continue it’s work with the Bosnian team considering the terrible results in the EURO2000 qualifying campaign, where Bosnia failed to qualify. Furthermore, many papers in Bosnia reported that adidas only wanted to supply kits to the “A” team, as it does with many of the smaller nations, but the Bosnian FA needed all of it’s teams, including the youth selections, outfitted.
2000-2005 REUSCH (Germany)
Beginning after the EURO2000 qualifying campaign, another German company signed on the dotted line with the Dragons, Reusch. For five years the company outfitted the team with some traditional, but also unique designs. The quality of the jerseys is still praised by many Bosnian fans, as the textile was strong and thicker than some of the jerseys of the past. Along with the traditional white, blue, white combo, Reusch also premiered an all white jersey for the Bosnians, with a gold collar and blue trim on the shorts.
Even though the 2002 campaign for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea was once again a failure, Bosnia enjoyed some of it’s most historic wins and results under the colors manufactured by Reusch.
In the 2004 EURO campaign, Bosnia achieved a momentous result against Denmark at Parken Stadium. Winning 2-0 thanks to goals by Bolic and Barbarez. Even though Bosnia finished third in the group, it was only two points away from first placed Denmark. Bosnia had finally proven its worth, and Blaz Sliskovic paved the road to future success.
2005-20014 LEGEA (Italy)
After the Euro 2004 qualification campaign ended in tears, the Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team looked at the 2006 FIFA World Cup with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Reaching the World Cup would be no easy task, however, with heavyweights Spain and Serbia (then known as Serbia and Montenegro) drawn into the same group as Bosnia and Herzegovina. The campaign got off to a bright start, however, with the Bosnians playing out draws with both Spain and Serbia at home to gain two crucial points. Along with the new campaign, came a new kit sponsor for the Dragons. Little known brand Legea out of Italy signed with the team until 2014. Many Bosnian fans were disappointed, hopeful that they would see a return of Adidas or a brand such as Nike, or Puma. Many attributed the poor decision to sign with Legea to the federation, which was at the height of it’s corruption that would later lead to the “Savez Napolje” (Federation Out) campaign by fan groups such as BHFanaticos.
Even though the small company became the tell-tale talisman of the corrupt FA, it soon became part of the Bosnian story.
Legea continued the traditional white tops, blue shorts combo, creating a streamlined jersey. However, as the years went on, Legea’s designs became more and more disjointed and random. At one match, the players would be outfitted with a certain design, and at the very next, with a different one. It seemed as though Legea was emptying it’s back room storages and strapping on a Bosnian football federation patch on the designs.
The same initial design remained until midway through the 2008 EURO qualifying campaign when Legea designed a slightly different style, complete with blue sleeves and a slightly looser feel.
After the unsuccessful EURO2008 campaign, all seemed lost for the Bosnian team. The fans had virtually boycotted the team thanks to the corrupt football federation. A lot of the players boycotted the team for the same reason. When Meho Kodro was sacked for refusing to play another friendly with Iran, the situation reached it’s boiling point. Miroslav “Ciro” Blazevic was appointed as manager to quell the situation and attract the attention of the media through his charismatic personality. It worked. Blazevic was able to create a team that did something no previous Bosnian team could, reach the qualification playoffs.
Bosnia played some of it’s biggest matches in the two versions between 2008-2010, including the double win against Belgium during the 2010 World Cup Campaign, the draw against Turkey at home in Zenica.
Even though the 2010 campaign ended with ultimate disappointed, Susic continued to build on what Blazevic had started, by finishing second in the group once again, and once again facing Portugal in the playoffs. The Bosnians had a chance to win first place in their group had it not been for a controversial penalty in the last match against France in Paris. Throughout the campaign, the same sleek jersey was featured, pointed to as the best to date designed by Legea. In addition to the standard design, Legea also released a “special blue and yellow” version during a series of friendlies between the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.
With Susic returning for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Legea released an altogether different concept, all white and all blue jerseys. Half-way through the campaign, Leagea released what they dubbed as the 2014 World Cup jerseys, in which Bosnia achieved it’s best result ever, qualification to a major tournament, the World Cup in Brazil.
Even though the quality of the jersey was often criticized, the way the contract was formulated with the small Italian company, and the inconsistent nature of the designs, Legea will remain part of the history of the Bosnian national team, being the brand worn during some of the biggest results of the team.
June 3rd, 2014 – FUTURE (ADIDAS)