It has become common for Spanish clubs to use their alternative kits as a way of showcasing their regional pride.
Barcelona have frequently donned the yellow and red of the Catalan senyera, Valencia and Levante regularly wear the yellow, red and blue of their regional flag, Athletic Club have a tradition of great away kits in the green, red and white of the ikurrina.
Things sometimes even work the other way – when Andalucía adopted a new flag in 1918, the green and white colours were supposedly chosen because the person in charge of designing it was a Real Betis fan!
But here I’m going to focus on my first love in Spanish football, Deportivo La Coruña, and their connection to the regional flag of Galicia.
Although light blue is more commonly associated with Galicia’s other major club Celta Vigo (or to a lesser extent Compostela) the region’s flag has its roots in the northern port city of A Coruña.
In the 19th century, it was one of the main ports from which Galician emigrants travelled across the Atlantic to start a new life in the Americas.
Looking to retain some connection to their Galician homeland, many of them adopted the flag they had seen on the ship that brought them to their new home, believing it to be the flag of Galicia. In fact, it was the naval ensign of the city of A Coruña, but the connection stuck and when Galicia was granted its own official flag, it was this design that was chosen, albeit with the addition of the coat of arms of the medieval Kingdom of Galicia.
So when Depor announced their intention to have an away kit based on the Galician flag in 2014, it was a first for the club and it proved incredibly popular, with replicas selling out in double-quick time.
Italian manufacturer Lotto produced a clean, smart design, with the light blue sash featured prominently and trimmed with navy on the collar and cuffs.
I remember visiting the DeporTienda at the Estadio Riazor during that 2014/15 season and at one point there was even a waiting list to order the shirt – it was that popular!
It’s cult status was further confirmed with the clubs fans as it was worn in their dramatic final day escape from relegation that season.
Needing a positive result against already-crowned champions Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Depor found themselves 2-0 down. But late goals from Lucas Pérez and Diogo Solomao earned an extremely unlikely point and preserved the Galicians’ La Liga status.
Since that year, Depor have always included a Galician flag shirt in their roster of kits – although the look has changed slightly through the years.
Lotto tweaked the design slightly for the 2015/16 season by adding red cuffs to the shirt, before adding navy sleeves the following year.
Macron took over from their compatriots in 2017 and continued the flag shirt tradition, this time with a much broader sash, but it was their effort for the 2018/19 season which truly won me over.
In fact all three of their kits that season were outstanding, with each tied into a special day in the calendar of the city.
The home shirt, with retro grandad collar, represented 8th December, the day the club played its first ever game, the red away shirt the night of the San Xoan festival (23rd-24th June) which is marked with bonfires on the Riazor beach next to the stadium and the third shirt celebrated 17th May – the Día das Letras Galegas, the day honouring the Galician language.
As part of this, the sash design was refreshed with the diagonal stripe now incorporating the words of Os Pinos – the Galician anthem.
The lyrics come from a poem written by the Galician poet Eduardo Pondal, from the town of Ponteceso in the province of A Coruña. It was later put to music and adopted as the official anthem of the region in 1917.
One of the great sights of Spanish football is the tradition before the Galician derbies between Depor and Celta where both sets of fans come together to sing Os Pinos.
Unfortunately, this shirt never got to be worn in a Derby as Depor were relegated at the end of the 2017/18 season after four seasons in La Liga.
Despite the club’s declining fortunes, the shirt proved even more popular than ever before – it was almost permanently sold out on the club website during the season so it looked like my chances of owning one were slim to none.
But the shirt’s immense popularity led to Macron and Depor releasing a new version for the 2019/20 campaign.
Needless to say, I wasn’t going to miss my second chance to get one!
The updated version of the shirt is very similar to the original 2018/19 version, with the key feature – the sash created from the words of the anthem pretty much unchanged. In fact the only real differences are an updated Macron logo and the addition of blue side panels.
The shirt looks good from a distance, but there are so many intricate details that can only be noticed when viewed close-up.
One of these is how the club badge is surrounded by an imprinted outline of the region of of Galicia.
The intrinsically Galician nature of the shirt is also reflected in the club’s two main sponsors. Estrella Galicia, whose headquarters are in A Coruña, was set up in 1906 just like Deportivo and the Galician bank Abanca which is based on nearby Betanzos and took on naming rights for the Estadio Riazor in 2017.
The only thing I don’t really like about it is the presence of a large logo for the Luckia Gaming Group on the left sleeve. Football, and it seems Spanish football in particular, has an issue with the ubiquity of betting company sponsors and despite talk that the Spanish government was going to ban gambling advertising ahead of the 2020/21 season, it feels like more clubs than ever have one on their shirt this season.
Depor’s kit launch for the 2019/20 season was controversial to say the least. For the first time in the history of the club, the home shirt swapped vertical stripes for horizontal ones.
The advertising campaign focusing on the iconic figure of María Pita, who led the defence of the city against an English attack in 1589 and now has the city’s main square names in her honour, was certainly emotive, but fans were largely turned off by the unconventional style of the shirts.
Thank goodness for the third kit then, which probably maintained a lot of goodwill amongst the fans.
Unfortunately, this would eventually become a season to forget with Depor enduring relegation to Segunda B 20 years after being crowned champions of Spain. But to avoid repeating myself – I’ve already covered that at length here.
At least, they will look good in the third tier as Macron have come up with another set of outstanding kits, including a new twist on the Galician flag kit – this time seemingly inspired by Galicia’s infamously inclement weather!
Note: This is an adapted version of a guest post I originally wrote for Sartorial Soccer in summer 2019. Thanks to Kieran for allowing me to adapt it for publishing here and if you’re into football shirts you should definitely check his site out!