Soccer World Cup

Jersey shade may just tip the scales at the Soccer World Cup

12 June 2018 - 00:00 By AFP Relaxnews
Mats Hummels (centre) during a training session of the German national team on June 7 2018 in Eppan, Italy.
Mats Hummels (centre) during a training session of the German national team on June 7 2018 in Eppan, Italy.
Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

A winning formula for the Soccer World Cup requires not only the best players, coaches, and a good combination of skill and luck. A team's kit, research has shown, can give it an edge. 

Particularly if it's red.

Iain Greenlees, a sports psychologist with the University of Chichester in England, has co-authored research papers concluding that both penalty takers and goalkeepers benefit from being decked out in ruby regalia.

The studies suggest that players in red jerseys are viewed as more dominant and skilled - both by themselves and by opponents who may be more anxious and perform less well as a result.

One theory, Greenlees saids that humans have evolved to associate red with danger, being the colour of blood, or with aggression - think of a face reddened in anger.

"An alternative explanation is that we have simply learnt from a very young age that red is associated with danger (warning signs are red) and failure (teachers may mark with a red pen)," he said.

There is the hypothesis that red is more visible and draws an opponent's attention, breaking their focus

And then there is the hypothesis that red is more visible and draws an opponent's attention, breaking their focus.

There is certainly anecdotal evidence for scarlet success.

The English football team, which traditionally plays home games in white, won its only World Cup title in its red "away" kit at Wembley Stadium in 1966 against white-shirted West Germany.

Some of the country's top football clubs - Liverpool and Manchester United for example - play in red.

But this does not explain the phenomenon that is Brazil - holder of the most World Cup titles with its iconic yellow jersey.

And the defending champions, Germany, wear white.

One study found that white kits are the most visible on a green football field, and could "increase the amount of completed successful passes". 

Green, however, could boost a team's defence, being harder for opponents to see against a green background.

Greenlees points out that the overall impact of any colour would be small.

"A good team wearing white/blue/green should still outperform an average team wearing red," he said.

But if teams are equally matched in other departments, jersey shade may just tip the scales.

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