Fans and players alike found it funny that at least four Swiss footballers had their shirts shredded in Sunday’s match against France at Euro 2016. Football kit manufacturer Puma has not shared their sense of humour.
The goalless draw, which allowed both Switzerland and France to advance to the knockout phase, was not excessively rough or dirty, yet three times in the first half Swiss players had to go to the sidelines to swap their torn tops.
"This was a very unfortunate incident and Puma apologises to the Swiss federation and their players," the German company said in a statement. "The defective material was used in only a limited number of Swiss home jerseys."
Midfielder Granit Xhaka and Admir Mehmedi were both left wearing shirts in ribbons during the match in Lille.
Some wondered if there was method in Puma's thinking: that the referee would surely award Switzerland penalty kicks or free kicks because the French players' illegal shirt-pulling was so obvious. Not so, according to Puma.
"There was one batch of material, where yarns had been damaged during the production process, leading to a weakening in the final garment," the company said. "This can happen if the combination of heat, pressure and time is not properly controlled in the manufacturing process."
The shirts were made in Turkey and are a mix of elastane and polyester fibres, which have been used since 2014 including at the 2014 World Cup.
Alongside Switzerland, Puma also provides the kits for Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Slovakia. "All federations have confirmed that they never had any such issues and are very happy with quality, functionality and design of their jerseys," Puma said.
Switzerland’s players could not help but joke about the shirt-ripping implications. “I hope Puma doesn’t make condoms,” quipped Switzerland forward Xherdan Shaqiri.
Several online commentators pointed out Switzerland’s expertise when it came to holes. Along with the shirts, these tongue-in-cheek commentators noted, the Swiss are world leaders in burrowing holes into their cheese and mountains – the latter being a timely reference to the June 1 opening of the the 57km Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest in the world.
Others cracked there might have been a delivery mix-up with the Chippendales, the well-known troupe of male strippers, or wondered if the Puma designers were inspired by Swiss transport minister Doris Leuthard, who turned up at the bizarre Gotthard opening ceremony wearing an eye-catching white coat with carefully placed holes made by Swiss designer Akris.
Former England international Gary Lineker tweeted:
Lineker had previously come up with the quote: “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
Another tweeter made a reference to a Marvel Comic character with razor-sharp retractable claws:
Shirts to spare
German rival Adidas, which provides kit to nine of the 24 teams competing in France, told Reuters that suppliers usually provide three shirts per player, per game.
“The standard usage for these shirts will be a player wears one in the first half, another in the second half with a third being saved as a spare, should it be needed on the pitch, or utilised as a giveaway item,” spokesperson Katja Schreiber said in an email.
“Every shirt worn during the tournament will carry unique match day customisation, hence the need to provide shirts on a match-by-match basis.”
Asked if it was possible for a player to run out of shirts during a game, Schreiber referred back to UEFA, European football’s governing body.
“This is a process that is put in place by UEFA ... although federations have a standard approach to utilising these jerseys, they can be used in any way required during the course of 90 minutes,” she said.
Adidas also had an equipment issue during Sunday’s match in Lille: the “Beau Jeu” ball designed especially for Euro 2016 burst open when two players converged on it in a second-half challenge.
Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who finished the game with his shirt intact after a man-of-the-match performance against the French, said he saw no reason to change kit supplier, despite the odd rip.
“It can happen,” he told reporters. “It means it was a fight on the pitch... Of course, today we had a lot [of ripped shirts], I can’t say we have to change, because Puma is great.”
swissinfo.ch and agencies